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Alumni Engagement

News, Profiles and Events

Going Places 2011: Alex Zimmerman

January 1, 2011

Alex Zimmerman, President
Applied Green Consulting, Ltd.
1975, Engineering Technology

As a teenager, Red River College alum Alex Zimmerman devoted the bulk of his free time — and a sizeable amount of cash — to his passion for rebuilding cars.

A few short years later, he switched to a far more environmentally-friendly obsession, and has spent the ensuing decades at the forefront of the green buildings movement in Canada.

Not surprisingly, Zimmerman is also a committed environmentalist in his day-to-day life, as well. He’s hasn’t driven his car to work since 1977 — preferring instead to bike — and he cites his concern for the future of the planet as one of the key factors fuelling his passion for green technologies.

“It (green technology) impacts climate change, which is the single biggest crisis facing the human race in the last 10,000 years,” says Zimmerman, who after years of managing environmental stewardship initiatives in B.C. and Alberta, recently went into business for himself as President of Applied Green Consulting Ltd.  “It takes a long time to turn around, but it’s incredibly important — what you can do and how you can react, environmentally.”

Zimmerman graduated from RRC’s Engineering Technology program in 1975 — a period when the only “green” development to catch the engineering world’s attention was the introduction of solar power. After a brief stint working for the Navy, he took a job with Alberta Public Works, Supply & Services (APWSS), where he’d spend the next 14 years exploring how to make new and existing buildings more energy-efficient, often with the help of emerging technologies like computer modeling and motorized building controls.

“I remember being shocked to learn at the time that we didn’t insulate to save energy; we insulated to save money,” says Zimmerman. “That seemed counterintuitive and just plain wrong to me — I thought energy had an intrinsic value beyond just the monetary, and that we should have been treating it better than we were.” Read More →

Going Places 2011: Ryan Garriock

January 1, 2011

Ryan Garriock, Owner
Garriock Insurance
1997, Business Administration

It isn’t too often that you hear of parents trying to convince their kids not to go to medical school.

But in the case of Red River College alum Ryan Garriock, co-owner of long-running Winnipeg brokerage Garriock Insurance, that bit of fatherly advice proved especially fortuitous.

Garriock, who now runs the family business along with his younger brother, Wade, was actually considering becoming a doctor until his father took him aside for a little heart-to-heart.

“My dad sat me down one day and said, ‘Look — you’re going to be in school for the next six or seven years if you want to be a doctor, and when you’re done, you’re going to have some pretty serious student loans,’” Garriock recalls.

“He said, “Why don’t you go to Red River College and take their Business Administration course, and if you work hard enough — and if I think you’re ready, and you’re the right guy — then you can buy the business from me?’” Read More →

Going Places 2011: Dawna Friesen

January 1, 2011

Dawna Friesen, National News Anchor
Global National
1984, Creative Communications

Global National News anchor Dawna Friesen has come a long way since her days as a Red River College student.

In fact, Friesen’s distinguished career as a television journalist has taken her all over the world — from rural Manitoba to a foreign correspondent’s gig in the U.K., to her current position, which finds her delivering the news to hundreds of thousands of Canadian households each evening.

“It’s Red River College that launched me on the road to where I am today,” says Friesen, who in 2009 was named one of RRC’s Distinguished Alumni.

“The same basic principles I learned at school … are still the same basic story-telling skills I use today: getting the facts right, double-sourcing, diligence, patience, and of course having a few laughs along the way.”

Friesen graduated from RRC’s Creative Communications program in 1984, and began her journalism career working in Brandon, Saskatoon, Thunder Bay and Winnipeg. She’s been interested in journalism ever since she was a young girl growing up on a farm outside Winnipeg.

“My parents always used to read the newspaper and watch CBC News, and the radio was always on in the background in the kitchen — either on CJOB or CBC — so I was exposed to news at a very young age,” says Friesen, who is also an executive editor of Global National.

“I was interested in current events, and in the world, and I realized I wanted to tell stories. Plus I always wanted to travel, so journalism seemed a kind of natural fit.” Read More →

2010 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Polly Craik

June 1, 2010

Polly CraikEach year Red River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

As President and CEO of FineLine Solutions, Polly Craik is leading a highly successful Winnipeg-based customer-contact company to new heights.

Under Polly’s guidance, FineLine Solutions has carved out a niche market: coordinating donor, member and subscriber relationships for large non-profit organizations – as well as commercial businesses. The quality of their work is evident, as FineLine Solutions has received the prestigious Call Center Award of Distinction from both the Association of TeleServices International and the Call Management Association.
Over the years, Polly has continued to educate herself to become an even better entrepreneur.

