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Each year, St. Lawrence College recognizes the outstanding achievements of individuals or organizations whose accomplishments are of such excellence, inspiration and leadership that they serve as an example for the students and graduates of our college with our Honorary Diplomas.

Nominations

To make a nomination, please complete this nomination form. Nominations received before January 31, 2018 will be considered for Convocation events June 2018.
If you have further questions please contact Maggie Stevens at mstevens@sl.on.ca.

Past Honorary Diploma Recipients

Click here to learn more about past Honorary Diploma recipients.

2017 Honorary Diploma Recipients

Jim Cooper, Brockville

When Jim Cooper took over the presidency of Brockville’s Canarm LTD., a friend gave him a paperweight with a precocious inscription that pretty much sums up the tenet behind his lifelong leadership successes.

 

“Good things come to people who work their a** off while they wait,” Mr. Cooper says, recalling the inscription.

 

The caption speaks to Mr. Cooper’s sense of humour, but it also speaks volumes as to how a teenager working on the shop floor grew up to become a President and a part owner of a global manufacturing firm that has been recognized as one of the best managed companies in Canada.

 

“I’ve told many young people this,” he said. “The only reason that I’ve got where I am is because I prepared for the next opportunity and worked hard until it came.”

 

While working in Canarm’s press shop after high school, Mr. Cooper found out that the next person who planned to retire was a welder, so he went to St. Lawrence College and earned his welding ticket. While taking the welding course, his manager asked him if he would be willing to supervise the night crews, so he took a supervisory course at the college.

 

Soon afterward, still in his early 20s, he was managing the whole factory as the assistant plant supervisor.

 

Ten years ago, Mr. Cooper became president of Canarm, which in 2012 was named one of Canada’s Best Managed companies by CIBC and Deloitte professional services.

 

Mr. Cooper also received the 2013 Citizen of the Year award from the Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce for the extensive volunteer work he has done within his community.

 

That community work includes co-chairing Brockville’s annual Palliative Care Golf Tournament, which earns hundreds of thousands of dollars every year during a single day of golf. He also serves on the board of the Brockville General Hospital Foundation and he was the chair of the Brockville YMCA board on which he served a total of seven years.

 

His desire to give back to his community stems from his childhood growing up the son of a single mom, who was supporting her family with the aid of government assistance in Cornwall. Mr. Cooper also received mentoring support and friendship through Big Brothers as well as a subsidized membership at the local YMCA, which provided him with a safe place to play when he was a young boy. He got caught breaking windows at the Cornwall YMCA, but instead of this turning badly, the local Y gave him an assisted membership, and his Big Brother got him involved in a number of local youth programs.

His Mom also taught him to give back by becoming a foster parent to many children later in life. It was this childhood experience as well as the death about 15 years ago of a friend and co-worker who died of cancer at the age of 40 in the Palliative Care service of BGH—followed by a family member —that drove Mr. Cooper toward further community sevice work in support of Palliative Care.

 

He wanted to give back to the Palliative Care Services, with which he’d connected during his friend’s and family members’ illnesses. Canarm had also historically been a sponsor of the annual Palliative Care Golf Tournament, so helping to run it with Dave Publow and a great team of volunteers was a good fit.

 

Before he knew it, he’d become co-chair of the Palliative Care Golf Tournament, which has brought in as much as $650,000 in one year since it began several years ago.

 

Of course, it wasn’t long before other organizations were contacting Mr. Cooper to see if he could help out with their organizations. When a member of the board at the Brockville and Area YMCA asked him to join the board, Mr. Cooper recalled the difference that his local Y had made in his young life, and in 2011, he became chairman of the Brockville Y board.

 

“It’s so important to give back,” he says. “After all, I was on the winning side of so much of it, so it felt natural.”

 

He is also a board member of the Brockville General Hospital Foundation and chairman of the Student Advisory Council for Loyalist College's Business Sales and Marketing program in Belleville.

 

Mr. Cooper says it’s “incredibly humbling” to be receiving an honorary diploma from St. Lawrence College, an institution that played such a fundamental role in preparing him for his early successes: “It’s recognition of what has gone into living life and working hard at what you do every day in your community.” 

Jeanette Despatie, Cornwall

They say that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person to do it. 

 

Jeanette Despatie, president and CEO of Cornwall Community Hospital and acting president and CEO of Brockville General Hospital, is that busy person. And, indeed, she sure does get stuff done.

