Campus Life  

Okanagan College names Honorary Fellows for 2022

2022 Honorary Fellows

Okanagan College is bestowing its highest honour on three notable residents, each of whom has made unique and meaningful contributions through education, public service, mentorship and philanthropy.

Dennis Gabelhouse, Clifford Serwa and Howard Soon have been selected by the College as its 2022 Honorary Fellows.

“Each of these remarkable individuals have demonstrated exceptional commitment to supporting education opportunities for Okanagan learners,” said Okanagan College President Neil Fassina. “They have contributed to the social and economic fabric of the region, impacting society in a positive way. As champions for education and learning, we’re proud to count them as Honorary Fellows.”

Dennis Gabelhouse

Longtime Kelowna resident, Gabelhouse enjoyed a 35-year career in media that included working at the Edmonton Journal, Penticton Herald, Kelowna Daily Courier and Winnipeg Free Press. He joined CHBC Television in 1975 as a sales executive, then marketing director and general sales manager to eventually moving up to the position of general manager in 2008. He oversaw the transition from CHBC to Global Okanagan in 2009, and was named the BCAB Broadcaster of the Year in 2012.

His community involvement is extensive. Gabelhouse has supported several high-impact programs and fundraising initiatives, generating significant financial resources to help those in need. He was an active participant in OC’s Trades Complex and Health Sciences Centre fundraising campaigns. He has also volunteered for events such as the Kelowna International Regatta, served on the boards for Kelowna Snowfest and Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, and being active with organizations such as Okanagan-Mission Rotary Club and the Central Okanagan United Way.

“What an unexpected surprise to be recognized for this award and with two individuals I have known and respected for decades, congratulations to them. I have a passion for helping people and businesses succeed and encourage everyone to strive for ways to impact their communities in a positive way through their work or volunteerism. It’s volunteers that make and keep a community strong and healthy,” says Gabelhouse.

Clifford Serwa

Serwa had a vision of champagne powder for ski enthusiasts, and alongside his business partner Doug Mervyn, made that vision come to life.

He and Mervyn co-founded Big White Ski Development, which constructed 14 miles of sub-alpine road, parking lots, a Day Chalet along with a 5,500 foot Doppelmayr T-Bar, all in place for opening day. The mountain resort opened in 1963 and quickly became a popular destination for skiers throughout the province. He also co-founded Doppelmayr Lifts Ltd., serving as its president from 1965 to 1978.

The resort changed hands, and Serwa began another chapter in his career. He was elected as Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of B.C. representing Okanagan South in 1986, which he served until 1991 when the riding was divided. He was in cabinet from 1990 to 1991, as Minister of Environment. He served as the MLA for Okanagan West from 1991 to 1996.

He was a significant contributor to the OC Trades Complex expansion project, and supported educational development of students at OC by creating an annual bursary for Early Childhood Education Diploma program students. He is also a supporter of the Okanagan Mission Rotary Club.

“I have always recognized that diverse community support is both an opportunity and a responsibility. As an individual citizen, as a businessman, as an MLA and in retirement, that understanding and awareness has been a constant. In small ways and greater ways, my commitment to make a positive difference to the best of my ability for our greater community and its institutions remains as strong as ever,” says Serwa.

Howard Soon

Born in Vancouver, Soon graduated from UBC in Biochemistry, and later pursued an MBA at the University of Manitoba. Howard was appointed to the Order of Canada for his influence on and contributions to the wine industry.

From 1980 to 2017 he was Founding Winemaker at Sandhill Wines (formerly known as Calona Wines) and receive an Award of Distinction from the BC Wine Institute before his retirement from Sandhill. He has been the only winemaker in history to receive all three top honours at the 2009 Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards when Sandhill won Red Wine of the Year, White Wine of the Year, and Winery of the Year.

His contribution to the B.C. Wine Industry was first recognized in 1998 by the Okanagan Wine Festival with the Founders Award. Also, Howard was the first B.C. winemaker to receive a Gold Medal at the Chardonnay du Monde competition in Burgundy, France. Recently he was awarded Canadian Winemaker of the Year by the Canadian Wine Industry.

He has shared his experience with students in the Okanagan College Winery Assistant program, Wine Appreciation in Continuing Studies and Food and Wine pairing with Culinary Arts students.

“It’s a privilege and an honour to receive this award and take part in these 2022 Convocation ceremonies of Okanagan College which recognize our students’ achievements. I am inspired by the thought of what they will go on to achieve,” says Soon.

The College will bestow the newest Honorary Fellows with their titles during Convocation ceremonies starting this June. For information, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/honorary-fellows.

More Campus Life articles