She has completed “Birthing of Giants” and the “Advanced Business Program” both of which were sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This combined five-year educational program is limited to only a handful of entrepreneurs from around the world and is designed to teach business owners how to make their companies great. Polly has shared her knowledge and expertise by delivering presentations on customer service, retention and loyalty at numerous trade shows and conferences.

Polly is also actively involved in the community. She was the Chair of the 2007 Women’s World Hockey Championship, past Chair of the CentreVenture Development Corporation, and is a Board Member of the Business Council of Manitoba and a Member of the Premier’s Economic Advisory Council.

Due to her outstanding achievements, Polly has won several awards. In 2005, she made history by becoming the first female to be named Manitoba Business Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year. Then in 2007, Polly was named one of the most influential women in sport and physical activity by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity.

Red River College is proud to present Polly Craik with an Honorary Diploma for the passion and innovative thinking that she exemplifies every day.

2009 Honorary Diploma Recipient – John Buhler

June 1, 2009

John BuhlerEach year Red River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

John Buhler is the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Buhler Industries Inc., one of Canada’s largest manufacturers of agricultural equipment.

John’s first job was as a CPR Telegraph Operator and Assistant Station Agent. While owning an automobile dealership for 15 years, he also acted as Secretary-Treasurer for Standard Gas Engine Works. John purchased this company in 1969 and renamed the Morden factory “Farm King Ltd.”

In 1981, he also purchased the Winnipeg factory.

Known as the “turnaround king”, John acquired Standard Industries in 1983, as well as Morden Fine Foods, Birchwood Furniture, Ideal Glass and Mirror, Greensteel Industries, Riteway Industries and Craftech Manufacturing.

He amalgamated all these companies in 1994 to form Buhler Industries Inc., which trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

He has been a leader within the agricultural equipment industry, serving on numerous boards and committees, including the Prairie Implement Manufacturers Association and the Canadian Farm Industrial Institute.

As a result of his business success, John has been an active and generous philanthropist, contributing over $13 million to a variety of community organizations and capital campaigns. Notable donations include $6 million for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, $3.75 million for the John Buhler Research Centre at Health Sciences Centre, and $500,000 toward construction of Red River College’s Exchange District Campus. John was the recipient of the “Manitoba Entrepreneur of the Year” award in 1997 and awarded Morden, Manitoba’s “Citizen of the Year” in 1998. In 2002, he was presented the Queen’s Jubilee Medal symbolizing the award for community service.

2008 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Bob Brennan

June 1, 2008

Bob BrennanEach year Red River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

As President and Chief Executive Officer of Manitoba Hydro, Bob Brennan has a high profile and very public position. Yet he conducts himself in a quiet manner that is respectful of the people with whom he works on various initiatives. Under his leadership, Manitoba Hydro has developed positive working relationships with First Nations communities and supported the revitalization of downtown Winnipeg by building its new head office on Portage Avenue.

Bob has spent his entire professional career with Manitoba Hydro. His prior roles include Senior Vice-President, Finance and Administration, and Chief Financial Officer. A Chartered Accountant, Bob was elected as a Fellow of the Chartered Accountants by The Manitoba Institute of Chartered Accountants.

In addition to his professional achievements, Bob has a distinguished record of community service. He is currently Director of the YMCA/YWCA, CNIB, ICAM’s Discipline Committee, and the Canadian Electricity Association. He is past-Chair, Board of Directors at Riverview Health Centre as well as current Chair of the Riverview Health Centre Foundation.

Bob has a long history of giving back to the community in the form of involvement with such organizations as the Salvation Army, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Winnipeg Humane Society, CNIB, and Hospice and Palliative Care Manitoba.

With Bob at the helm, Manitoba Hydro continues to cultivate a strong relationship with RRC which encompasses the provision of student scholarships and the hiring of graduates and contracting training for Hydro employees.

“Red River College is an integral and essential institute of applied learning in Manitoba and does an amazing job of providing high quality training and education to so many students every year,” says Bob. “Our province is very fortunate to have this college doing such a great job! Graduates get training and experience in very practical career paths and they get good jobs very quickly.”

He notes that he is both pleased and flattered to be receiving an Honorary Diploma from RRC: “I truly appreciate and am humbled by the recognition that I am being given from such an important institution in our community.”

