Margriet Ruurs, Raghwa Gopal, Jim Henderson, and Garry Benson will take their place among an elite group as Okanagan College’s 2014 Honorary Fellows – the highest honour the College bestows.
“These four individuals have made meaningful contributions in a range of areas – from the promotion of children’s literacy, to economic development and mentorship, First Nations and environmental advocacy, to fundraising,” said Jim Hamilton, president of Okanagan College. “And while the diversity is great, what they share in common is even more important, a longstanding dedication to the communities they serve.”
An author of 30 children’s books and founder of KidsWWwrite, a website that publishes poems and short stories by young writers, Margriet Ruurs has dedicated her life to promoting literacy and giving children a place to express themselves creatively.
“If this honour is a reflection of the impact KidsWWwrite has had on people, then I am thrilled,” says Ruurs. “I have letters from teachers and children from all over the world telling me what a huge difference it has made to them to be encouraged to write,” she says.
Ruurs will be the first to address graduates at the College’s Spring Convocation ceremony on the morning of June 7.
Successful business owner, software developer and an advisor to students in the College’s School of Business, Raghwa Gopal tirelessly gives his time and expertise to help entrepreneurs in the Okanagan Valley.
Not only does he play a key role in advising students in many of Okanagan College’s programs in the School of Business, he is also vice president of the Okanagan College Foundation. In addition, Gopal is active in the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, and the Rotary Club of Kelowna (downtown).
“My work with students and startups has been so rewarding,” says Gopal. “Building your own company is personally fulfilling, but the College has enabled me to help young people achieve the dreams that I aspired to when I was just starting out,” he says.
Gopal will be addressing the College’s business graduates during the Spring Convocation ceremony on the afternoon of June 7.
A tireless Penticton-area volunteer and respected businessperson, Jim Henderson’s involvement with the College began 15 years ago when he owned the Canadian Tire next door to the Penticton Campus. He joined the College’s program advisory council and later became president of the Okanagan College Foundation. During his tenure, Henderson was instrumental in raising the funds to build the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Penticton.
“It’s been wonderful to live in Penticton,” said Henderson. “Giving back to the College has been a great way to serve the community and ensure its bright future. I feel incredibly honoured.”
Henderson will join Gopal on June 7 to address graduating business students.
Garry Benson, QC, is a member of the Beaver Lake First Nation and founding partner of Benson Law LLP in Kelowna. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2009 – an honour given to lawyers who demonstrate exemplary service to the Canadian justice system. Specializing in business, real estate and First Nations law, Benson has long advocated for environmental interests within industry. Among his many volunteer and fundraising activities, Benson is particularly passionate about developing and improving the city of Kelowna, and in particular the area of Rutland.
“I feel very strongly that to be part of a community requires you to actively participate in any means that you can,” says Benson. “Kelowna has given me so many opportunities over the years, and I owe it to the people who live here to give back.”
Benson will be addressing graduates at the Summer Convocation ceremony on June 26.
The 2014 Honorary Fellows join colleagues: Alan Gatzke, Ernie Philip and Barry Lapointe (2013); Janet Shaw, Yasmin John-Thorpe and Lane Merrifield (2012); Beverley Busson, Mel Kotler and Dr. Tom Landecker (2011); Dorothy Tinning, George and Trudy Heiss and Peter Haubrich (2010); Robert Fine, Barbara Marchand and Charles Armstrong (2009); Jeannette Armstrong, Ken Harding, Richard Cannings, Robert Cannings and Sydney Cannings (2008); Ken Smedley, Lorraine McGrath and Ross Gorman (2007); Mike Roberts, Lois Serwa and Albert Baldeo (2006).