Four University of Northern British Columbia graduates received 2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards, and three community members are the latest honorary members of the Alumni Association of UNBC.
Western New England University chemistry professor Dr. Ronny Priefer, educator Leona Prince and computer scientist Dr. Baljeet Malhotra received Professional Excellence Awards. Community champion and long-time volunteer Tamara Sweet was recognized with a Community Service Award.
“Through their many accomplishments, UNBC graduates are making a difference as leaders in their professions and in their communities,” said UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks, in a press release. “The four Distinguished Alumni Award winners this year have all demonstrated excellence, whether it is in the laboratory, the classroom, business or through giving back.”
Ken and Rhonda McIntosh, long-time supporters of UNBC’s Timberwolves Athletics programs, and UNBC Copy Services Manager Barry Wong received Honorary Alumni Awards.
“Through their dedication to UNBC, the three new Honorary Alumni have made a positive impact on countless students,” says Alumni Association of UNBC President Andrew Seabrook. “It is my pleasure to welcome them to the UNBC Alumni family.”
The Alumni Association has named 25 honorary members since beginning the practice in 1997. The first Distinguished Alumni Awards were handed out in 2012.
Dr. Ronny Priefer
BSc Chemistry 1998
Priefer is a Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass., in the College of Pharmacy.
An educator, innovator and researcher, Priefer is also the chief scientific officer with New England Breath Technologies, a biotechnology company he co-founded. The company is in the process of commercializing a breathalyzer that will measure blood glucose levels. The device essentially replaces the need for diabetics to lance themselves multiple times per day to draw blood and measure glucose.
Originally from Prince George, he credits his experience at UNBC for helping shape him into who is today.
During his time as an undergraduate student at UNBC, Priefer worked in the laboratories of Dr. Guy Plourde and Dr. Mark Bernards. He was also president of the chemistry club, a teaching assistant, and assisted Dr. Todd Whitcombe with his chemistry demonstrations both at the University and at local schools.
He has sponsored a UNBC scholarship and he maintains strong personal and professional relationships with several UNBC Professors.
“UNBC gave me the opportunity to realize that my greatest ability in science was not the learnings from the books but the hands-on experience in the laboratory. I can state with 100 per cent confidence that I would not have been accepted into McGill, earned a PhD, become an academic, rise through the ranks to full Professor, and started my own biotechnology company without the experiences that I had at UNBC. I needed UNBC to help smooth the rough edges that I had and help me focus my passion. I am who I am today because of UNBC.”
BSc Biology, First Nations Studies, 2004; BEd, 2006; Master of Education, Multidisciplinary Leadership, 2017
Prince provides leadership at the school, district and community levels through her role as the vice-principal at Nusdeh Yoh (House of the Future), a public elementary Aboriginal choice school in Prince George.
Within the school, she champions many important causes that have allowed Nusdeh Yoh to flourish with a distinct Indigenous identity. As a teacher, she works hard to establish school-wide cultural expressions – a weekly, project-based learning opportunity where teachers mentor mixed-age groups of students in cultural explorations.
Prince has also taken her commitment to cultural education into the private sector. As the co-owner and chief of marketing for Fireweed Canada Education Inc., a company dedicated to promoting Aboriginal books, Prince is aware of the lack of local resources in the Dakelh language and is engaged in closing that gap.
Locally, Prince sits on the Making Ourselves Matter Services Society board, an education program designed for young women who have aged out of the foster care system. She also sits around the table at the Early Years Indigenous Development Circle for Success by Six and sits as a board member for the Carney Hill Neighbourhood Centre.
“UNBC has been integral in my success in my career as an educator. Having a Northern education helped me stay true to my roots and kept my practice grounded in local culture and history. The reciprocal relationship between UNBC and my nation, the Dakelh people, has left me feeling encouraged, supported and a valuable member of the UNBC community.”
Dr. Baljeet Malhotra
MSc Computer Science, 2005
Malhotra is an award-winning computer scientist and leading researcher who has made outstanding professional contributions to his field.
He was the founding member and research director at SAP, Vancouver and the founder and vice-president research of Black Duck Software (Canada).
While at SAP, Malhotra’s influence helped to bring its research and development offices in Vancouver. In the case of Black Duck Software, Malhotra went a step further in making the research and development division a Canadian company.
He is a champion for UNBC who stays connected with the University and hires computer science graduates.
“UNBC gave me the very first opportunity of my life to pursue graduate studies, where I learned the basic building blocks of research methodology. The opportunities and the challenges that I received at UNBC from 2003 to 2005 gave me the experiences that I needed to succeed as a recent immigrant. Those enriched experiences continue to shape up my personal and professional life in many different ways.”
BComm International & General Business, 2004
Sweet personifies the word volunteer, devoting a significant amount of her personal time, effort and dedication to her numerous volunteer positions in Prince George, all of which have had a positive impact on the community.
She has supported organizations focused on youth, recreation, health and education, often in long-term leadership positions. Her volunteer experience is extensive and includes national organizations and events (Girl Guides of Canada and the 2015 Canada Winter Games), local community groups (Volunteer Prince George, Rated PG Roller Girls Derby and Save the Dome Society) and special fundraisers (Variety BC’s Radio-thon and the Prince George Relay for Life).
As a UNBC graduate, Sweet served as a director with the Alumni Association of UNBC from 2010 to 2015. Today, as an employee, she continues to engage in volunteer work on behalf of UNBC and is currently the president of the UNBC Recreational Organization, which aims to foster a sense of community among UNBC employees.
“My time at UNBC as a student helped me realize how important volunteering is to me. I wore many volunteer hats as a student and it continues on today. I will always be grateful for the experiences UNBC has given me and I am honoured to be recognized by my Alma Mater.”
Ken and Rhonda McIntosh
Ken and Rhonda McIntosh are longtime supporters of the University and the Timberwolves athletics program.
Through their business, KJM Sales Ltd, the McIntosh family have provided financial supportome initiatives they have supported include athletic and leadership scholarships, the Adopt-A-Timberwolf program, the KJM Shot for Fees program, the Timberwolves Charity Golf Tournament, the Legacy Breakfast and the Wolf Club program.
They are regular attendees at the Timberwolves basketball and soccer games, bringing a personal connection with student-athletes that the Athletics department values immensely.
“Our family has always been involved in many sports in Prince George. As Northerners we understand all too well the financial support necessary to enable athletes to participate.”
“It has been a pleasure and an honour to watch and encourage the wonderful student athletes through the years. They are a credit to themselves, their parents, their coaches and UNBC. We are proud as well that our children, Kristen and James, are continuing the support of UNBC through their ownership of KJM Sales.”
As manager of UNBC Copy Services, Wong has helped countless students, staff and faculty members complete their copy and print jobs to the highest standard. From posters to theses to exams, Wong strives to complete each task with efficiency and detail.
Wong’s dedication and ability to meet tight deadlines has saved many students who needed a project or report printed on short notice. His charm and exceptional customer service has made him a fixture on campus, with many graduates knowing him by name.
Wong’s professional accomplishments have contributed to UNBC and he been a behind-the-scenes contributor to the success of many on campus.
“I am very honoured to be the recipient of this prestigious Alumni Association award. I am proud and grateful to work at UNBC and interact with so many outstanding students. I am always happy to learn of the triumphs and achievements of UNBC alumni.”