2007 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Charles Loewen

June 1, 2007

Charles LoewenEach year Red River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

From its humble beginnings a century ago as a millwork shop producing beekeeping equipment and church pews, to becoming one of the world’s premier manufacturers of luxury wood windows and doors, Steinbach-based Loewen has been an unqualified Manitoba success story. Much of the firm’s success over the past two decades can be credited to Charles Loewen, who represents the third-generation of Loewen family leadership.

A respected Manitoba business and community leader, Charles joined Loewen in 1975. He worked in several management positions before becoming President in 1987, during a critical period in the company’s history.

At a time when many window and door manufacturers were moving to vinyl products in order to reduce costs, Charles and the Loewen management team made the bold decision to focus on premium wood materials instead. To complement that strategy, the company pursued international markets by expanding into the United States and Japan.

The gambit paid off, as Loewen quickly transformed itself from a regional supplier of windows and doors to a major international exporter. Today, Loewen products are available throughout the world. The company received a 1996 Canada Export Award as recognition for its efforts.

With over 1,500 employees, Loewen is the largest employer in Southeastern Manitoba, and one of the largest private employers in the province. Charles has been CEO and Chair of the company since 1992.

In addition to guiding the family business, Charles has found time to assist numerous organizations, including: the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce; Loewen Foundation; Manitoba School Improvement Program; University of Winnipeg Capital Campaign; Insulating Glass Manufacturers Association; and the Wood Manufacturing Council.

He also played a lead role in the development of RRC’s Princess Street Campus by serving as Chair of the Capital Campaign. Mr. Loewen received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 for contributions to his community and Canada as a whole.

2006 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Gail Asper

June 1, 2006

Gail AsperEach year Red River College awards a Red River College Honorary Diploma to an individual who demonstrates high standards of excellence in their personal and professional achievements and whose involvement in the community is widely recognized.

One of Manitoba’s foremost community leaders, Gail has a passion for volunteering that makes her a role model for all Manitobans–especially youth. Her capacity to both initiate change and follow it through sets her apart as a champion of the community.

“I am blessed to be working with some of the finest organizations on some of the most exciting initiatives imaginable,” notes Gail, adding “I am thoroughly enjoying meeting incredibly philanthropic community and business leaders across this country.”

A University of Manitoba graduate with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Law, Gail is a member of the Manitoba Bar Association, the Canadian Bar Association, the National Association of Women and Law, the Legal Education and Action Fund, plus Canadian Women in Communications.

Her numerous professional accomplishments have been recognized at both the local and international levels. Gail serves as President, CanWest Global Foundation; Director and Corporate Secretary, CanWest Global; plus Managing Director and Secretary of the Asper Foundation, which is the private charitable foundation spearheading the establishment of the $300 million Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Augmenting an impressive list of professional achievements is Gail’s on-going commitment to a wide range of community, cultural arts, and human rights-based organizations. She sits on the boards of:

  • The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Chair)
  • Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Campaign Chair)
  • Great-West Lifeco Inc., The Great West Life Assurance Co., London Insurance Group Inc. and London Life Insurance Co. (members of the Power Financial Group of Companies)
  • Council for Canadian Unity
  • The Council for Business and the Arts in Canada (Vice Chair)
  • Arts and Cultural Enhancement Initiative
  • Centre for Cultural Management, University of Waterloo
  • Canadian Institute for International Affairs
  • Manitoba Theatre Centre’s Endowment Campaign (Co-Chair)
  • United Way (Deputy Chair, Leadership Giving)
  • St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation
  • Manitoba Chapter, Canadian Club
  • Human Rights Museum
  • Ladybug Foundation

Gail has also been involved in the CanWest Global Multimedia Classroom and Studio at Red River College, along with other media education initiatives throughout Canada.

Among her personal achievements, Gail has been involved in the “Joshua Project”, which focuses on helping Aboriginals in Winnipeg’s downtown core to improve their lives. She helps to promote children’s literacy via the Raise A Reader campaign, and is a founding member of the Manitoba Arts and Stabilization program. Gail was instrumental in bringing the Winnie the Pooh painting to Winnipeg, and spearheaded the establishment of the $300 million Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

While Gail supports a wide range of worthwhile initiatives, she makes a point of addressing the plight of the less fortunate: “As incoming Chair of the Board of the United Way of Winnipeg, I am very mindful of some of the exciting new initiatives being created in Manitoba which are aimed at addressing poverty and stimulating economic development for marginalized members of the community,” she says. “These are very important initiatives which I look forward to working on and supporting.”

