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Stories

There are over 8,000 UBC alumni in the Okanagan region and, if you're one of them, you're in the company of some pretty amazing people. In fact, you might be surprised at just who your fellow alumni are.

Rachael L'OrsaRachael L'Orsa

BASc'10, BA'11

Engineering a better world

Rachael L'Orsa was a student leader and earned a reputation for research excellence while studying at UBC's Okanagan campus. Now she is pursuing advanced robotics research that could improve the safety of neurosurgical procedures.

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Daniel McMann, BA'09Daniel McMann

BA'09

Following his dreams to Harvard Law School

Daniel McMann is a dreamer. He is also ambitious, hardworking, determined and persistent.

And good thing, because it was these gritty attributes that helped the young UBC alumnus reach his long-time goal of attending Harvard Law School.

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Freeda Wilson, MA'09Freeda Wilson

MA'09

Master's thesis attracting global attention

Despite graduating with a MA in Interdisciplinary Studies from UBC's Okanagan campus nearly a year ago, alumna Freeda Wilson is still making a significant impact on academia with her master's  thesis, which is currently one of the most viewed and downloaded theses at UBC.

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Alumni Profile - Tom SiddonTom Siddon

Honorary Doctor of Laws '07

Retired UBC Professor
Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister
Chair, Okanagan Water Stewardship Committee, 
Director, Okanagan Partnership

Tom Siddon has always been driven by challenge. For him, it is as important to climb the mountain as it is to reach the top. Perhaps that comes from growing up a little awkward - the kid with the coke-bottle glasses who couldn’t hit a baseball. Indeed, it wasn’t until university, when he shed the glasses for contacts and started dating the woman who would become his wife, that his confidence in social settlings began to grow.

Video profile (youtube)...

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Alumni Profile - Laura ThurnheerLaura Thurnheer

MBA '07 and BCom '84

Professor, Okanagan College School of Business

There was a time when Laura Thurnheer aspired to rank among the top women executives in Canada. Having come to UBC, at the ripe old age of 17, from the then small town of Kelowna (just 23,000 people), she was ready to make her mark on the world.

She wanted a good education and the foundation for a solid career. She got both, she says, though her definition of the latter was to change considerably over the years.

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Alumni Profile - Peter HutchinsonPeter Hutchinson

BHk '98, MA '00, PhD '06

Post-Doctoral Fellow, UBC's Okanagan campus

In high school, Peter Hutchinson was a smart kid looking for some learning he could sink his teeth into. Failing to find it, he dropped out. Ironic, given his choice of a career path dedicated to teaching and the pursuit of knowledge.

Ironic, too, because that path spurred more than a decade of post-secondary studies culminating in a Bachelor of Human Kinetics in Health & Fitness, and a Masters and PHD in Interdisciplinary Studies, all from UBC.

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Barb Pesut

Barb Pesut

MSN '97, PhD ‘05

Assistant Professor of Nursing, UBC's Okanagan campus

Barb Pesut entered each of the three university degree programs she completed with purely pragmatic expectations. Each one represented a new career goal she wanted to achieve. And certainly, from a career standpoint, her expectations were met.

But something interesting happened along the way.

Over time, her educational experience became more about personal development than just getting a job. She gained a growing sense of confidence, of who she was, of the nursing profession and even of the vastness and interconnectivity of the world itself.

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Shayla Lawrence B.Sc. (Biology) '00Shayla Lawrence

B.Sc. '00

Fisheries Biologist, Okanagan Nation Alliance

Born and raised in Vernon, B.C., it wasn't easy for Shayla Lawrence to pack up her life and move away from her close-knit family to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree at UBC.

Her home had always been the Okanagan and she loved everything about the area - from the towering trees and summer thunderstorms, to the four distinct seasons and the way they transform the natural landscape.

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Alumni Profile - Bill NelemsBill Nelems

MEd '98

Thoracic Surgeon, IHA Thoracic Surgery Program

If ever there was an example of life-long learning, it is Bill Nelems. Perhaps it's appropriate then that, as a UBC alumnus, he in fact completed his medical degree and residency elsewhere.

It would be many years later that, as an established surgeon and tenured member of UBC's medical faculty, he would decide to return to the role of student for a Master in Education and Counselling Psychology.

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Shirley ChauShirley Chau

BSW '96

Assistant Professor of Social Work, UBC's Okanagan campus

Shirley Chau knows what it’s like to work hard. The child of Chinese immigrant parents and a first-generation immigrant herself, she has experienced the sense of lack, of restricted access and of getting by with little more than a dream and determination. She has also experienced the feeling of danger that accompanies growing up in a neighbourhood fraught with violence.

Perhaps that’s why she has dedicated so much of her work to advancing the cause of marginalized populations, including the homeless and the elderly.

