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DC Alumnus and Bird Mechanical Ltd. CEO Contributes $150,000 to DC Skilled Trades Expansion

Durham College (DC) is pleased to announce the Whitby campus has received a significant donation of $150,000 from Bird Mechanical Ltd, whose chief executive officer, Brandon Bird is a DC graduate, Alumnus of Distinction, and Premier’s Award nominee. The generous donation will go toward the Building for Skills expansion campaign, which has now raised $5.3 million of its $10 million goal, supporting a 60,000-square-foot addition to DC’s Whitby campus. When completed, the expansion will allow 750 more students to study skilled trades and professions each year. 

“We are extremely grateful for the support of Bird Mechanical Ltd. Brandon is a long-time supporter of his alma mater. He has contributed his time and talent as chair of DC’s Mechanical Techniques – Plumbing Program Advisory Committee, donated in-kind to our skilled trades programs, and is now helping to fund the Building for Skills campaign. This gift will help the college train the next generation of skilled tradespeople and professionals for the benefit of employers across southern Ontario and beyond,” said DC President Don Lovisa.

Working in various roles for his family’s third-generation plumbing and heating company, Brandon knew he would need a solid foundation before he could take over leadership of the business. He enrolled at DC and completed his Level 3 Plumber Apprentice Certificate in 2012. A licensed Red Seal plumber, he returned to the company and continued working his way up the ranks and in 2016, at just 29 years old, Brandon became the youngest CEO in the company’s history. Under his tenure, the business has successfully grown, especially following the acquisition and amalgamation of John McKenzie Plumbing, allowing Bird Mechanical to offer more services and enter new markets, including Atlantic Canada. Brandon continues to strategically expand the business and today, he oversees a team of 100 employees, 70 of whom work as tradespeople.

“Increasing the number of skilled tradespeople being trained by Durham College will help employers meet the need for talent in the construction and industrial trades. We believe in what DC is doing and are pleased to support this campaign,” said Bird.

Construction continues at DC’s Whitby campus with plans to open in fall 2021. For more information on how to support Building for Skills, please contact

DC grads give advice on life after college at DC Talks: Alumni Series event

Two Durham College (DC) graduates returned to campus on February 6, meeting with students to discuss their careers and life after graduation during the annual DC Talks: Alumni Series event.

This year’s event featured Gabby De Sousa, who graduated from the college’s women-only Elevating Devices Mechanic (EDM) pre-apprenticeship training program in 2016 and EDM apprenticeship program in 2017. Joining her was Nicholas Coleman, a 2016 graduate of DC’s Architectural Technology program.

Gabby De Sousa:

During her time at DC, Gabby proudly shared her experiences, not only as a student but also as a female studying a skilled trade. Representing the college, she attended the Clarington Energy Seminar in 2015, presented to the Whitby Town Council about the women-only EDM pre-apprenticeship program and spoke with Elevator World Magazine in February, 2017 about DC’s female-focused elevating devices recruitment efforts. Gabby now works as an apprentice for Delta Elevator Co. and will be writing her certification exam in January, 2021, as she builds on her DC training through the varied, hands-on problem solving she does each day on the job.

In addition to launching her career, Gabby is giving back to her alma mater by volunteering her time as a member of the DC Alumni Association’s Board of Directors. She also served as an alumni representative at the college’s Taste of the Trades event in November 2019.

During the event, Gabby encouraged young women to explore career paths they may had never considered before, and to not be afraid of saying yes to new opportunities.

Nicholas Coleman:

Nicholas began his career right after graduating in 2016, working for a number of integrated design firms. In his current role as architectural technologist for the Toronto studio of Lemay, he is able to combine his passion for science, technology and sustainable design with creative thinking, analytical sensibility and technological savvy on a broad variety of large-scale projects including towers for financial institutions, medical labs and luxury residential. He is also a licensed technologist with the Ontario Association for Applied Architectural Sciences and a member of the national innovation team at Lemay.

As he answered student questions, Nicholas emphasized the importance of seeking out mentorship from those in the industry and following what motivates you, instead of the path that seems the most natural after graduation.

DC Talks: Alumni Series is part of DC’s backpack2Briefcase program, a series of events designed to help students and recent alumni make a smooth transition from college to the workplace. Events and workshops are held throughout the year to offer opportunities for both personal and professional development that will enhance the skills and training students learn in the classroom.