2005 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Ed Van Humbeck

June 1, 2005

Ed Van HumbeckWinnipeg, Manitoba is home to a world-recognized entrepreneur, Mr. Ed Van Humbeck, and is the foundation on which Vansco Electronics LP, his brainchild, is built. Since its inception, Vansco has grown by more than 30 per cent per year and is continually listed in the Manitoba Business Magazine as one of the 50 fastest growing companies. In 2004, Mr. Van Humbeck was awarded the Prairies Region “Entrepreneur of the Year Award” in manufacturing, sponsored by Ernst and Young, Global, La Presse, National Post, and CBC.

From humble beginnings in the basement of his Charleswood home, Vansco has become an internationally recognized force in the design and manufacture of electronic modules and wire-harness assemblies for use in heavy equipment. Founded in 1978 by Mr. Van Humbeck and his very capable partner and wife Terry, Vansco provides custom electronic solutions for agricultural, transportation, and construction equipment manufacturers around the world. The company has design and manufacturing facilities in Canada and the United States, and has sales and application engineering offices in Canada, the US and Europe. It has service depots in Canada, the US, France and Australia.

Vansco, which has now established itself as a world leader in the design and production of rugged electronic equipment for original equipment manufacturers, currently boasts sales figures in excess of $100 million dollars. Van Humbeck affirms “Our success has come from understanding our customers’ needs then helping them improve the performance and reliability of their machines through the use of electronic hardware and software.”

Van Humbeck says “After graduating from the University of Manitoba’s Electrical Engineering program, I worked for several different employers before starting Vansco.

Through this I garnered valuable experience in design, manufacturing, management, and sales.

My employer for the 1972-73 and 1973-74 school years was Red River College where I was an instructor in Electronic Technology.” He adds, “My time at RRC helped me greatly, not only because it honed my training skills, but because I learned first hand how valuable RRC graduates would be to a budding entrepreneur. When I started Vansco I quickly began hiring RRC grads.”

Van Humbeck believes that the success of his company came from hiring well-qualified people who adhere to the company’s core values of: customer focus, honesty, respect, fairness, trust, loyalty, responsibility, creativity, and teamwork.

2004 Honorary Diploma Recipient – Dr. June James

June 1, 2004

June JamesDedicating oneself to a career in medicine is a noble choice, one that Dr. June James has taken on with a gusto that is difficult to match. Not only has Dr. James excelled in the field of immunology, she has gone out of her way to contribute to her community outside of the workplace.

Dr. James immigrated to Canada from Trinidad in 1960 on her own, leaving behind her parents and four siblings.

Dr. James began her medical career in this province by achieving a Bachelor of Science in 1963, then a Bachelor of Science in Medicine and her MD designation in 1967, all from the University of Manitoba. Since becoming a doctor, Dr. James has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments. She is currently an assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the U of M, and since 1976, has been a consultant in the Department of Allergy and Immunology at the Winnipeg Clinic. She is also a consultant with the Children’s Centre at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg.

Dr. James is Past President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba (2003-2004), Past President of the Manitoba Allergy Society, and the Past Chairperson of the Allergy and Immunology Section of the Manitoba Medical Association. She was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (FAAI) in recognition of excellence in specialty.

Outside of her professional commitments, Dr. James also volunteers on a number of boards, including the Board of the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation, the Board of the Winnipeg Foundation, and the Board of the Congress of Black Women Foundation. As well, she is very involved with the Harambee Housing Coop–a group that spent five years building a 36 unit affordable-housing complex, a project she calls her greatest achievement. Dr. James has also served as the President of the Manitoba Museum (1998-2000) and President of the Manitoba Museum Foundation (2000-2002).

For her contributions, Dr. James has been presented many awards, including the YWCA Woman of the Year Award in 1981 for her work in medicine and the community. She has also been awarded a Citation for Citizenship by the Federal Government (1993) and the Queen Elizabeth 50th Jubilee Medal, to name just a few. On July 15, 2004, Dr. James will be invested into the Order of Manitoba by Lt. Governor Peter Liba in recognition of her demonstrated excellence and achievement in contributing to the well-being of Manitoba and its residents.

She credits her involvement in those organizations with making her a better doctor. But she says living in Manitoba has played a part too. “The quality of life here has kept me in Manitoba. I love the arts – my second choice in life was to be a concert pianist. I can’t play a note now, but the arts are very important to me. Art and music help to refresh my soul.”
Dr. James says she’s honored to accept her Honorary Diploma, and has one piece of advice for anyone who wishes to take it: “Whatever goal you set for yourself, you should strive for excellence. And once you have achieved your goal, you should look around and see how you can help others.”