Skip to main content

In memoriam: Jim Kassen, 1945–2019, Northern Lights College’s longest-serving president

On , In College News

Jim Kassen, former president of Northern Lights College, passed away on November 19, 2019. He was 74.

“We are all deeply saddened at Jim’s passing. He was instrumental in shaping higher education in the North,” said M. Bryn Kulmatycki, current president and chief executive officer of Northern Lights College. “He will long be remembered for his unwavering commitment to NLC and the educational needs of northern British Columbians.”

Jim started his 25-year tenure as president of NLC in 1980, which is unparalleled among post-secondary institutions in BC. He grew the College from a single campus in Dawson Creek, with three storefront operations in Chetwynd, Fort Nelson, and Fort St. John, and just a few hundred students, to eight campuses and access centres across the upper third of British Columbia. Under his leadership, the College entered into a formal arrangement with the University of Northern British Columbia in 1992. Jim awarded NLC’s first honorary degree to renowned opera singer Ben Heppner in 1994.

Along with being remembered for his compassion, integrity, and dedication to his work, family, and friends, Jim was known for his sense of humor. One time he arrived at work several hours early to place a live chicken in a colleague’s office. Another time, he sent a deputy minister home with a live sheep after a visit to the College’s Mile Zero Farm. Jim was given to practical jokes, but it was quite by accident that he forced the evacuation of an entire government office building in Victoria when a thank-you basket of goodies he had delivered to a meeting was mistaken for a bomb.

Jim retired from NLC in 2005. In 2007, the College opened the Jim Kassen Industry Training Centre at the Fort St. John campus in his honour. In a somewhat less formal, but perhaps equally appropriate ceremony, college administrators and staff conspired to have one of Jim’s size 15 shoes ensconced in the wall of the board room during the construction of the new administration building on the Dawson Creek campus.

Jim is survived by Marty, his wife of 51 years, son Wade, daughter Nicole, grandchildren, and extended family.

A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, November 30, at 10 am in the Centre for Clean Energy Technologies at NLC’s Dawson Creek campus.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Jim Kassen Legacy Award, administered by the Northern Lights College Foundation. To make a contribution, call 250-787-6240 or email Donations by cheque can be made payable to the Northern Lights College Foundation, 11401 8 Street, Dawson Creek, BC, V1G 4G2.