 

Since becoming CEO in 2005, Ms. Despatie has overseen multiple construction and redevelopment projects as well as a cultural transformation at the hospital. These include a 95,000sq.ft. extension and expansion that saw the creation of a state-of-the-art diagnostic centre, operation rooms, and emergency department; the building of an addiction and mental health centre; the introduction of community MRI and chemotherapy services; and the introduction of fully integrated electronic medical records across the hospital that will ensure accurate, up-to-date patient information.

 

“Under her leadership, Cornwall Community Hospital has seen advancements that have positioned the organization as a leading health care provider for years to come,” Heather Arthur, the hospital’s vice-president of patient services and chief nursing officer, wrote in her nomination for Ms. Despatie’s honorary diploma.

 

Ms. Despatie says one of her most important achievements is the development of a values-based culture specific to the hospital. Called ICARE—for integrity, compassion, accountability, respect, and engagement—it defines how the hospital, its employees, physicians, and volunteers deliver care and interact with one another.

 

A values-based organization leads to a very strong and healthy culture, and a strong and healthy culture helps to ensure engagement “At orientation…I share with new staff that they can expect be held to those values in their delivery of care to our patients;  at the same time they are encouraged to hold the hospital to those same values .”

 

According to Ms. Arthur, Ms. Despatie inspires her team through her commitment to excellence. She is also admired for her thoughtfulness, strategic skills, her ability to make decisions based on evidence, and her ability to articulate a vision and to inspire others.

 

“She recognizes that success is achieved through the efforts and dedication of a team and regularly acknowledges the work and commitment of staff, physicians and volunteers, and the support of the community,” writes Ms. Arthur.

 

Cornwall Community Hospital has about 140 beds, 1,100 staff and a $115-million operating budget, so Ms. Despatie has a lot of responsibility.

 

Her plate became even fuller in 2016 when she took on a second—albeit temporary—leadership role as acting president and CEO of Brockville General Hospital, which has 148 beds, 900 employees, and a $75-million operating budget.

 

If managing the Brockville hospital’s day-to-day operations wasn’t enough, Ms. Despatie is now preparing the facility to undergo a multi-million-capital redevelopment that will be the largest in its history and may be the largest ever capital project in the city of Brockville.

 

Ms. Despatie takes the extra responsibility in stride. Indeed, she says she “thrives” on the challenge: “Health care is a complex environment; I get a lot of energy from the complexity and strategy involved.”

 

Ms. Despatie says she is honoured to receive an honorary diploma from St. Lawrence College.  She served on the college board several years ago when the college worked through sustainability issues; this experience has left her with admiration for the commited people across the three campuses.  

 

To this year’s college graduates, she gives these two pieces of advice about life and leadership: learn to identify opportunities and always try to give more than you take.

 

Says Despatie:  “We must recognize opportunities, many of our challenges are just opportunities for growth; we all have a responsibility personally and collectively to identify opportunities to improve our work life and our communities.”

Peter Garrow, Akwesasne Mohawk, Bear Clan, Cornwall

As a young boy working at his grandfather’s french fry stand and mowing lawns at the lacrosse field called the Hogansburg Bowl in Hogansburg NY, near his grandparents’ home in Akwesasne, Peter Garrow never imagined he would become the influential First Nations rights advocate that he is today.

 

Raised as a Roman Catholic in Buffalo, NY, Mr. Garrow went to school reading history books that portrayed First Nations people in an unfavourable light.

 

At the same time, his parents wanted him to become a priest and he had dreams of becoming a professional basketball player. After serving in the United States Air Force, he was teaching a leadership course at the Native North American Travelling College—as it is now called—on Cornwall Island when he started to read about the real history of First Nations people.  He had discussions with a number of influential Mohawk Elders and Traditional leaders who taught him the truth about Indigenous people, their history, their traditions, their contributions to civilization, and most of their world views and connection with all creation. 

 

“I read so much about our people that I wanted to somehow change how we were depicted,” says Mr. Garrow, a professional trainer and facilitator.

 

And make change he has. His list of accomplishments is long and has been well recognized.

 

Today, Mr. Garrow is known as a promoter of life-long education for First Nations People and for their contributions to the world. A member of the Mohawks of Akwesasne in the Cornwall area, he served as the director of education for the Assembly of First Nations and the director of education for the Ahkwesahsne Mohawk Board of Education.

 

He now chairs the Ontario Public School Boards Association Native Trustee Council, he teaches a native studies course at the IOHAHI:IO campus of St. Lawrence College, and he has recently worked with St. Lawrence College to develop two First Nations Studies courses to be delivered as part of the college’s general arts and science program, archaeology stream, at IOHAHI:IO.

 

He is also the chair of ongoing, high-profile negotiation sessions on self-government between the federal government and Akwesasne.


