Stories of generosity

Thanks to your generosity, we're able to provide students with new opportunities and support on the path to successful careers. Your donations contribute to the development of our programs, improvement of our facilities and make a difference in the lives of many students.

Every donor has a story: learn more about some of our donors below.

The gift to launch a movement

Paul Ottmann and Reg Campbell are paying their experiences forward to help others realize their dreams

As a Conestoga College accounting student, Paul Ottmann (Business Administration - Accounting, 1991) had a dream to travel the world, but it was cut short by another life-changing opportunity.

“I ended up with a job before I even finished my schooling,” he chuckled.

Paul spent the next 30 years driving digital and cultural transformations in various roles across many organizations. He is currently based in Saskatoon as the director of information technology for one of the world’s largest potash exporters.

Through it all, he never forgot his college dream.

In fact, his wanderlust grew even stronger after marrying Reg Campbell, a Red Seal chef with a passion for global cuisine. Like Paul, Reg was snapped up by the job market even before graduating from the culinary arts program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. He spent 37 years managing food service quality and delivery for provincial government institutions before retiring in 2020.

That’s when the couple started talking about their gifted lives and how they might pay their experiences forward to help others realize their dreams.

They created the Paul Ottmann Culinary Arts Award for Excellence to help Conestoga culinary arts students attend the Institut Lyfe summer program in France.

“Experience is the best teacher,” said Paul.

By giving Conestoga students the opportunity to study abroad, Paul and Reg hope to also inspire young professionals to reflect on their lives and the many choices they will make personally and professionally to impact others and make the world a better place.

“It’s like planting a seed,” explained Reg. “We create this opportunity now and, hopefully, one day, they will do the same to help another."

“We hope this one gift multiplies over time and creates a giving movement.”

Read more about Paul and Reg

Paul and Reg

Luke’s legacy

When Conestoga graduate Luke Redman died in a workplace accident, his family and friends rallied to ensure future graduates stay safe in the field

Luke Redman was the kind of friend who would give you the shirt off his back. So, when he died suddenly in a workplace accident at the age of 26, his family did what they knew Luke would have wanted: they created an award to help Conestoga construction students become job-ready and stay safe in the field.

The Luke Redman Legacy Award is presented to full-time students in Conestoga’s construction trades programs to help offset the cost of the mandatory job-site Working at Heights Training program.

“Conestoga College is very grateful for this award and the impact it has had and will continue to have for our students,” said Susanne Moyer, Conestoga’s dean of trades and apprenticeship.

More than 100 students have received the award since 2020, including 60 this past year alone.

“Luke was a high-achieving student, a skilled athlete, a hardworking employee and a good friend to many. Being able to turn his tragedy into something positive that helps others is both his legacy and our best effort to ensure something like this never happens again,” said Melissa Redman, Luke’s mother.

A 2016 graduate of Conestoga’s Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technician program, Luke died in 2019 when he fell through a skylight while working on a commercial rooftop. Although he had completed the Working at Heights Training, an unlikely chain of events led to his death.

Melissa and her late husband Daniel Redman and Daniel’s sister, Nancy, established the award with the added support of other family members and friends. The Redmans have continued to give annually to ensure the award – and Luke’s legacy – continue in perpetuity.

“Finances should never be a barrier to workplace safety,” said Nancy Redman. “Yet, for many students, the cost of this certification is a significant challenge. We want to support students so they can complete this training without worrying about how to make their next rent payment.”

It also allows the award-winners to graduate from Conestoga with a mandatory job-site certification that will help them secure work and practice in a safe manner, said Dave Armstrong, coordinator of Conestoga’s Mechanical Techniques Plumbing program.

“This gift is touching many students’ lives,” Dave added.

Just as Luke would have wanted.

Read more about Luke's legacy

Luke Redman

Non-stop learning

A founding commitment to continuous learning has inspired Tacoma Engineers to invest in Conestoga for more than 30 years

Every Wednesday for the past 20-some years, the staff at Guelph-based Tacoma Engineers Inc. has come together to break bread and share the lessons they’ve learned.

“It’s not necessarily something technical,” explained Tacoma’s president, Mike Gilles (Construction Engineering, 1986). “It could be a hobby or interest or life lesson they want to share. It’s about being curious and opening peoples’ minds to new possibilities and perspectives.”

The weekly sessions epitomize one of Tacoma’s driving values: continuous learning.

“You can’t survive without it,” insisted Mike.

It’s why, in 1993, the structural engineering consultancy’s founder, Jack Tacoma, made the decision to invest in education. He made a corporate gift to Conestoga College to support students in the Architecture-Construction Engineering Technology program, the alma mater of a dozen current Tacoma employees, including Mike Gilles.

More than 30 donations have followed since.

Tacoma’s ties to Conestoga College extend deeper still. Several of the company’s senior staff have taught in the Architecture – Construction Engineering Technology program, Tacoma representatives regularly attend the college’s network events and Mike was the guest speaker at a recent Conestoga College awards banquet.

“It’s important to us to maintain the connection because we know the kind of graduates that Conestoga produces,” Mike said.

He also invests to show Tacoma’s staff the power of practicing what you preach. “If we want to be a learning organization, we have to do more than nurture learning in-house. We must also support the institutions that prepare the next generation of industry leaders.”

Read more about Tacoma Engineers

Tacoma Engineers

Inspired to achieve

The Walker Wood Foundation is helping Conestoga nursing students achieve their educational and life goals

It took a global pandemic to convince Bethany Krete that she wanted to become a nurse.

The Walker Wood Foundation is helping to make her goal a reality.

Now a third-year student in Conestoga College’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, Bethany was awarded the Walker Wood Foundation Bursary in 2021. Valued at $4,000, it is renewable for each of the four years of study for high-performing nursing students in financial need.

“Since I was very young, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in a healthcare setting, but it wasn’t until after I graduated high school in 2020 that I made the decision to become a nurse,” said Bethany. “I saw the strength and resilience of the nursing community through the pandemic, which made me want to become a member of this community to help people through some of the toughest times.”

But she worried about the cost and how part-time work might impact her ability to focus on her studies.

The Walker Wood Foundation is making it possible for Bethany to overcome both barriers to education.

Established in 2006 by the late Neil C.W. Wood and his wife Susan, the foundation is dedicated to supporting students with high academic standing and leadership qualities who might otherwise be unable to afford post-secondary education. The family is also a huge proponent of the need for a sustainable health system in Canada, which led to their first two nursing awards at Conestoga.

In the 11 years since, the Walker Wood Foundation has donated more than $200,000 to help 19 Conestoga students, including Bethany, complete a nursing degree. They also purchased a much-needed pediatric mannequin to allow nursing students to practice the lifesaving procedures they need to enter the workforce.

“Receiving this award means very much to me,” Bethany wrote in a recent letter of gratitude to the foundation. “It has alleviated the financial stress that comes along with post-secondary education and allowed me to focus on my studies.” After she graduates in 2025, Bethany hopes to work in a critical care setting and continue her education to become a nurse practitioner.

Her goals sum up perfectly the Walker Wood Foundation’s enduring impact: to help thousands of students reach their education and life goals and then carry that legacy forward in their own lives.

Read more about The Walker Wood Foundation

Walker Wood Foundation

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