Okanagan College gives honorary award to two Vernon residents

The awards recognize distinguished achievement or service.

Tom Christensen

Okanagan College is bestowing its highest honour on three notable Okanagan residents, each of whom has made unique and meaningful contributions through public service, mentorship and philanthropy.

Tom Christensen, Robert Louie and George Galbraith will be named Honorary Fellows of Okanagan College during Convocation ceremonies in Kelowna and Vernon this June.

Two of the three honorary Okanagan residents, Christensen and Galbraith, are from Vernon.

“The accomplishments of this year’s Honorary Fellows are hard to summarize,” said Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “Their contributions have had a lasting impact on so many individuals and communities. It is a great privilege to welcome them to the Okanagan College family.”

Christensen is well-known for his contributions in the province through Aboriginal relations and reconciliation, as well as community volunteerism.

“I am humbled to be recognized as an Honorary Fellow of Okanagan College,” says Christensen. “I am a big fan of our College, the leading work it is doing in the post-secondary education sector in our province, and the services it provides to residents throughout our region.”

From 2001 to 2009 Christensen was the elected Member of the Legislative Assembly for Okanagan-Vernon and during that time, he served as British Columbia’s Minister of Education, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation and Minister of Children and Family Development.

As the province’s first Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, he had responsibility for implementing a more collaborative and less adversarial relationship with First Nations and Aboriginal peoples in B.C.

Today, Christensen is a Solicitor at Nixon Wenger LLP and remains committed to public service, having served as a Director of the Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust, a Director and Chair of the Legal Services Society of British Columbia, and Chair of Community Living British Columbia. Locally, he was a Director of the Literacy and Youth Initiatives Society of the North Okanagan and is currently a Director with the Canadian Mental Health Association – Vernon Division as well as a member of the Kalamalka Rotary Club.

In 2018, Christensen was selected to be member of the new Okanagan Indian Band Economic Development Corporation.

Galbraith, known for his philanthropy and civic spirit, is a business leader and stalwart supporter of many projects close to his heart in the Okanagan, including the Okanagan Rails to Trails Campaign, Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation and North Okanagan Community Foundation.

Galbraith is also a supporter of the Vernon Public Art Gallery, Vernon Community Music School and The Nature Trust of British Columbia.

Galbraith has worn many hats at Okanagan College, first as an instructor at the Vernon campus in 1973, then on the College’s Board of Directors for six years.

In 2017, Galbraith donated $250,000 towards the Okanagan College Foundation’s Bright Horizons – Building for Skills campaign for the new Trades Training Centre at the Vernon campus. He also funds two scholarships at the College: H.W Galbraith Memorial Award and the Kieran Galbraith Memorial Award.

He sees these gifts as an act of gratitude for the benefits he received raising a family and building a livelihood in the Okanagan.

Galbraith built and operated Vercom Cable Services Ltd., Vernon’s cable system, until he sold the company in 1991 to Shaw Cable, where he continued to sit on the Board of Directors for 26 years.

Louie is the former Chief (24 years) of the Westbank First Nation and has served on numerous boards, companies and special appointments with government and private industry for more than 30 years.

He has extensive experience in real estate development and finance matters and has focused primarily on working for First Nations on land matters throughout Canada.

Louie is the Chairman of the First Nations Lands Advisory Board and Chairman/Director of Peace Hills Trust, the largest Aboriginal financial institution in Canada.

“I feel honored, blessed, humbled and am beaming with enthusiasm to be recognized as an Honorary Fellow with Okanagan College,” says Louie. “The past recipients are individuals of such high distinction and are deserving of the recognition. To be recognized amongst them is a wonderful and humbling experience.”

Louie serves as an Indigenous advisor, representing Canada on the World Indigenous Business Forum and networks with other leaders promoting Indigenous economic development and world trade.

Louie’s connection to the College dates back to 1975 when he graduated from the Business Administration program prior to completing a law degree at the University of Victoria, and later when he was presented with the College’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006.

Countless awards and distinguished presentations, including his appointment as an Officer to the Order of Canada, have complemented his successful career.

Louie also received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the Justice Institute of B.C.

Today, Louie is the owner/proprietor of Indigenous World Winery, Indigenous World Spirits and Kelowna West Manufactured Home Park.

Since 2006, Okanagan College has been presenting Honorary Fellow Awards to deserving individuals as part of its annual Convocation ceremonies.

The awards recognize distinguished achievement or service and the recipients represent a broad spectrum of regional, provincial, national and international contributions. The awards acknowledge a diverse array of people, from those who have advanced literacy among youth to individuals whose work has helped create awareness and appreciation of Aboriginal culture. A full list can be found at okanagan.bc.ca/honourees.

Louie will address graduates at the morning ceremony on Saturday, June 1 in Kelowna.

Christensen will speak at the ceremony in Vernon on Tuesday, June 25.

Galbraith will deliver his address in an evening ceremony on Thursday, June 27

Related: Okanagan College launches Indigenous cooking training

Related: Largest-ever Okanagan College budget a big boost for programs

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George Galbraith

Robert Louie

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