Alumni show their DC pride cheering on the Oshawa Generals

On January 31, more than 162 Durham College (DC) alumni, employees and students spent the evening at the Tribute Communities Centre, watching the Oshawa Generals take on the Peterborough Petes during the college’s annual Alumni Night – the best turn-out for this event since its inception.

Held annually, Alumni Night at the Oshawa Generals is a chance for the DC community to come together to reconnect over great hockey and a private reception.

Kicking off the evening and representing the college in a ceremonial puck drop was DC President Don Lovisa. He was joined on the ice by three Sports Business Management alumni who all currently work for the Oshawa Generals, as well as Cameron Ackerblade, president of the DC Alumni Association. Never one to miss out on a sporting event, DC mascot Lord Durham also got into the action by giving away t-shirts and hats to the crowd.

DC also sponsored the intermission entertainment, testing the knowledge of game goers with college-related trivia.

The evening was capped off with a win by the Generals.

Three Durham College alumni nominated for 2019 Premier’s Awards

Durham College (DC) is pleased to announce that, in recognition of their outstanding career success related to their college experience and the significant contributions they have made to their community, three of its alumni have been nominated for Colleges Ontario’s 2019 Premier’s Awards.

Andy Popko, who graduated from DC’s Public Relations program in 1987, has spent over 40 years in the oil and energy sector working closely with western Canada’s Indigenous peoples to develop equitable joint venture partnerships that will protect Indigenous land rights. For his work, Popko was named an honourary Chief at Heart Lake First Nations and also won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tribal Chiefs Institute in 2003. Presented on behalf of the Treaty 6 Chiefs, Popko is the first non-Indigenous person to be presented with the award. In 2004, he was also recognized as a Durham College Alumni of Distinction. Today, he is vice-president of Aboriginal Relations at NC Services Group Limited and a director at energy start-up Bitcrude. Popko is nominated for a Premier’s Award in the Business category.

Over the last ten years, Cailey Jones has worked her way up from volunteer to full-time teacher, vice-principal and finally principal of Botshabelo Urban Kids Educentre (UKE) in Midrand, South Africa. A 2010 graduate of DC’s Early Childhood Education program, she is driven by the knowledge that early access to education can change a child’s life. Over the past nine years, she’s helped build Botshabelo’s preschool program from the ground up, filling a need for children who may not otherwise access preschool education. In her role as principal, she introduced play-based learning, parent workshops, standardized assessment processes, and regular teacher evaluations and training. In 2019, she was recognized as an Alumna of Distinction at Durham College and was a guest speaker during the Global Grad event. She is nominated for a Premier’s Award in the Community Services category.

Bev Woods has given thousands of people a reason to smile over her 39-year career. Since graduating from DC’s Dental Assisting program in 1980 and the Dental Hygiene program in 1986, she has worked in both general practice and public health as a dental hygienist, consultant, and as a member and past president of numerous dental hygiene associations. In 2009, Woods founded Gift from the Heart (GFTH), a non-profit organization and annual one-day event that brings together dental hygienists across the country to offer no-cost dental hygiene services to those unable to afford or access care. The event has provided over $1.2 million in no-cost dental hygiene care to vulnerable populations over the past ten years. In recognition of Woods’ generous work with GFTH and meaningful contributions to dental hygiene and her community, she was recognized as a Durham College Alumna of Distinction in 2019. She is nominated for a Premier’s Award in the Health Sciences category.

“Using the skills they learned at DC, these three remarkable individuals have built successful and meaningful careers for themselves. We are so proud of their achievements and the impact they are having in their communities and worldwide,” said Don Lovisa, president, Durham College. “This is yet another example of how college education provides graduates with the foundation for success.”

This year’s Premier’s Award winners will be announced during a gala reception on Monday, December 2 in Toronto. For more information about the Premier’s Awards, please visit

Durham College recognizes student achievement at 2019 Spring Convocation

On June 10, 11 and 12, more than 3,000 Durham College (DC) students received their credentials during this year’s Spring Convocation. Friends, family, the college community and special guests celebrated students’ success and inspired them to keep reaching for their goals.

Held at the Tribute Communities Centre in downtown Oshawa, graduates from the schools of Hospitality & Horticultural Science; Business, IT & Management; Professional and Part-time Learning, Health & Community Services; Interdisciplinary Studies; Justice & Emergency Services; Media, Art & Design; Science & Engineering Technology and Skilled Trades, Apprenticeship & Renewable Technology received their diplomas and certificates.

