Category: Media Releases


Niagara College is proud to nominate six of its distinguished alumni for prestigious Premier’s Awards.

Presented annually as part of the Colleges Ontario Higher Education Summit, the Premier’s Awards celebrate the outstanding contributions of six Ontario college graduates in six different categories: Business, Creative Arts and Design, Community Services, Health Sciences, Technology, and Recent Graduate.

Niagara College’s 2017 nominees include:

  • Rob Beyer (Business), executive chairman of Villgro Kenya;
  • David McIlvride (Creative Arts and Design), Gemini award-winning director;
  • Rose DiMarco (Community Services), chief superintendent and regional commander of the Central Region Ontario Provincial Police;
  • Derek Christensen (Health), regional educator of mental health and addiction services at Niagara Health;
  • Ben Laurence (Recent Graduate), structural technical designer for aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin; and
  • Blake Merritt (Technology), vice-president of IT infrastructure and cloud computing at Meridian Credit Union.

“There is no sector of our economy or part of our community that isn’t touched by the outstanding contributions of college graduates,” said Niagara College president Dan Patterson. “We’re extremely proud of the accomplishments of our grads, and are pleased to nominate these distinguished Niagara College alumni for provincial recognition.”

All nominees will be celebrated, and the six category winners announced, in Toronto on Monday, November 27, as part of the Colleges Ontario Higher Education Summit. For info visit

Since the Premier’s Awards were launched in 1992, winners from Niagara College have included: Royal Canadian Navy Capt. Rebecca Patterson (Nursing, 1987), who won in 2014; David Pratt (Greenhouse Technician, 2007) in 2012; Jerry Howell (Computer Engineering Technology, 1988) in 2011; Jordan Harris (Winery and Viticulture Technician, 2004) in 2008; Heather Kilty (Social Welfare Worker, 1969), in 2003; and Carol Alaimo (Journalism-Print, 1984), in 1995.

Niagara College offers more than 100, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit

Niagara Colleges 2017 Premier’s Awards Nominees

Rob Beyer – Business 
Computer Programmer, 1984
Rob Beyer is a visionary leader who is fully aware of the unique challenges in building enterprises within the East African context. He is executive chairman of Villgro Kenya, an early-stage social enterprise incubator that supports innovative businesses in the healthcare and life sciences sector. His passion is to support aspiring African entrepreneurs in the health and life sciences ecosystem while supporting innovation and innovative approaches that build sustainable livelihoods. He is also a long-time director of Pehucci Children’s Home in Kenya, an orphanage that is home to 90 children and provides education to roughly 600 more.

David McIlvride – Creative Arts and Design 
Broadcasting: Radio, TV and Film, 1978
David McIlvride is a Gemini Award-winning director who has written, directed and produced some of the most respected documentary series on television for broadcasters such as Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel and History Channel. A passionate storyteller, he has traveled the globe in order to tell the stories of people who normally would not have access to a global audience. His most recent documentary, Riverblue, charts the damaging environmental effects of the textile and tanning industries by observing the heavy pollution present in the nearby rivers of high-production manufacturing areas in India, China and Indonesia.

Rose DiMarco – Community Services
Law and Security Administration, 1985
Rose DiMarco has climbed the ranks in a field that is typically dominated by men. She is chief superintendent and first female regional commander Central Region with the Ontario Provincial Police. She is responsible for 900 uniform members and 270 civilian staff who police more than 80,000 full-time residents and an additional half million seasonal vacationers. She is the executive champion of the OPP Mental Health Strategy ‘Our People, Our Communities,’ co-chair of the Commissioner’s Inclusion Council, mentor in the Ontario Public Service Diversity Champion program and works with and mentors female officers.

Derek Christensen – Health
Nursing, 1991
Derek Christensen is an accomplished health care professional with 26 years of experience as clinician, manager and educator in mental health and addictions. He is regional educator for Mental Health and Addiction Services at Niagara Health System and is responsible for research, development, implementation and evaluation of staff training and education related to mental health. He is an officer with the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, Canadian Forces Reserve Army and has participated in training exercises throughout Canada and the United States. In 2012, he was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for outstanding service to Canada.

Ben Laurence – Recent Graduate
Mechanical Engineering Technology, 2013
The sky is definitely not the limit for Ben Laurence. As a structural technical designer for aerospace manufacturer and spaceflight services company Blue Origin, he designs, analyzes, tests and flies structural components for the New Shepherd spacecraft. New Shepherd is a suborbital manned rocket being developed as a commercial system for suborbital space tourism. It’s the first vehicle in human history to fly to space and return safely to Earth for future use. Flights with test passengers are planned for late 2018, with commercial passenger flights to begin in 2018. Blue Origin is owned by founder Jeff Bezos.

Blake Merritt – Technology
Computer Programming, 1985
Blake Merritt is a senior technology leader with more than 28 years experience. He is driven by a strong collaborative approach, analytical mindset and the desire to find value for end users/customers through the most effective use of innovative solutions. He led the team that created the most automated and largest VMWare Private Cloud installation in Canada for Canada’s largest retailer, Canadian Tire Corporation. As vice-president, IT Infrastructure Services and Cloud Computing at Meridian Credit Union, he is accountable for setting strategic direction, implementation, support and operation of the underlying infrastructure and cloud solutions within Meridian’s technical landscape.


Media inquiries, please contact:

Andrew Korchok
Communications/Media Advisor
Office: 905 641-2252 ext. 7430
Cell: 905 329-1642

Michael Wales
Manager, Communications
Office: 905.735.2211 ext. 7773
Cell: 905.328.4101

Niagara College earns top-10 place for third year in a row among research colleges in Canada

For the third year in a row, Niagara College has earned the honour of being in the top 10 colleges in the country for research funding, according to a new national study released today. And for the second year in a row, that placement is No. 7.

