College celebrates day one of Spring Convocation Ceremonies

YMCA of Niagara CEO Janet St. Amand receives a Niagara Award from Niagara College president Dan Patterson during Niagara College’s June 16 morning convocation ceremony.


Niagara College kicked off its 2015 Spring Convocation Ceremonies on Tuesday, June 15 with the help of two distinguished leaders in the Niagara community – Janet St. Amand, chief executive officer of YMCA Niagara, and Debi Pratt, wine industry leader and public relations specialist.

Addressing 386 graduates from the School of Community Services at the morning ceremony, St. Amand spoke of the importance of recognizing the impact they have on others, particularly in today’s world where technology connects as well as isolates.

“Technology is constantly changing. What has not changed though, is our need for human connection, the need for meaningful human contact which is vital to our well-being,” she said. “Find your balance between tech and touch.”

Graduates were advised to consider their personal ability to adapt and find balance in their lives. St. Amand noted how those who are in professions caring for others can often lose sight of taking care of themselves. She also passed on words of advice from Steve Jobs – “the only way to do great work is to love what you do,” – and Wayne Gretzky – “you miss 111% of the shots you don’t take.”

During the ceremony, St. Amand received the Niagara Award.  The award is presented to an individual whose contribution to life in the Niagara region is exceptional, and who combines service, innovation, and the ability to significantly improve the lives of the people in the community.

During the afternoon ceremony, Pratt addressed 821 graduates from the School of Food and Wine Studies, and School of Academic and Liberal Studies, using examples from her personal career path to inspire the new graduates. Pratt spoke of her decision to trade in her secure job as a teacher after 16 years to join pioneers in the Ontario wine industry at Inniskillin Winery more than 40 years ago. “I listened to my inner self,” she said. “Think of your skills and think of them as transferrable.”

Pratt also advised graduates of the three qualities employers are seeking. “Be competent, creative, and confident,” she said.

Pratt received an Honorary Graduate Certificate in Wine Business Management.

More than 3,700 students will graduate this week during the college’s Spring Convocation Ceremonies. Held at the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus, the ceremonies will continue until Friday, June 19 with a roster of distinguished speakers, including: 

Bob McNeil, president and general manager, NRB Inc. (June 17, 10 a.m.); Dave Maciulis, principal, Natural Landscape Group and publisher/editor-in-chief, Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine (June 17, 3 p.m.); Chris Sinclair, vice president and co-founder, Brand Blvd. Inc. (June 18, 10 a.m.); Andrew Miele, director of development, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts (June 18, 3 p.m.); Supt. Rose DiMarco, director of operations, Ontario Provincial Police, Central Region (June 19, 10 a.m.); and Dr. Valerie Jaeger, medical officer of health, Niagara Region Public Health (June 19, 3 p.m.).

The College’s convocation ceremonies are streamed live at:


Wine industry leader Debi Pratt receives an Honorary Graduate Certificate in Wine Business Management at Niagara College’s June 16 afternoon convocation ceremony.

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