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Letter to the Editor, NLC president bids farewell

On , In College News

D Jean Valgardson(D. Jean Valgardson retired as President and CEO of Northern Lights College on Jan. 28, 2011, after five and a half years at the College.)

To the Editor:

The past five and a half years in the Peace Country as President and CEO of Northern Lights College have been very fulfilling.

The potential I noted for NLC when I decided to apply for this position is evolving and becoming a reality. The addition of the Centre of Excellence for Clean Energy Technologies in Dawson Creek, combined with the Jim Kassen Industry Training Centre/ Oil and Gas Centre of Excellence in Fort St. John, allows Northern Lights College to fulfil its brand as B.C.’s Energy College™.

NLC is committed to providing the skilled workers for these expanding industrial sectors and supporting the economic development of the region. Given the scope of the industrial expansion in our region, a major part of my role at the College was to build capacity through partnerships with other post-secondary institutions and industry, and to ensure that funding provided by the government supports the breadth and depth of needed programming.

I knew Northern Lights College was a “classy” institution when the first person to welcome me to my new job was the former President, Jim Kassen. He committed 25 years to NLC and provided me with a firm foundation on which to build.

The institution is fortunate to have capable faculty and staff, and has been able to recruit experienced leaders in many departments. The leadership team members are exceptional and I have been proud to work with them. Further, the clarity of the College’s vision is attracting experienced professionals who want to contribute to an organization that “knows where it is going”.

It also has been gratifying to collaborate on Dual Credit programming with local School Districts, industry, Aboriginal agencies and other post-secondary partners through Northern Opportunities. The Peace Region is very fortunate to have a group of exceptional leaders committed to expanding the scope of this program and to spreading the word on the benefits of this innovative educational initiative. I have been very impressed by the passion for learning these leaders bring to the table, but also for their continuing commitment to finding learning solutions for the youth of the region.

Over the years, I have received support and encouragement from local politicians, including: Senator Richard Neufeld, the former Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources; Jay Hill, former Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River; Blair Lekstrom, MLA for Peace River South and former Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources; and Pat Pimm, MLA for Peace River North. And I would like to acknowledge the exceptional municipal and regional leadership provided by the Chiefs and Band Councils, Mayors and Councils, and Regional District Boards. I was impressed by the quality of leadership demonstrated by members of the oil and gas and renewable energy industries. Thank you to all for being willing to work with Northern Lights College on joint planning that benefits the region.

The College’s Board of Governors recruited me to make changes and supported me when the changes became uncomfortable. I was very appreciative of this support and pleased that the original Board and succeeding Boards provided progressive direction and encouraged innovation. I am particularly proud that we continued to focus on the fundamental mandate of providing education for quality of life in the region, and that we were responsive to requests by industry for new programming.

I am looking forward to the innovative initiatives and opportunities for applied research in clean energy technologies that are in the planning stages. Through partnerships with provincial, national and international leaders in this evolving industry, Northern Lights College is poised to demonstrate the strength of its vision. I will be cheering from afar as these plans become operational.

I loved driving through the College region; however, I came to realize that this was adding to the stress of my job. Every mile presented a beautiful and unique vista that I could not truly enjoy because I had a meeting scheduled. So now that I am retired, I will have to travel those roads again and make a point of soaking up the beauty and savoring the experience.

My husband Gordon and I made friends with a number of very special people in the north and we will miss you. We were treated to the unique brand of warmth, enthusiasm and innovative spirit we now associate with northern British Columbia.

A fond farewell to you all and our sincere thank you for your many kindnesses.

D. Jean Valgardson