In its report “Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges,” Re$earch Infosource Inc. has announced the rank of seven for Niagara College, based on total research funding numbers for 2016. This represents a steady placement of three years in a row in the top 10, since Niagara College earned spot No. 10 in the 2014 research funding year.

What’s more, using data from the past two years, Niagara College’s research funding increased by more than 14% between 2015 and 2016, up to $6.94 million from $6.1 million in 2015.

“We’ve made research and innovation a key priority, because we see ourselves as critical players in Niagara’s economic development, and our consistent climb in these rankings reflects that,” said Niagara College president Dan Patterson. “And as we help local companies innovate, we are enhancing our students’ education by providing valuable real-world research opportunities.”

Research funding allows the College to partner with small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the region to conduct projects and services which provide innovative solutions for industry. These include producing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies, and developing new or improved products and processes.

“We are thrilled to have this validation for the stellar work our staff, faculty and students are doing on industry partner projects,” said Marc Nantel, associate vice-president of Research & Innovation. “We’ve ramped up our specialized equipment and lab spaces to attract new partnerships and funding, and it’s paying off for SMEs in our region.”

According to the report, Niagara College once again placed highly in the categories of the number of partnerships, as well as the number of projects completed. In both cases, NC ranked third in Canada on each list, with 109 partnerships, and 118 projects completed.

Niagara College receives research funding from various regional, provincial and federal agencies. Administered by the college’s Research & Innovation division, the funding supports the hiring of students and graduates to work alongside faculty researchers in helping industry partners leap forward in the marketplace. Students come from a variety of the College’s programs, such as Mechanical Engineering Technology, Culinary Innovation and Food Technology, Business Administration – Marketing, and Computer Programming.

Research Infosource annually compiles listings of the Top 50 research universities, corporate R&D spenders and research hospitals. This year marks the fourth year a list has been released for the Top 50 research colleges in Canada. For more information on the Top 50 list, go to

A special report on all 2016 categories, including comprehensive listings, analysis and insight, will be published on Thursday, Nov. 16.

Niagara College’s Research & Innovation conducts research projects with industry partners through its Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre, Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre, and Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. The division also offers support in the areas of digital media and web solutions and business and commercialization solutions. For more information on Research & Innovation, visit

Niagara College offers more than 100, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit


 Media inquiries, please contact:

Michael Wales

Manager, Communications

Office: 905.735.2211 ext. 7773

Cell: 905.328.4101

Technology Accreditation Canada accredits Civil Engineering Technician program at Niagara College

In celebration of World Accreditation Day, Technology Accreditation Canada (TAC) today presented the faculty at Niagara College with a certificate recognizing national program accreditation for the institution’s Civil Engineering Technician program for a five-year period.

As a national accrediting body for the engineering technology and applied science profession, TAC accreditation involves a qualified, trained audit team evaluating Niagara’s program against the profession’s national standards. Achieving accreditation provides students, parents and the institution’s administration confidence that the program has met the standards.

Lead auditor Mazin Audeh, C.E.T. (Ontario) and auditors Kathryn Deschamps, C.E.T. (Ontario) and Kendra LeBoldus, AScT (Saskatchewan) reviewed the program presented by Niagara College professor and program coordinator, Gilles Laroche, C.E.T., and his team. The audit team noted that the breadth of subject matter covering many branches of the civil engineering technology discipline as a key program strength, enabling graduates to pursue a variety of careers. As well, faculty have excellent academic qualifications and industry experience and are highly committed to supporting student success.

“Accrediting its Civil Engineering Technician program demonstrates Niagara’s strong leadership and commitment to its students, said Richard Stamper, TAC Executive Director. “It seems very appropriate to make this announcement on World Accreditation Day with this year’s theme, delivering confidence in construction and the built environment.”

“The Civil Engineering Technician program at Niagara College has tremendous support from all our industry partners, including the many members of our Program Advisory Committee, supportive local employers who continue to hire our students and a great group of alumni who help contribute to our ongoing success”, said Laroche. “It is with this kind of support, along with the dedicated faculty as part of the Civil team, that ensures the delivery of a highly reputable program.”

The process of accreditation is recognized worldwide as an objective method of assessment and an important tool to identify program strengths and challenges. It also provides faculty an excellent team-building opportunity. This independent seal of approval, represents excellence in education and the high standards of the profession graduates will be joining.

About TAC
Through accreditation, TAC is committed to partnering with educational institutions to ensure students receive a quality education that meets the standards of Canada’s engineering technology profession. For more information about TAC or how to apply for accreditation, please visit

About Niagara College
Currently celebrating its 50th year as a College of Applied Arts and Technology, NC is a leader in applied education and a key contributor to the economies of Niagara and Ontario. A regional college with global reach, NC offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs.

About World Accreditation Day
June 9th, 2017 marks World Accreditation Day, a global initiative to promote the value of accreditation. This year’s theme focuses on how accreditation delivers confidence in construction and the built environment. Accreditation covers many disciplines throughout the building industry, including educational programs, construction material testing, inspection and calibration services and quality, environmental, occupational health & safety and energy management systems.


Note to editors: Photo attached. Caption: TAC Executive Director Richard Stamper presents the TAC national program accreditation certificate to Gilles Laroche, Program Coordinator, Civil Engineering Technician at Niagara College.

Media inquiries, please contact:

Richard Stamper
Executive Director
Technology Accreditation Canada
t: 416-847-1016, ext. 254

Susan McConnell
Media advisor
Niagara College
905-641-2252 x 4330
Cell: 905-933-6259