Guest speakers at each ceremony were:

  • Adam Hare: Petley-Hare Insurance Brokers president, entrepreneur and business leader. Member of the Insurance Brokers Association of Durham Region board of directors, executive advisor to Lakeridge Health’s Launchpad committee, Young Broker of the Year in 2016 named by Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario, former professor in the School of Media, Art & Design, and 2006 graduate of Multimedia and Design program (now known as Interactive Media Design) both at DC.
  • Melissa Farrow: Hospital for Sick Children program co-ordinator, field practicum advisor and professor, member of a number of community child and youth agencies, 2009 graduate of Social Service Worker program and 2011 graduate of Child and Youth Worker program (now known as Child and Youth Care) both from DC.
  • Brandon Bird: Bird Mechanical chief executive officer, member of the Education committee for the Mechanical Contractors Association of Toronto, chair of the DC’s Mechanical Techniques program advisory committee, and 2012 graduate of DC’s Level 3 Plumber Apprentice program.

Over the course of the event, the college also awarded three Alumni of Distinction awards. Nominated based on their extraordinary contributions to society while achieving career success, the following alumni received the award

  • Bev Woods: A 1986 graduate of the Dental Hygiene program and a 1984 graduate of the Dental Assisting program.
  • Brandon Bird: A 2012 graduate of the Level 3 Plumber Apprentice program (now Mechanical Techniques – Plumbing).
  • Cailey Jones: A 2010 graduate of the Early Childhood Education program.

For more information about Spring Convocation, including links to videos of each ceremony, visit To learn more about this year’s Alumni of Distinction winners visit


Graduate Fair showcases DC’s specialized graduate certificate programs

Recent graduates and those hoping to further their post-secondary education got a closer look at some of Durham College’s (DC) specialized graduate certificate program offerings at the Graduate Fair on May 29 at the Centre for Collaborative Education on the Oshawa campus.

The interactive event provided attendees with an opportunity to tour DC’s signature learning spaces, attend a graduate certificate panel with DC alumni and have their questions answered by knowledgeable faculty and staff at the networking and program booths.

Among the event’s highlighted programs was the new Artificial Intelligence Analysis, Design and Implementation graduate certificate, which prepares students to meet the demand for AI-literate practitioners.

For those who missed the Graduate Fair or who want to learn more about the DC student experience, please visit or connect with the Recruitment Office at or 905.721.3126.

Durham College announces four 2019 inductees for DC Sports Hall of Fame

Durham College (DC) is proud to announce the induction of four new individuals into the Durham College Sports Hall of Fame this fall. Entering the prestigious ranks will be Sandy Abram, Durham Lords volleyball alumna; Stacey Fertile, softball alumna; Gail Reid, Lords women’s soccer head coach; and Jim Anderson, women’s softball assistant coach.

The DC Sports Hall of Fame officially opened in the spring of 1997 to recognize significant achievements and accomplishments of student-athletes, coaches and builders during their time at the college.

Sandy Abram – women’s volleyball (1992-1994)
Graduated from DC in 1994, Sandy Abram was an all-star member of the Lords women’s volleyball program, helping lead the team to two provincial medals.

Abram helped the Lords jumping up from fourth to second place in Division I. At the 1993-1994 provincial championship the Lords won silver, their second provincial medal in years, and was also the first year for recorded statistics in women’s volleyball.

During her collegiate career at DC, she was recognized as an Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) Championship All-Stars and a Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) All-Canadians. Abram was named the team’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) and one of the top female volleyball players in the country.

Stacey Fertile – women’s softball (1994-1996)
Stacey Fertile had an outstanding two-year career with the DC women’s softball team, helping the Lords complete back-to-back perfect regular seasons.

During her rookie campaign, she set two new OCAA records with the most hits in a season and in a single game and helped the Lords claim gold at the 1994-1995 championship, and silver the following year. Fertile was named an OCAA All-Stars in two consecutive years and the OCAA Championship MVP, as well.

Her outstanding hitting and exceptional defence eventually led to an invite to be part of Team Canada with the women’s national fastball program. She was named to the OCAA women’s fastball all-millennium team and was inducted into the OCAA Hall of Fame in 2009.

Gail Reid – women’s soccer head coach (1990-1996)
The first-ever coach of DC women’s soccer, Gail Reid, joined the program for its inaugural season in 1990-1991. She helped lead the Lords to three consecutive OCAA division championships.

