Kiwesi Brown

In May 2015, Durham College (DC) alumnus Kiwesi Brown joined an elite group of his colleagues at TD Bank Group (TD) when he received the organization’s annual Vision in Action Award of Distinction. A 2004 graduate of DC’s Computer Technology Systems program, Brown joined TD as an IT analyst in 2010 and quickly developed a reputation for delivering superior service to his fellow employees while managing a variety of end-user requests, incidents and problems related to the bank’s IT network.

The Vision in Action Award of Distinction recognizes the contributions of outstanding employees who consistently demonstrate all seven of TD’s ‘Guiding Principles’ in support of its vision to be The Better Bank, and approximately only one in 1,000 of TD’s ‘best of the best’ are recognized each year.

“Being recognized as a Vision in Action recipient is a great honor,” said Brown, who is now a senior IT operations analyst. “It’s an acknowledgment of strong individual contributions and the highest achievement here at TD, an organization which I am proud to represent.”

Linda Flynn

More than 25 years after graduating from Durham College’s Public Relations program, Linda Flynn (Marco) returned as the associate vice-president, Office of Development and Alumni Affairs. In addition, she is president of the Durham College Foundation. In these roles, Flynn is responsible for implementing strategies to engage current and potential donors; ensuring funds are invested and stewarded appropriately; and developing a sense of loyalty and commitment among the college’s alumni community.

Prior to joining DC, Flynn was the director of Advancement for Lakeridge Health Foundation where she helped educate the community about health-care services available in Durham Region, encouraging donors to give where they live. This included managing development programs such as major gifts, third-party events and direct response campaigns, generating an annual revenue of more than $3.5 million. Additionally, she successfully implemented a new visual identity for the foundation and hospital and developed a 10-year comprehensive campaign to raise funds for the redevelopment of Lakeridge Health.

Flynn also served as director of Fund Development for Scientists in School, where she created the organization’s inaugural fund development plan and attracted new corporate donors. Additional roles in her career include director of Funds Development for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and director of Development for the Children’s Wish Foundation. In addition to her Public Relations diploma, Flynn holds a Fundraising Management certificate from Ryerson University and has achieved her Canadian Fund Raising Executive accreditation.

“Durham College has an amazing reputation in the community,” said Flynn. “I’ve lived in Durham Region for more than 15 years and have been watching the college’s growth. Although most of the people and the buildings have changed, I still feel the same welcoming culture as I did as a student.”

Russ Montague

After graduating in 2004 from the Advertising program at Durham College (DC), Russ Montague discovered a way to convert his love of pop culture and his plethora of work experience with iconic companies such as MuchMusic, MTV Canada and Universal Studios into multiple entrepreneurial endeavours, making him a geek-culture staple.

In 2011, Montague founded the 24-hour flash retail website ShirtPunch, which offers customers in 96 different countries the opportunity to purchase a newly designed T-shirt at the low price of $10. Each shirt is available for 24 hours only, increasing the exclusive nature of the design. This first dip into being an entrepreneur was sparked by Montague’s desire to become his own boss and its foundation cemented during his time at DC.

“Going to Durham was eye-opening for me because I discovered what I really wanted to do right from day one,” said Montague. “It really shaped my foundation. I am a nerd at heart and if I didn’t own these companies I would subscribe to them and purchase from them.”

The success of ShirtPunch’s unique business model has enabled the company to receive endorsements from several celebrities including icons like director Kevin Smith and Marvel creator Stan Lee; opened doors to substantial licensing opportunities with large brands such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and most recently, the new NBC television show Hannibal; and allowed Montague to develop his second entrepreneurial endeavour, a subscription-based company called Nerd Block, which offers subscribers in 21 countries a box of five to six toys and collectibles and an exclusive T-shirt every month.

Montague gives back to DC by visiting the campus to share his wealth of information and experience that inspires, educates and motivates other students to think outside the box so they can become the innovators of tomorrow. He was also a guest speaker at DC’s first ever Alumni in the Pit event, and at DC’s 2014 convocation ceremony.

Jeff Denomme

Jeff Denomme has served the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) in various capacities beginning with a Durham College Sport Administration internship in October 1986. As director, finance and operations, he played an instrumental role in the design, development and operational planning for HHOF’s $27-million relocation and expansion from the CNE grounds to Brookfield Place, Toronto in 1993. At age 27, he was appointed as vice-president, operations and treasurer. Five years later, on January 1, 1998, he assumed the role of president, chief operating officer and treasurer, and on August 1, 2013, he was appointed to his current position as president and chief executive officer.

Denomme’s hands-on management approach in conjunction with his contributions in the areas of strategic planning, exhibition/facility design, marketing partnerships, information technology and corporate finance have provided the cornerstone of HHOF’s economic sustainability and its on-going growth and development. Over the past 22 years, HHOF has become one of Canada’s premier tourist attractions and is renowned worldwide as the model for innovation and efficiencies in the sports hall of fame and museum industry.

Philip Pritchard

Philip Pritchard, Durham College graduate of the Sport Administration program, travels the globe to promote the game of hockey, the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) and museum as well as exhibits its collection. Pritchard has visited more than 35 countries and attended a number of key amateur and pro hockey events, including the Olympic Games and World Championships.

Since joining HHOF in 1988, Pritchard has been instrumental in the museum’s growth, including its 1993 move to Toronto and the 2009 opening of the new home of the museum’s vast archival collections.

Part of his duties include traveling with the Stanley Cup, a position he has held since his first week on the job. As “Keeper of the Cup”, Pritchard has also gained great notoriety for his role of walking the Stanley Cup out onto the ice to be presented to the National Hockey League’s champion. The trophy is given to each player of the championship team for a day which means Pritchard travels more than 150 days a year. He has been featured in several television shows and specials promoting the Stanley Cup as well as television advertisements for brands including, MasterCard, Discover Card and Honda.

