It’s the largest gift ever to support Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus, and it will accelerate a centre of excellence in automotive training and open doors for students for years to come.
Muriel Jacobsen and her children Rhonda and Shayne are donating $1 million to support the Kelowna Trades Training Complex in honour of their late husband and father Ron Jacobsen. Ron owned and operated Jacobsen Pontiac Buick for more than 40 years.
“My dad always wanted to give back to the community that supported him,” said Rhonda Jacobsen-Lebedoff.
“As someone who loved and valued the importance of learning and improving, he would be delighted to know his success is supporting future automotive leaders.”
The funding announcement was made in the courtyard of the new trades building. In recognition of the donation, Okanagan College will name the bright study, gathering and corridor space used by so many students as the Ron Jacobsen Pathway to Excellence.
“This gift gets to the heart of what we set out to do in revitalizing and expanding our trades training facilities at the Kelowna campus—providing our students with a world-class learning environment, helping to address the skills gap and needs of employers, and elevating the skilled trades as a career path, something Ron championed through his leadership and commitment to excellence,” said Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton.
“On behalf of everyone at Okanagan College, I’d like to express our gratitude to the Jacobsen family for this remarkable support, which will help us continue to create access and advance training for the next generation of automotive trades people.
“There will be generations of students who walk along the corridor and appreciate the legacy of Ron, and—like him—will tread the pathway to excellence.”
The Jacobsen family hopes Ron’s legacy will live on with the funds contributing to the following key areas:
• development of curriculum and purchase of start-up equipment for the College’s forthcoming automotive service technician diploma
• development of training in alternate fuels and purchase of start-up equipment
• purchase of state-of-the-art training equipment
• refreshing the automotive facilities to more closely resemble the appearance of newer dealerships and service outlets
• financial support for students
Steve Moores, the college’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship, says the funds will help OC invest in equipment, education and infrastructure to ensure students are prepared to work on the hybrid and electric vehicles of today and tomorrow.
“We know from speaking with employers that as new technology emerges and becomes more mainstream, the sector will require technicians who are adept with hybrid and electric engines, alternative fuels and so on. This gift will help us to put in place the training, equipment and shop facilities to stay ahead of the curve,” said Moores.
Mark Bannister, of Bannister Automotive Group, says the announcement is amazing news for the college and the automotive industry.
“One of our biggest struggles is finding technicians, so to have this major investment in state-of-the-art training and student support is incredible for students and our local automotive sector,” said Bannister.
The gift announcement marks the close of the Okanagan College Foundation’s fundraising campaign for the Kelowna Trades Training Complex —a $33-million project that started in 2014.
The province invested $28-million into the project and the Okanagan College Foundation set its most ambitious fundraising goal to date—raise $7 million to complete the trades facility and provide life-changing program and student support. The campaign goal was not only met but exceeded by $1.5 million.
“Ron was a generous community builder, so it feels apt to have him close our campaign, which brought together industry leaders in the automotive, welding, construction, plumbing, mechanical and electrical sectors,” added Kathy Butler, Okanagan College Foundation executive director.
“We are very grateful to the Jacobsen family and thank everyone who supported us in reaching this inspiring milestone.”
Ron Jacobsen was born in Red Deer, Alta., and was an identical twin and youngest of nine children who grew up working on the family farm.
His first job was at a sawmill while taking a correspondence course in accounting. Jacobsen went on to become the accountant at Hub City Motors, a Volkswagen dealership in Prince George. He would later buy into the dealership.
In 1971, he sold his half of Hub City Motors and moved to Kelowna where he started Jacobsen Pontiac Buick.
The company grew to more than 75 employees with a focus on hiring the right people, investing in modern equipment and creating a learning environment.
The auto dealership and body shop also adopted the trademark “Jacobsen Excellence.” He always encouraged employees to think about whether their actions were good enough or excellent and to aim for the latter.
While committed to his business, Jacobsen was also passionate about his family, enjoying camping, boating and playing cards.
He gave back to the community, volunteering with the Kelowna Rotary Club, and sponsoring sports teams, golf tournaments, and the Apple Triathlon.
The latest donation from the Jacobsen family builds on past contributions to Okanagan College. In 2009, the family set up the Jacobsen Pontiac Lou Simonelli Achievement Award to recognize one of his longest serving automotive technicians.
Jacobsen and his wife Muriel also previously donated to the Kelowna Trades Training Complex.
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