Durham would go on to win the OCAA silver medal in 1992-1993 and OCAA bronze in 1993-1994, while outscoring opponents by an overall margin of 77-22 over three seasons. Reid was twice named the central division coach of the year and was named OCAA coach of the year. She was also selected as coach for the OCAA All-Stars game.

Throughout six seasons with the Lords, Reid amassed a conference record and overall record, achieving a .746 winning percentage. Reid established a foundation for both the Lords’ soccer program and women’s sports at DC.

Jim Anderson – women’s softball assistant coach (1981-1988)
Jim Anderson began as an assistant coach with the Lords women’s softball team as part of the programs inaugural staff, alongside head coach and fellow DC Sports Hall of Fame inductee Richard Snowden.

Assisting the program through its first eight years, the team amassed an impressive 55-19 conference record and 82-29 overall record, winning three provincial banners – one silver and three bronze –. During his time as an assistant, the DC women’s fastball team never saw a losing record.

In addition to his service as an assistant coach, Anderson was also a long time faculty member at DC, helping mentor student-athletes and support their success both inside and outside the classroom.

The quartet of inductees will be honoured at this year’s DC Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony scheduled for Friday, November 15 at the Campus Recreation & Wellness Centre.

Durham College celebrates Centre for Collaborative Education grand opening

On October 2, Durham College (DC) hosted more than 200 guests for the grand opening of the Centre for Collaborative Education (CFCE). Located at the college’s Oshawa campus, the multi-level, 75,000-square-foot facility is home to signature learning spaces, including the 360insights Entrepreneurship Centre, Global Classroom, First Peoples Indigenous Centre and Durham College Spa, which is open to the public.

“The Centre for Collaborative Education prioritizes the student experience in all aspects of its design and function,” said Don Lovisa, president, DC. “When students told us they wanted more collaborative learning and social spaces, we listened. There are very few offices in the CFCE. Instead, it holds industry-grade, cutting-edge labs, entrepreneurial and maker spaces, touchdown spaces and inclusive learning environments all focused on ensuring the student experience comes first.”

The milestone grand opening event featured demonstrations and tours of the new building; a traditional Indigenous ceremony performed by Troy White of the Mi’kmaq First Nation; official ribbon cutting; unveiling of the donor wall and installation of a time capsule that is intended to be opened in 2067, DC’s 100th year.

“This incredible building is the result of tremendous support from many areas – provincial, federal and local governments – as well as many donors who came together to support our Building Something Amazing campaign,” said Linda Flynn, associate vice-president, Office of Development and Alumni Affairs, DC, and president, Durham College Foundation. “The grand opening event is an opportunity for DC to celebrate our success while thanking everyone who helped us achieve it.”

DC launched the Building Something Amazing capital campaign in September 2017 to raise $5 million towards the CFCE’s total build cost of $40 million. With 95% of the goal achieved, you can still be part of this college milestone. The additional $35 million in funding is comprised of $22 million from the Ontario government and $13 million from the federal government, which when combined mark the largest single-project investment by government in the college’s history.

The CFCE is legacy project tied to the college’s 50th anniversary in 2017 and replaces the aging Simcoe building, which was originally built as a temporary structure and opened in 1969. In addition to addressing student needs, the CFCE is designed to reflect DC’s commitment to working with local business and community partners by creating a new facility where students, employees and the broader community can work together in ways that transcend the traditional concepts of education.

“It is no coincidence that DC includes collaboration among our core values,” added Lovisa. “It is only by working together, listening to each other and seeking to better understand one another that we will achieve the breakthroughs – professional, technological, social or otherwise – that will propel us forward locally and globally. This is what we seek to inspire and support with the CFCE.”

Three Durham College alumni nominated for 2018 Premier’s Awards

Durham College (DC) is pleased to announce that, in recognition of their outstanding career success related to their college experience and the significant contributions they have made to their community, three of its alumni have been nominated for Colleges Ontario’s 2018 Premier’s Awards.

Lorraine Sunstrum-Mann, who graduated from DC in 1998 from DC’s Registered Nursing program, draws on her passion for nursing and advocacy in her role as chief executive officer of Grandview Children’s Centre, the only children’s treatment centre in Durham Region. There she has championed its unprecedented growth and expanded its service offerings, while also giving back to the community. She has sat on and led both provincial and national committees focusing on children’s rehabilitation, has used her expertise to help develop Ontario’s Special Needs Strategy and has worked in direct care and senior-leadership roles at St. Michael’s Hospital and Lakeridge Health Oshawa. She is nominated for a Premier’s Award in the Health Services category.

