Despite retiring as president from Okanagan College in 2021, a role he held for 17 years, the impact Jim Hamilton had as a leader at OC and throughout the region continues to resonate for students, staff and in the community.
In recognition of his service, OC will this year award him a Distinguished Service Award, which is presented to employees who have contributed in exemplary and significant ways to the College, and who are active in the broader OC community.
“At the time of his retirement, Jim Hamilton was the longest-serving president across all colleges in British Columbia,” said Dr. Neil Fassina, current president of Okanagan College. “Over the years, Jim’s focus on students and supporting them at every stage has set the example for everyone at Okanagan College. His commitment to making post-secondary education more accessible to more people, and to building strong relationships in the community inspires us and exemplifies OC’s vision and values.”
Fassina said Hamilton provided leadership during a time when the College was growing quickly, with full time student enrolment increasing rapidly between 2005 and 2019, and several new buildings constructed in Vernon, Kelowna, Salmon Arm and Penticton.
“We are thrilled to be recognizing Jim with a Distinguished Service Award this year and could think of no better individual who represents our collective commitment to transforming lives and communities,” said Fassina.
Hamilton says he is both grateful and proud of his many years with Okanagan College, which date back into the 1980s when he was an English professor at the Vernon and Kelowna campuses for about 10 years. Following that, he was a member of the Okanagan University College Board from 1992 to 1998.
“Little did I know back in 1980 that a part-time position in Vernon would lead to such a rewarding and long association with the College,” said Hamilton. “It was an honour to work with so many engaged and committed students, employees, and community members, and I accept this award as much on their behalf as my own. OC’s significant success has been a joint effort based on a shared vision for expanding access for more post-secondary learners to more programs throughout the region.”
Hamilton became president of Okanagan College in 2004, as the institution transitioned from being a university college. While he was at the helm, OC was the only college in the province to meet or exceed student enrolment targets each year, all while the number of programs available were also rising.
He helped bring approximately $170 million in capital projects to the College’s sites across the region, including trades buildings in Penticton, Kelowna, Salmon Arm and Vernon, and new student housing for Kelowna, Vernon and Salmon Arm.
While at OC, Hamilton served as chair of both the B.C. Trades Training Consortium and the British Columbia Council for International Education, and was an engaged Board member for several organizations, including the Kelowna Innovation Society and the Irving K. Barber B.C. Scholarship Society.
In 2016, Hamilton received a Distinguished Service Award from Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan), where he served as a Board member for a term, recognizing his leadership in the sector nationally.
Although now enjoying retirement, he continues to be actively engaged locally, with the post-secondary sector provincially, and OC in particular. Hamilton is the current co-chair of the British Columbia Council on Admission and Transfer, a member of the Thompson Rivers University Board of Governors, and a member of the Okanagan College Foundation’s Sunflower Fundraising Committee, in support of the childcare centre being built at the Vernon campus.
Hamilton will be honoured and presented with his Distinguished Service Award on June 10, during the afternoon convocation and commencement ceremony at OC’s Kelowna campus.