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2016 Premier's Awards for Ontario College Graduates

Archived Backgrounder

2016 Premier's Awards for Ontario College Graduates


Ron Suter (Humber College; graduated in 1981) is executive vice-president of NBC Universal Television and New Media Distribution Canada. He oversees Canadian distribution of every piece of intellectual property produced by the company. He has brought shows like Chicago Fire, Suits, Mr. Robot and Real Housewives to Canadian television screens and has overseen the growth of the company's streaming strategy. Mr. Suter credits the hands-on work he did in college for helping to mould his career as a leader of one of Canada's largest entertainment companies.

Community Services

Kelly Crawford (Canadore College; graduated in 2001), of M'Chigeeng First Nation, is vice-principal and education team lead at the Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute on Manitoulin Island. Ms. Crawford has contributed to many curriculum projects over the years as part of her efforts to strengthen relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. In 2015, she wrote a guide to help teachers promote a greater understanding of treaties. Ms. Crawford attributes her time at Canadore College as providing her with the skills to design compelling digital content for students and teachers.

Creative Arts and Design

Farzana Wahidy (Loyalist College; graduated in 2009) is an internationally published photojournalist who takes photos of women in different life and work situations in Afghanistan. She was the first female Afghan photographer to work for two leading newswire agencies: the Agence France-Presse and Associated Press. Ms. Wahidy is a contributor to the Afghan Photography Network, raising awareness of what is happening in Afghanistan. In 2012, she was chosen as one of the 100 most successful women in Afghanistan by MOBY Group.

Health Sciences

Dianne Martin (Georgian College; graduated in 1998) is executive director of the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario. She advocates for the province's 32,000 registered practical nurses. She also acts as a consultant to more than 50 hospitals, helping administrators better understand and expand the role of nurses. Over the course of her 37-year career, Ms. Martin has also worked to improve the mental health of nurses. She provides advice to college nursing students and promotes the profession to elementary and high school students.

Recent Graduate

Aylan Couchie (Georgian College; graduated in 2015) is a visual artist, community organizer and aspiring writer whose work focuses on Indigenous issues. In 2015, she received the Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award from the International Sculpture Centre. In 2013, Ms. Couchie received the distinction of grand champion at the Butter Sculpting Competition at the Royal Winter Fair, which earned her a spot on CBC's Rick Mercer Report. She has also exhibited her work across Ontario as well as in Halifax, New Jersey and internationally.


Chris Gower (Fanshawe College; graduated in 1992) is chief operating officer of buildings for PCL Construction, the largest contractor in Canada. He is responsible for 4,550 employees and $5.2 billion of work throughout North America and Australia. In 2011, he played a major role securing three separate $1 billion projects, including a contract to build the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia. Mr. Gower has also served as a past director of the Saskatchewan Construction Association and Ontario General Contractors.

2016 Minister's Lifetime Achievement Award

Maureen Piercy was appointed as the fourth President of Loyalist College in Belleville in 2005. In February 2016, Ms. Piercy retired after more than 30 years of leadership experience in Ontario's colleges.

Under her leadership, Loyalist College saw a significant expansion of its facilities, including the addition of the Sustainable Skills, Technology and Life Sciences Centre that serves as a regional training and education hub for southeastern Ontario. Ms. Piercy oversaw the college's largest fundraising campaign that generated more than $7 million to complete and equip the centre and provide financial aid for students in skilled trades.

During her tenure as president, other facilities were added, including a multi-sports dome and Digital Media Centre. The college's residence was also expanded to accommodate almost 600 students. As a result of Ms. Piercy's leadership, the college now offers more than 65 full time programs, apprenticeships, as well as hundreds of online, distance and in-class courses. There are also opportunities for continuing education through more than 70 transfer agreements with universities.

In 2009, Ms. Piercy was appointed to serve as an honorary colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and she continued in that role until 2014. In 2012, the Women's Executive Network recognized Ms. Piercy as one of Canada's top 100 women in the public sector.

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