Mr. Garrow has been a champion for several First Nations causes, including Shannen's Dream, a nationwide youth-driven initiative that is advocating for equitable funding for First Nations children. He also champions Jordan's Principle, a principle used to resolve government jurisdictional disputes over government services provided to First Nations children, and the promotion and implementation of the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People.

 

In 2010, Mr. Garrow was made a member of the Akwesasne Lacrosse Hall of Fame for his contributions to lacrosse coaching and lacrosse stick building when he was manager of the former lacrosse stick factory on Cornwall Island—once the sole manufacturer of traditional wooden lacrosse sticks for the global market.

 

In 2012, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal in recognition of several high-profile First Nations education-related accomplishments. This included the endorsement of many new education policies created while he was director of education for the Assembly of First Nations and for the ground-breaking work he did as director of education for the Ahkwesahsne Mohawk Board of Education. While at the helm of the AMBE, Mr. Garrow helped to make it one of the most successful education systems in North America.

 

And in 2013, he received Rotary International’s highest accolade: the Paul Harris Award for recognition of his selfless community service to build community relations.

 

Mr. Garrow says it’s a huge honour to receive an honorary diploma from the institution where he has taught many mature students who have found the courage and determination to further their education and to chase their dreams.

 

“The honour really goes to them,” he says. “I just hope I played a little part in their wanting to continue their education.”

 

To those graduates, he offers this advice: “People always say to my students that these are your best years, but I always say to them, ‘No, they aren’t. If you continue on the path you’re on now, your best years are still to come.’”

Mary Mansworth, Brockville

Mary Mansworth is a grandmother of six with a rich social life and a passion for pottery, yet she finds time to accomplish more community service work in a single year than most of us accomplish in a lifetime.

 

A tireless community volunteer since moving to Brockville with her family more than 30 years ago, Mary Mansworth currently serves with no fewer than five local fundraising initiatives and non-profit organizations.

 

“I have always felt that I can make a difference in community by being involved,” she says.

 

And, indeed, she has.

 

In the past, Ms. Mansworth has served as chair of the Brockville Municipal Non-Profit Housing Corporation, president of the Brockville and Area YMCA board, as a board member on the national board of YMCA Canada, board member of the Brockville Community Foundation, and as Commodore of the Brockville Yacht Club.

 

She has served on various committees, such as the Brockville Refugee Committee, which brought Vietnamese refugees to Brockville in 1976 and Syrian refugees in 2016, and the Wall Street Village Affordable Seniors’ Housing Project, which is building an 85-unit affordable seniors’ apartment building in Brockville. She has also served on the board of the Child and Youth Mental Wellness Centre of Leeds and Grenville.

 

Mary is currently chair of the Brockville and Area YMCA’s Strong Kids Annual Giving Campaign; co-chair of the annual local Empty Bowls Fundraiser, which raises thousands of dollars each year for Loaves and Fishes, a non-profit local restaurant; she is a member of the Brockville 100 Women Who Care initiative, which raises money for local charities; and she is a board member on the St. Lawrence College Foundation board—to name a few of her volunteer involvements.

 

“To say that Mary Mansworth is the most generous person I have ever met does not begin to cover her continuing contribution to her community at the local, regional, and national levels,” says Bill Fraser, a retired Brockville businessman and fellow community volunteer.

 

Mary’s community work began in 1976, when she and her husband, Colman, moved to Brockville from London, Ont., after immigrating to Canada from Cork, Ireland. She and her husband worked with a group of Brockville-area citizens to resurrect the local Montessori school because they wanted their children to attend Montessori. Her next volunteer position was in the 1980s with Big Sisters, where she joined the board and helped with the organization’s mentoring work.

 

Since then, the amount of volunteering she’s done has grown and she has become known as a person who gets “stuff” done.

 

“When you do stuff, you get asked to do other stuff, especially in a small community like Brockville,” says Mary.

 

As a retiree, she says it’s not hard to make the time to volunteer on top of pursuing her other interests, such as pottery. She gets gratification out of community work because she knows she’s making a difference while also enjoying the vibrant social life that comes from volunteering with other engaged, civic-minded community members.

 

“I feel very gratified in my ability to make a difference with philanthropy and maybe affect some change,” she says. “I get an intrinsic good feeling…and my personal growth has benefited with my involvement in the community.”

 

It’s extremely meaningful to her that she is receiving an honorary St. Lawrence College diploma because she has been a part-time student at the college multiple times over the past decades.

 

“I am very attached to the college,” she says.

 

For the graduating class, the mom and grandmother has two pieces of advice that have served her well throughout her life: “Always be true to yourself, and get involved. You can always go to a new place and become part of the community by getting out and joining an organization and being a volunteer.”