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Alumni Profile - Rick OliverRick Oliver

BSc '85, BSW '89, MEd '95

Principal, Rutland Senior Secondary School

A year in the lab growing chromosomes was enough to make up Rick Oliver’s mind that he’d rather be working with people than analyzing their genetic make-up. It’s not that he didn’t care about what makes us tick. It’s just that with degrees in science (biology), education and social work, he was qualified to consider either the micro or the macro picture. In the end, he chose the latter.

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Alumni Video Profile - David Lynn BCom'87, MBA'95

David Lynn

BCom'87, MBA'95

President & CEO, Sun-Rype Products Ltd.

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Alumni Profile - Paul ChernikhowskyPaul Chernikhowsky

BASc  '94

Chief Planning Engineer, FortisBC

It’s a rare child who gets a soldering iron for his 11th birthday, but Paul Chernikhowsky did. It was just what he wanted, too; his fascination with all-things-electrical having started several years earlier when he was about seven or eight.

His dad was an electrical technician: like father, like son.

As a child, Paul remembers taking apart electronics of all kinds, just to see how they worked. He’d seen his dad take the family TV down to his shop to test the tubes and it sparked an interest in the young boy that thrives to this day. He still has the soldering iron.

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Alumni Profile - Lorraine BaronLorraine Baron

BSc '84, DEdu, MA '92

K-12 Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator, School District 23

In Grade 2, Lorraine Baron was enthusiastically tutoring any Grade 1's she could get her hands on.

She was meant, she says, to do what she is doing and her success in the field of education is testament to that.

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Alumni Profil - Nicole KohnertNicole Kohnert

BASc ’91

Manager of Solid Waste, North Okanagan Regional District

Not many people who went through UBC in the late 80’s and early 90’s can say they were the only female in their class. Fewer still could claim just six people in their academic program. Nicole Kohnert honestly can.

Canada and the world were, at that time, just beginning to ride the wave of environmental awareness and activism and bio-resource engineering was not quite as attractive a vocational pursuit as it has become today.

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Alumni Profile -- Anthony Edwards 2Antony (Tony) Edwards

LLB'89

Owner, Horsepower Intellectual Property Law

You have to like gizmos to do what Tony Edwards does. Patent law requires not just legal skill, but a healthy interest in technology and how things work. It would, he notes, be very difficult to do the job without degrees in both law and engineering. Part of that is because, in the course of securing and representing clients, Edwards must quickly and fully understand, then champion, their products.

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Alumni Profile - Wayne Wilson (2)Wayne Wilson

BA'84, MA '89

Executive Director, Kelowna Museums

Curiosity didn’t kill Wayne Wilson, but it probably came close a time or two. Eager to make sense of his place in the world around him, he determined from a young age to figure things out for himself. His way was not always the easiest.  From the orchards of Kelowna to the streets of Vancouver, he has walked in many shoes -- even boots, if you count his stint as a Saskatchewan cattle-ranch cowboy.

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Alumni Profile - Raya FransilaRaya Fransila

Ed.D '89

Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Education

When Raya Fransila entered university, she didn't know that she would never really leave. And though her career has taken her outside the walls of academia, her commitment to lifelong learning and growth has only gotten stronger with each passing year.

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Alumni Profile - Robin SmithRobin Smith

BCom '89

Manager, Business Development and Deputy Vice President, RBC Commercial Financial Services

Robin Smith is proof of the old adage if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. Idle time, he says, can make for a dull and unproductive life. That's why he has consciously chosen to fill his own with a wealth of people and experiences. And it was the diversity of people, thought and experience at UBC that made his time there so valuable.

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Alumni Profile - Karen ChristiansenKaren Christiansen

BA '89

Chartered Accountant & Partner, Meyers Norris Penny LLP

When Karen Christiansen moved from small-town prairie life to Vancouver and the University of British Columbia, her world became a more diverse and colourful place. She was exposed to an entirely different way of living – one enriched by multiculturalism, the pursuit of knowledge and adventure. It was this all-encompassing experience of education that she credits with making her post-secondary journey memorable: an experience that served to develop her character, expand her horizons and shape her career.

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Alumni Profiles - Lorne Friesen (2)Lorne Friesen

BSc (PT) '88

Director of Health Services, iQuest Kelowna

Lorne Friesen has a philosophy and a vision for health care that took seed many years ago on UBC’s Point Grey campus. It was there that he first began developing a holistic orientation toward disease, pain and wellbeing management that hinges on taking personal responsibility through knowledge and lifestyle.

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Alumni Profile - Glen PennerGlen Penner

BA '88

Sergeant, RCMP, Commercial Crimes Section

A self-proclaimed farm-boy-turned-white-collar-crime-buster, UBC alumnus Glen Penner has worked his way up the ranks. And the top-level cop did it his way – with an easy-going sense of humour, a passion for his vocation and a willingness to learn. From dance lessons to accounting classes, curiosity has led him to dabble in many things. In fact, it was his penchant for dabbling that ultimately led to his UBC degree.

