Okanagan College is bestowing its highest honour on five notable residents of the region.
Pamela and Wilfred (Grouse) Barnes of Westbank First Nation, Robert Foord of Vernon, Neskonlith Band member Louis Thomas of the Shuswap and Kelowna’s Don Turri have been selected by the college as its 2020 Honourary Fellows.
Each recipient has made unique and meaningful contributions through education, public service, mentorship and philanthropy.
“It would be impossible to quantify or to adequately put into words the positive impact this year’s Honorary Fellows have had in their communities,” said Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton of Vernon. “Their contributions to the social and economic fabric of the region are vast and inspiring. We’re proud to count them as Honorary Fellows, and are in awe of the work they do as champions for education and community.”
Pamela and Grouse Barnes are Indigenous educators and knowledge keepers from Westbank First Nation. They are highly dedicated to preserving Syilx language, knowledge, and culture.
Both are currently adjunct professors in the Faculty of Health and Social Development with UBC’s School of Nursing, where they facilitate cultural sensitivity training. Both also facilitate Syilx teachings for the public in partnership with Kelowna Heritage Museums, the Kelowna Art Gallery, Rotary Centre for the Arts and Regional Parks.
“What an honour it is to be recognized as an Honorary Fellow by Okanagan College, as I began my post-secondary journey here in business administration, later moving on to study Aboriginal government at UVIC,” said Pamela Barnes. “This recognition is important to me, my family, and community after several generations of residential school. I was fortunate that both public school and the teachings of my Elders were available to me. I am privileged to have opportunities to share my perspective from both educational experiences with others.”
Said Grouse Barnes: “I am honoured to receive this fellowship. As a Syilx Elder I enjoy sharing the history, cultural teachings, and language of this land to promote understanding of our ways. I look forward to continuing my work with students offering support through our cultural teachings and practice to ensure their future success. Limlimt.”
Foord is known for his strong commitment to community. Under his guidance, Kal Tire gives back in numerous ways, including the donation and reuse of recycled tires for playground surfaces, flooring and roofing through Kal’s RePlay program and support of the college’s Vernon Trades Training Centre.
Foord, who studied at Okanagan College, has long been a supporter of students and a passionate advocate for education and training. Last year, the Foord family donated a plane which previously belonged to Kal Tire founder and their late father, Tom, to be used as a training tool for students in the College’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) program.
“I’m very proud and humbled to be recognized as an Honorary Fellow,” he said. “It would be difficult to put into words how important both education and community are to me, and to our family, so this recognition is meaningful on many levels.”
Thomas is a Secwepemc knowledge keeper and a councillor with the Neskonlith Indian Band. He works actively with the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society, Shuswap Trail Alliance, Shuswap District Arts Council, the City of Salmon Arm Housing Taskforce and many other groups in the region.
He has shared his guidance and knowledge with the college in many ways over the years, including providing the traditional welcome and sharing other aspects of his culture at countless events and ceremonies.
“This is a pleasant surprise. I’m honoured. I like to work in the background, but it’s nice to be recognized,” said Thomas. “Education is so important. The world is changing and we all have to adapt. Education is one of the things that will help our people thrive. I am a firm believer in sharing. Our culture is all about sharing, about passing on our knowledge and culture to future generations. I’ve always tried to support that however I can.”
Turri is a Partner and Family Enterprise Advisor with the accounting firm Crowe MacKay LLP in Kelowna. He has been active in the Kelowna Community throughout his career, volunteering his time to the United Way, Kelowna Sunrise Rotary, minor football and hockey, the Central Okanagan Foundation, and as a co-chair of the Okanagan College Alumni Awareness Campaign.
In 2008, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Okanagan College Alumni Association (OCAA) – the association’s foremost honour. He has also supported his alma mater as a judge for numerous competitions organized by the Okanagan College School of Business.
“Okanagan College has been a constant in my life for over 40 years,” said Turri. “As a student I was provided with the academic foundation to start my career as a CPA. As a partner at Crowe MacKay our firm has been provided with a steady stream of talented, practical new hires, many of whom have gone on to partnership and other senior roles in our firm. In fact, Okanagan College alumni constitute the majority of our Kelowna team.”
The college normally would have invested its 2020 Honorary Fellows at Convocation ceremonies in June. Due to the pandemic, Okanagan College, based on the feedback of graduating students, has opted to postpone ceremonies until COVID-19 conditions allow for the events to be held in person.