Manjula Selvarajah, a 2014 graduate of the Journalism – Print and Broadcast program, works as a technology columnist and associate producer for Canada’s public broadcaster, CBC Radio. There she has appeared on and produced a variety of shows including Metro Morning and Big City Small World. She has also presented on the Live and Learn and Fresh Air shows. Manjula uses her training and voice to help the Tamil community, leveraging media platforms to tell their stories. She co-hosted one of the few English shows on Canadian Tamil television, Crossroads on Tamil Vision International, where she moderated panels on issues that affected Tamil Canadians and has blogged on She is nominated in the Recent Graduate category.

As chief executive officer (CEO) of Bird Mechanical Ltd., Brandon Bird, who graduated from DC in 2012 as a Level 3 Plumber Apprentice, is continuing the company’s three generations of excellence. Since taking over in 2016 as its youngest CEO, he has generated $30 million in sales revenue while overseeing a team of 80, 60 of which are tradespeople. Through strategic expansion and service offerings, the company has worked on projects ranging from $100,000 to $20 million; its clients include the Hospital for Sick Children and Cadillac Fairview. Brandon also chairs DC’s Mechanical Techniques Program Advisory Committee and serves on the Education Committee for the Mechanical Contractors Association of Toronto. He is nominated for a Premier’s Award in the newly-created Apprenticeship category.

Durham College alumnus wins Ontario Premier’s Award

Durham College (DC) alumnus Brent Lessard has received provincial recognition for the leadership role he is playing in revolutionizing the future of transportation. The 2014 graduate of DC’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program was announced as the recipient of a Premier’s Award for recent graduates on November 27 at the annual gala that celebrates outstanding graduates from across the Ontario college system.

“I am incredibly honoured to receive the Premier’s Award,” said Brent. “I’ve been able to apply so much of what I learned at DC, including being exposed to diverse thinking during my studies, which has been a source of inspiration in my work. I also continue to draw on the importance of fostering a sense of community, which the college certainly did. It’s something that I have carried with me as I helped create the rLoop concept.”

rLoop, a non-profit, crowd-funded and sourced, online think tank and talent resource, was founded in 2014, a year after Brent graduated, and is focused on the development of a conceptual, high-speed transportation system called Hyperloop. Initially proposed by Elon Musk, chief executive officer at Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the system involves the propelling of passenger or cargo-boarded pods in a low-pressure tube using sustainable and cost-efficient energy, in order to transport people from one place to another at the speed of sound.

Within the framework of rLoop’s commitment to innovation, Brent successfully connects and integrates the expertise of his colleagues, who live in various countries and time zones, speak different languages and embrace differing and unique cultures, to lead the development of a technology prototype with the potential to change the way we live and conduct business in Ontario, Canada and around the world.

His dedication has enabled him to propel the rLoop team, which is now comprised of 1,100 members from more than 50 countries, to greatness several times in the last three years.

In January 2016, he proudly guided his colleagues at the first SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Design Competition where they were awarded the Best Non-Student Hyperloop Design Award and earned a spot to compete as one of 30 teams at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, which took place in January 2017, in California. There, under Lessard’s direction, rLoop had the opportunity to test its Hyperloop prototype on the mile-long SpaceX track before receiving the SpaceX Hyperloop Innovation Award.

Lessard and his team were asked to return to the Hyperloop Pod Competition II in August 2017, where they tested the vehicle in the vacuum of the Hyperloop tube and achieved several Hyperloop firsts, including the first Hyperloop Pod demonstrating static levitation in a vacuum and the first Hyperloop Pod with pressure vessel tested at vacuum, capable of sustaining human life.

“Brent is a cutting-edge thinker who embodies the qualities that make a college education great – collaboration, innovation, entrepreneurship and learning through doing,” said Don Lovisa, president, Durham College. “As he and the rLoop team work toward revolutionizing the way we travel, DC’s students, employees and more than 82,000 alumni are incredibly proud he is representing the college and Canada on the international stage.”

Brent was one of 118 college graduates nominated for this year’s awards, including one other from DC, and is the sixth alumni from the college to win.

Each year the Premier’s Awards are presented to acknowledge the social and economic contributions that college graduates make to the province and throughout the world. Chosen from nominations submitted by Ontario’s 24 colleges, the award recipients have demonstrated outstanding career success related to their college experience and have made a significant contribution to their community.

For more information about the DC alumni community please visit