In addition to his responsibilities with HHOF, Pritchard has served for many years on the board of directors for International Sports Heritage Association (ISHA) as well as the Canadian Association of Sport Heritage. He is also a past member of the Selection Committee for the Sports Hall of Fame in his hometown of Burlington as well as a committee member for the Lester Patrick Award, which selects outstanding contributions to hockey in the United States, and sits on the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Historical Committee.

In 2009, he received the Schroeder Award, the ISHA’s highest honor.

Debbie Low

Since graduating from the Sports Administration program at Durham College (DC) in 1985, Low has made a significant impact in the sports community for people living with a disability. She implemented the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network’s Athlete Transition Program with the Canadian Paralympic and Olympic Committees, which supports and empowers high performance athletes in their pursuit of excellence during and beyond their sporting careers by taking a proactive approach to life and career planning; developed the operational plan for Canada’s team to the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games; and developed numerous high performance programs based on global best practices.

In 2015 Low was presented with the Premier’s Award, an honour that recognizes outstanding graduates from the Ontario college system, in the community services category for helping provide opportunities to athletes with disabilities.

Since 2005, she has been a leader in the sports industry as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CSIO and has been a board or committee member for many major not-for-profit organizations. Low also served as Canada’s Chef de Mission for the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games and Assistant Chef de Mission for the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games.

Her passion for sports, combined with her dedication to empowering Canadians who live with a disability, led to her involvement in nine Canada Games as part of Team Ontario in various roles. She was also selected to take part in Rick Hansen’s 25th Anniversary Relay as a medal bearer, an event that recognizes everyday heroes who are making a difference in the lives of others and who motivate us all to better our country and our world.

Attending Durham College was one of the key decisions that sent her down her current career path.

“My full-year placement and the mentorship and coaching I received from the faculty gave me the skills and confidence I needed to succeed in the very competitive sporting industry; an industry that has also given me the opportunity to give back to the local community and champion the rights of athletes with disabilities so they too can achieve their dreams.”

Ian Ball

It is no secret that DC Alumni Ian Ball has made a name for himself on Bay Street. After graduating from the college’s Marketing – Business Administration program in 2002, Ball used his networking prowess and business savvy to impress well-known businessman Robert McEwen. With McEwen’s guidance, he quickly hoisted his way to the top, becoming one of the youngest-ever vice-presidents of a publicly traded Canadian company by the age of 22.

As head of Investor Relations at Goldcorp Inc., Ball successfully completed a number of corporate mergers and acquisitions, positioning himself as a key player in the creation of McEwen Mining (McEwen), a gold and silver producer with 1,700 employees operating in four countries. In 2013, he was named president of McEwen and during his time with the company he helped build it from a $5 million market capitalization to $750 million and establish it as a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.

After working with McEwen for 10 years, Ball was eager to break new ground and set his sights on Abitibi Royalties. Once again, he was able to impress with his innovative ideas and unconventional methods, securing himself the position of chief executive officer in 2014.

Never forgetting his time at DC before becoming the golden boy of Bay Street, Ball annually supports students through the scholarship and bursary program by funding the Ian J. Ball award. The gift recognizes the student who shows the most improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 in the Marketing – Business Administration program.

Ball continues to give back by returning often to DC, inspiring students to challenge their limits and reach for success. This includes speaking at the college’s Alumni in the Pit event as well as addressing the graduating class at DC’s 2014 spring convocation ceremony.

In 2016, he returned to the classroom to speak to third-year marketing students. In addition to providing these soon-to-be graduates with his words of wisdom, Ball presented each student with a copy of the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. Inside each copy he included a note to the students explaining the story taught him a valuable lesson, if you do the same as everyone else, don’t expect to be more than average.”

Mark Hillier

Mark Hillier graduated from the Sports Administration program at Durham College (DC) in 1990, after which he landed the role of public relations assistant with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE).

Since then he has served as co-ordinator of hockey for the MLSE, director of amateur scouting and director administration for MLSE’s farm team – the Toronto Marlies. In 2003, Hillier transferred to the Atlanta Thrashers where he was responsible for the evaluation of talent for the Ontario region, and from there, moved into the role of head scout with the Winnipeg Jets in 2011 – a brand new NHL team. In 2015 Hillier was promoted to Director of Amateur Scouting where he is responsible for overseeing all amateur scouting activities and for the evaluation of all amateur talent on a worldwide basis.

While Hillier has worked hard to make a name for himself in the world of hockey, his experience began at DC.

“Follow your dreams and passion,” says Hillier. “Don’t be in something for the wrong reasons. You must have a passion for what you do and be willing to work harder than everyone else to achieve your goals.”

Sarah Lavergne

In 2014, Sarah Lavergne was the first student from Durham College’s Centre for Food (CFF), Culinary Skills program to win gold at the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC) where she competed against more than 500 students from across Canada in more than 40 trade and technology categories. Lavergne claimed the title one month after winning gold in the Culinary Arts category at the Ontario Technological Skills Competition.

Lavergne currently works in the Research and Development department at Mondelez International, one of the largest snack manufacturing companies in the world, producing famous Canadian brands including Peek Freans, Fudgee-O and Crispers. She works with a creative team to develop new product flavours, packaging and concepts. In her position, Lavergne travels to various parts of North America visiting different manufacturing factories and assisting with plant trials of new products.

“While she was a student at DC, Sarah was well respected by her peers and faculty,” says David Hawey, chair, CFF. “In over 20 years of teaching I’ve seen some great students, but Sarah stands out as truly remarkable.”