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Alumni Profile - Sara NelemsSarah Nelems

BA '87

Executive Director, Kelowna General Hospital Foundation

Kelowna native Sarah Nelems is an example of how personal enthusiasm, networking and the ability to recognize opportunity can lead to a successful career, even when there is no set plan at the outset. Sarah didn’t have her life mapped out in university; but with the unwavering support of a close-knit family, she wholeheartedly pursued her passions at UBC, falling in love with the studies that would culminate in a classic liberal arts degree.

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Alumni Video Profile -- Dominic Petraroia LLB'87

Dominic Petraroia

LLB'87

Managing Partner, Farris Law (Kelowna)

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Alumni Profile -- Norman Yates 3Norman (Norm) Yates

BSF'79, LLB'85

Crown Counsel

Asked about his heroes, Norm Yates calls to mind Al Gore and Han Solo for reasons, he says, that should be obvious. One assumes that Gore is selected for his high-profile efforts to save the environment and, ultimately, the earth. And Solo, a central character in the Star Wars chronicles? Well, the explanation for his hero status is likely much the same -- only Solo is saving the universe.

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Alumni Profile - Angela C. BaileyAngela C. Bailey

BCom '85

Partner, MacKay LLP

Angela Bailey is one of those rare individuals who went into university knowing what she wanted to be when she left, and never waivered. She was good in math and she liked it. She also liked the idea of an office job. In high school, she'd researched the top accounting designation she could get, saw that it was chartered accountant, and set her sights on that.

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Alumni Profile - Mike JacobsMike Jacobs

BASc  '85

President, Emil Anderson Construction and President, Dilworth Quality Homes

Mike Jacobs went to UBC with the intention that he would one day support himself using his brain, not his back. Coming from the small town of Hope, BC, he’d seen enough people do it the other way around to know he wanted something different. Still, construction was in his blood. He grew up with it, through family ties to Hope-based Emil Anderson Construction. Engineering, then, was a logical choice when it came time to pick a direction for university.

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Cindy Wilker, BComm '84Cindy Wilker

BComm '84

VP Supply Chain, Sun-Rype Products Ltd.

"I take what I do very seriously. I don't take who I am very seriously at all."  That is the personal philosophy of UBC alumna Cindy Wilker, who has built a successful career and a happy life by embracing the opportunities around her and choosing to satisfy her heart over her bank account.

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Alumni Profile -- Theresa Arsenault 2Theresa Arsenault

BA'78, LLB'81

Partner, Pushor Mitchell

Theresa Arsenault has come a long way since the days of waitressing in her father's Salmon Arm hotel. Indeed, she cites wanting to get away from that, to use her brain and to be treated like more than a second-class citizen as providing motivation for her to go to law school. No question, she's accomplished those things, and then some.

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Alumni Profile - Gary PearsonGary Pearson

BCom '81

Chief Financial Officer & Vice President Finance, Sun-Rype

Don't tell Gary Pearson that accountants are boring. He'd beg to differ and he has a lifestyle and career to prove it. Since graduating from UBC with a commerce degree and obtaining his accounting designation, Gary has worked in industries as diverse as golf, forestry and manufacturing. He's been on both sides of the corporate-takeover fence… and lived to tell about it. And all the while he's maintained a healthy sense of fun and adventure, indulging his passions for sailing, skiing and hitting the open road on his motorcycle.

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Alumni Profile - Sharon Shepherd (2)Sharon Shepherd

BSc (Pharm) ’73

Mayor, City of Kelowna

Growing up in the small town of Revelstoke, Sharon Shepherd never dreamed of becoming mayor of one of the largest and fastest growing cities in British Columbia. In fact, she wanted to be a veterinarian. But with two pharmacists in the family, and a single-parent mother none too keen on seeing her daughter move far from home, she opted instead for the pharmacy program at UBC.

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Alumni Video Profile -- Arlene Henderson BRE'73

Arlene Henderson

BRE'73

Owner, Windward Travel

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Alumni Profile - Wayne RainsWayne Rains

BASc ’73

General Manager/Shareholder, Advance Precast Ltd.

When Wayne Rains left Kelowna for UBC in the late 60’s, he had no intention of returning to spend the better part of his adult life here. Adventure called and Wayne, an athletic go-getter with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, was all about conquering new frontiers. Still, he found UBC, and Vancouver, itself extremely intimidating when he first arrived with few friends and no close family nearby.

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Last reviewed 7/20/2012 2:55:08 PM

In Memoriam

Alumni Relations posts memorial messages honouring UBC alumni who have passed on. Please forward all submissions to Brenda Tournier.

Our sincere condolences to the family and friends our treasured alumni leave behind.

For memorials of UBC alumni click here.

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia