John Brink, a forestry industry pioneer and philanthropist from Prince George, and Dr. Jo-ann Archibald, an Indigenous educator, researcher and scholar from the Stó:lō and St’at’imc First Nations, are slated to receive honorary Doctor of Laws degrees during the 2019 convocation at the University of Northern British Columbia’s Prince George campus on May 31.
“It’s an amazing honour, I’m obviously humbled by the recognition,” said Brink. “To be considered at all is already quite an honour.”
Brink is the Chief Executive Officer of Brink Forest Products, the largest secondary wood manufacturing company in Canada and 13th largest forest company in B.C. He established the business in 1975 after immigrating to Prince George from Holland a decade earlier with a dream to build his own sawmill.
To be given an honourary degree by UNBC is kind of like coming full circle, given that Brink was among many in the city who lobbied the then-Social Credit government, endlessly, for a free-standing university in British Columbia.
At the the time, he was president of the Prince George North Constituency Association and lobbying MLAs, such as Bruce Strachan, was part of an ongoing effort to get, what would eventually become UNBC, approved.
Brink started his business in 1975 with a lumber re-manufacturing and finger-jointing plant; both of which he built from scratch.
Finger-jointing had never been done in Canada prior to this, allowing Brink to establish himself as an industry pioneer. His original vision continues to guide the company today and the business plan of 1975 accounts for the aggressive growth strategy that he has currently embarked on over the past 44 years.
As an industry leader, Brink is the longest-serving director of the Council of Forest Industries, which represents the B.C. forest industry. Brink is the founding chair of the Wood Works initiative, helping promote the use of wood structures across British Columbia and North America. In addition, he is the founding president of the B.C. Council of Value-Added Wood Processors, which had eight associations across B.C. and boasted 800 members. He has been involved in all five of Canada’s softwood lumber agreements with the U.S., representing the secondary re-manufacturing industry. He is the longest sitting member of the Council of Forest Industries board.
“Arriving in Canada in 1965 at the age of 24, I had a dream of building a sawmill,” he said. “I had one suitcase, the clothing on my back and $25.47 in my pocket. Most importantly, I had a dream I would never give up on. With a positive attitude, relentless passion and undying work ethic, I pushed hard towards my dream and succeeded. Today, nearly 55 years later, I see these exact same characteristics driving UNBC’s vision of becoming Canada’s leading destination university.
“I’m proud of everything UNBC has accomplished since its inception, helping strengthen our community, region, province and nation. UNBC’s unparalleled achievements over the years symbolizes my own motto of “never giving up” and fighting against all odds.”
In 2002, thanks to a partnership between Brink and the College of New Caledonia to train tradespeople in northern B.C., the John A. Brink Trades and Technology Centre officially opened at CNC. The building houses the college’s automotive shop, electrical and woodworking programs, and it facilitated an expansion of the millwright, machinist and welding programs.
In addition to a successful business acumen, Brink is also a philanthropist, supporting hundreds of charities and non-profit organizations in Prince George and around the world. He is also well-known for advocating animal welfare, supporting the SPCA and the Prince George Humane Society.
The honourary degree is particularly rewarding for Brink, given that his career path didn’t take the academic route.
“I skipped a few steps,” he said, with a laugh.
He trained as a furniture maker, adding he loves to work with his hands.
Brink will receive his honorary degree at the College of Science and Management ceremony on May 31 at 2:30 p.m.
Dr. Archibald, Q’um Q’um Xiiem is a Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia. At UBC, she was the former Director of the First Nations House of Learning, Associate Dean for Indigenous Education, and the Director of UBC’s Indigenous Teacher Education Program (NITEP).
“I feel very honoured and humbled about receiving this honorary degree from the University of Northern British Columbia,” says Dr. Archibald. “First, I would like to thank those who nominated me for this prestigious award. Over the years, I have worked with various UNBC colleagues on Indigenous education matters. I was always impressed with the university commitment to Indigenous peoples and their communities. At the same time, I admired and valued the expertise, scholarship, and work of the faculty, staff, and students. This honorary degree makes me feel like a very proud extended family member of UNBC.”
Over a 45-year educational career, Dr. Archibald has been a school teacher, curriculum developer, researcher, university leader and professor. Her scholarship relates to Indigenous knowledge systems, storywork/oral tradition, transformative education at all levels, Indigenous educational history, teacher and graduate education, and Indigenous methodologies.
Dr. Archibald received a Bachelor of Education degree from UBC, a Master of Education degree and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from Simon Fraser University.
She has authored numerous publications related to Indigenous education. Dr. Archibald’s book Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body, and Spirit published in 2008 by UBC Press continues to be used by students, academics and teachers. It focuses on the role of Indigenous stories and storytelling for holistic learning, teaching and research.
In 2018, Q’um Q’um Xiiem was appointed to the Officer of the Order of Canada for her lifelong contributions to advancing Indigenous education in Kindergarten to Grade 12 and post-secondary education through policy, programs, curricula, and research.
Dr. Archibald will receive her honorary degree at the College of Arts, Social and Health Sciences ceremony on May 31 at 9:30 a.m.
In addition to the ceremonies in Prince George, UNBC is scheduled to hold Regional Celebrations in Gitwinksihlkw on June 3, Terrace on June 4, Quesnel on June 6 and Fort St. John on June 7.