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2017 Premier's Awards for Ontario College Graduates

Archived Backgrounder

2017 Premier's Awards for Ontario College Graduates

Ministry of Colleges and Universities


Duane Parnham (Fleming College; graduated in 1985) is President and CEO of Broadway Gold Mining Ltd. He is a prominent entrepreneur who was named one of the top 100 most influential people in Africa's mining history by The MSA Group. Since 1996, his companies have created hundreds of jobs and generated over $1.2 billion in shareholder value. In 2011, he and his family established the Parnham Foundation to support underprivileged, impoverished or otherwise disadvantaged students from Namibia to pursue a diploma at Fleming College.

Community Services

Natasha Falle (George Brown College; graduated in 2003) is the founder of Sex Trade 101, a survivor-led political activism coalition. Falle, who escaped a life of prostitution herself, has provided support for more than 1,000 victims and survivors of the sex trade, and has helped pass legislation to protect women in the sex industry. Her five years as a teacher in the Police Foundations course at Humber College has increased awareness among law enforcement about victims of sex trafficking. Ms. Falle is thankful for the college education that provided her with the confidence and tools she needed to make such significant contributions in her field.

Creative Arts and Design

Stephanie Gorin (Sheridan College; graduated in 1991) has brought some of the best Canadian talent to television, film and musicals through her 26 years as a casting director. Starting as a music theatre student, she credits the college training she received for her ability to support actors during an audition and judge who is best suited for roles. Ms. Gorin has cast for more than 200 television shows, movies, and musicals, including the Tony Award-winning musical Come From Away. She also won an Emmy in 2014 for Best Casting for a mini-series for her work on Fargo. Ms. Gorin is well-known for championing young actors in the industry.

Health Sciences

John Patrick Hickey (St. Lawrence College; graduated in 1976) is an award-winning Clinical Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC), educating the next generation of nurses. As an adventurer, philanthropist, nurse and teacher, the New York Times has described him as "a cross between Florence Nightingale and Indiana Jones." Mr. Hickey's achievements include running six medical mission clinics in rural Nicaragua and climbing the highest mountains on each continent to raise funds for nursing scholarships. He says it was the hands-on learning in college that fed his passion for helping others, and is the foundation upon which his career and life have been built.

Recent Graduate

Brent Lessard (Durham College; graduated in 2014) is the co-founder of rLoop, an online think tank and talent resource focused on the development of a high-speed transportation system called the Hyperloop. He proudly leads more than 1,100 members from more than 50 countries who have come together to revolutionize the future of transportation. Mr. Lessard integrates expertise and talent from across the globe to develop a technology with the potential to change the way we live and conduct business in Ontario, Canada and around the world. He describes the hands-on, project-based education he received at Durham College as a significant contributor to his success.


Andrew Bowerbank (Humber College; graduated in 1989) is the Global Director of Sustainable Building Services for EllisDon Corporation and is a well-known figure in Canada's energy and building infrastructure sectors. As the former CEO and Executive Director of the World Green Building Council, he has worked closely with international leaders like Bill Clinton and Al Gore to establish green building networks across Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin and South America. Mr. Bowerbank credits his alma mater for his ability to evaluate, review and anticipate client needs - skills that have had a fundamental impact on his career.

2017 Minister's Lifetime Achievement Award

Cathie Auger is the former Vice-President of Student Services at Fanshawe College. In the 50th anniversary year of Ontario's college system, it is fitting to recognize a leader who has served the college system for nearly four decades, and supported two generations of Ontario's students.

Described by colleagues as a person who always goes above and beyond the call of duty to enhance the education, opportunity and success of students, Cathie Auger sets a fine example for others to emulate - consistently delivering on her promises and representing the highest standards of achievement in her field.

Ms. Auger was a key member of the senior team that launched Fanshawe's first on-campus residence, and was the cornerstone of support for the college's extremely successful Remarkable Campaign, which surpassed its $100 million goal to enhance the student experience and build modern facilities.

Ms. Auger was also a passionate advocate for students across the entire college sector, as exemplified by her role in the provincial creation of the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health. She served as an executive committee member for three years, liaising with various campus and community stakeholders to identify issues of mental health impacting the student population, and how to address them.

Cathie Auger was the 2015 recipient of the Art King Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions and leadership in student services within Ontario's college system.

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