Accountants to welders, OC grads ready for the world

Okanagan College graduates by the thousands prepared to take on the world of enterprise.

Jessica Lenz

As one Okanagan College business student will note when she addresses her graduating class June 4, it was often the most challenging moments of her studies that best prepared her for the future.

Jessica Lenz is completing a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) honours degree specializing in accounting, and for the past year has been a student researcher with the Scotiabank Centre for Non-profit Excellence located at the Kelowna campus. She recently presented her findings at the The Canadian Council for Small Business & Entrepreneurship national conference in Guelph, Ont.

“It was so beneficial to have real-world opportunities to engage with and learn from business leaders in our community,” said Lenz, who now plans to pursue her Chartered Professional Accountant certification. “It was very challenging but also very fulfilling as a student to be a part of research that has application to people’s businesses and livelihoods locally, and has the potential to bring about positive change.”

Lenz is among the more than 1,450 students who will be recognized at the college’s convocation ceremonies this weekend. She will also take the stage to give the student address and will be presented with the Silver Governor General’s Academic Medal and Bachelor of Business Administration Medal, as the graduand with the highest graduating grade average in an Okanagan College baccalaureate program and the BBA program this year.

“Receiving the Silver Governor General’s medal was one of the goals I have pushed myself toward for a long time,” Lenz said. “It’s an incredible feeling to realize a goal like this. I can’t wait to be at the ceremony with all my fellow graduates who share the same pride of accomplishment.”The college will recognize the achievements of nearly 1,000 trades students at its commencement ceremony on Friday evening, June 3.The following day, 481 credentials will be conferred to students in academic and vocational programs and include: 129 bachelor’s degrees, 55 associate degrees, 270 diplomas and 27 certificates.

The ceremony on June 4 in Kelowna starts at 10:30 a.m. and will see students from arts, science, engineering technologies, computer science, and health and social development programs receive their credentials. Local forest hydrologist, Dr. Rita Winkler, and Mission Hill’s Anthony von Mandl, OBC, will address the morning graduating class as Honorary Fellows of Okanagan College.

At the afternoon ceremony starting at 1:30 p.m., Okanagan College will confer degrees, diplomas and certificates to graduands of the Okanagan College School of Business.

It is in this ceremony that Lenz will share some wisdom gained during her time as a business student, followed by a local business veteran who shares her feelings on the subject of perseverance.

After being recognized as Honorary Fellow on Saturday afternoon, Kelowna entrepreneur Bill Redmond will address the next wave of business leaders who will follow in his footsteps.One of his key messages? Learn how to overcome adversity and even embrace it.

Redmond spent four decades building his career in the wholesale food industry. He is the founder and formerly the president and CEO of HRI Supply Ltd. Redmond launched the company in 1978 and guided its growth until it merged with Sysco Corp. in 2001. HRI Supply is the only food distribution company in the B.C. Interior to merge with a Fortune 500 company in the past 30 years. After the merger Redmond continued his career as president and CEO of Sysco Kelowna until he retired from the company in 2004.

“I am thrilled to be a part of the Convocation ceremony at Okanagan College,” said Redmond. “It is a big honour and I have been thinking carefully about what I want to say to the students before they make their way into the working world.”Distilling a career’s worth of lessons into a few short minutes isn’t an easy task but Redmond says the lesson that has been most valuable was one that he learned early.

“The difficult things and the challenging things are what you remember,” he said. “Overcoming adversity, even embracing it and seeking it out, is really what sets people apart. It is actually quite easy to be a great leader when things are going well but when things take a turn, that’s when you grow the most.”

Redmond spent a year at Okanagan College as its first Entrepreneur-in-Residence in 2007. During that time he worked out of an office in the School of Business a few days a month, meeting with students, joining lectures and working with colleagues in the department. “I was very impressed with the business students at Okanagan College,” he said. “Working with them made me remember the pure joy of learning about business. It’s a wonderful institution and a great privilege to address the graduating class.”

This weekend’s ceremonies represent three of the College’s six annual convocation ceremonies. The first convocation ceremony of the year was held in January, when 310 credentials were awarded to students.

Two additional ceremonies will be held later in June. A ceremony in Vernon will be held on June 27. The final summer convocation in Kelowna will take place on June 29 and will confer approximately 380 diplomas and certificates. Former Okanagan College professor Rick Gee will be honored as the 2016 Distinguished Service Award recipient at that ceremony.

More than 2,100 students will have graduated from Okanagan College in 2016 before the end of the month. To watch the convocation ceremonies via live streaming, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/convocationlive.