Honorary Diploma Recipients: 2019
NSCC is pleased to award Honorary Diplomas to these outstanding individuals who demonstrate true leadership in their field and community.
Peter Gillis is a champion for literacy and adult education in Nova Scotia. Recognized for his leadership, drive, creativity and humility, he has worked to help transform the lives of adults in their learning journey.
Through his leadership – first as President of the King’s County Learning Association (1999-2002) and then as its first Executive Director – the organization grew to become the Valley Community Learning Association (VCLA), a not-for-profit group serving people throughout the entire Annapolis Valley region in need of access to education.
As Executive Director, Peter has grown VCLA’s services from providing individual tutoring, to supporting family literacy, GED preparation, numeracy, basic education, and English as an Additional Language supports. The organization has also launched programs that provide educational support for those wishing to continue their studies in health care professions, computer and reading literacy, Mi’kmaq language and traditional skills and workshops, and the Inroads program which supports survivors of brain injury.
Working closely with the community, Peter has forged a longstanding relationship between VCLA and NSCC. Many of the association’s learners have successfully enrolled in programs at Kingstec Campus, as well as other NSCC campuses across the province, with many securing employment in their fields.
He was the driving force behind the establishment of the Association of Nova Scotia Community Learning Organizations, a collaborative group that works to advance the causes of community learning organizations in Nova Scotia. Peter has served as Co-Chair since its inception in 2008.
Among his many accomplishments, Peter has garnered recognition for VCLA through awards such as the Province of Nova Scotia’s Seniors Literacy & Learning Partnership Award, supported the development of the Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning, and led the 2010 Provincial Adult Learner Celebration.
Peter is an ambassador for learning and, through his tireless work promoting the values of literacy, adult education and access to education, he has helped transform and inspire the success of learners and NSCC graduates across Nova Scotia.
A successful business leader and philanthropist, David Hoffman is an advocate for strengthening and developing vibrant, skilled rural communities in Nova Scotia.
After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, he moved to Canada from the United Kingdom in 1982. David worked with KPMG in Halifax and with Highliner Foods as Corporate Controller, before moving to Oxford Frozen Foods in 1993. He is Co-CEO of Oxford Frozen Foods Limited and the Bragg Group of Companies – world-renowned for vertically integrated farming and the food processing of wild blueberries, as well as highly successful in communications (Eastlink) and aviation services.
David invests his time, energy and professional talents in boards and committees, including the Halifax Seed Company, Shaw Group, LED Roadway Lighting, the Oxford & Area Trails Association, the Cumberland Business Connector and the Oxford Refugee Resettlement Team. He has just completed 16 years on the National Board of the Trans Canada Trail Foundation, helping to raise the money required to fully connect the Trail from coast to coast and to complete a national legacy project.
A long-time supporter of Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) students and his community, David was a member of the inaugural NSCC Foundation Board of Directors, and went on to serve as Chair. Most recently, his role as member of the Foundation’s Steering Committee has been instrumental in the success of NSCC’s Make Way Campaign in support of student aid, innovative programming, instructional equipment and centres of expertise. His support has aided with the Campaign’s success – reaching over $33 million – greatly surpassing the goal of $25 million.
David also chaired the local Cumberland Campus campaign and, together with a committed team of volunteers and outstanding support from the community, the committee raised over $1.6 million. David made a significant personal donation to kick-off the Campaign, directed to the Cumberland Campus appeal to establish bursaries and urgent aid for students facing financial crisis and in danger of having to leave their studies.
He noted, “The campus provides some of the fundamental infrastructure we need for the community to stay strong. It creates the skilled workforce that we as a thriving region need and keeps people at home in their local communities. In rural Nova Scotia, that’s really important because we need our young people to stay here to help sustain and build our communities for the future.”
Additionally, he challenged both the NSCC Board of Governors and the NSCC Foundation Board of Directors with a matching contribution, to boost NSCC’s financial aid capacity and to inspire other leaders in the community to support students at NSCC. Throughout his career, David has served as a positive role model in combining business achievement with tirelessly giving back to the community as a leader in philanthropy and through the commitment of his own time and energy.
Gerrie Masters is the architect of the policy framework that enabled the creation of Nova Scotia Community College in its current form – a board-governed, autonomous post-secondary institution.
After graduating from the University of Waterloo, Gerrie worked as a land use planner in Ontario and British Columbia before moving to Nova Scotia. Now retired, she spent more than 30 years in the provincial civil service where she worked with a number of departments and agencies. As a senior executive, she led the creation of ground-breaking legislation, policies and reports that continue to propel the College and the Province of Nova Scotia forward.
As the Executive Director of the former Nova Scotia Department of Education’s Community College Branch, Gerrie led a team that transformed the province’s vocational schools and adult vocational institutes into a viable community college for Nova Scotia. This included the move to a single College governance model, designing an appropriate management structure, and introducing new programming.
Gerrie guided the creation of the Community Colleges Act. This foundational document laid out the direction, purpose and structure of NSCC which remain as relevant today as they did 23 years ago.
As the Director of the Nova Scotia Labour Market Development Secretariat, Gerrie authored a report that intrinsically tied the College’s programs and graduates to the province’s labour market and future growth. Today, NSCC’s campuses have become economic and social catalysts in the communities they serve.
Gerrie has also lent her passion and skills to various community organizations. She is a past President of the Halifax YWCA and has served on national, provincial and local boards – including ABC Life Literacy Canada, the Centre for Prior Learning Assessment, the United Way of Halifax-Dartmouth and the Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee. Since retiring, she has continued to support fundraising efforts for groups like the Community Y and St. George’s Youthnet in Northend Halifax.
Through her work, Gerrie has left a legacy that continues to empower the College – through its programs, campuses and employees – to transform the lives of its learners and deliver on its mission of building Nova Scotia’s economy and quality of life through education and innovation.
David Saxton – Chartered Professional Accountant, business advisor and community leader – an influential force behind the success of Make Way – The Campaign for NSCC, a pan-provincial initiative to improve access to education for all Nova Scotians.
As a graduate of Saint Mary's University and a Fellow of the Chartered Professional Accountants Nova Scotia, David has a keen interest in building his community. After spending 39 years working as a professional accountant serving corporations, not-for-profit organizations and local governments, David now provides financial advice to individuals and entrepreneurs in South Western Nova Scotia.
David has offered his deep understanding of taxation, governance and finance to numerous community organizations. He is an active volunteer who has served as a member and past president of both the Yarmouth Rotary Club and Yarmouth YMCA. He has served on the Yarmouth Hospital Foundation Board and the Western Regional Enterprise Network. He has also served as a trustee of the Nova Scotia Health Employee's Pension Plan.
At the College, David is the current Chair of the NSCC Foundation Board of Directors and active member of the Burridge Campus Make Way Appeal Committee. In this role, he has been dedicated to supporting the Make Way Campaign – which has realized over $33 million in donations to assist with student aid, innovative programming, instructional equipment and centres of expertise at the College.
From 2016-17, David also served as the Chair of the NSCC Board of Governors where he was instrumental in the creation of a number of policies and procedures that have directly influenced the College’s work to enhance the social and economic well-being of Nova Scotia.
In addition, David established the Saxton Family Award. This is an annual bursary in support of a student with a financial need who is enrolled in the Business Administration Program (Accounting Concentration) at NSCC Burridge Campus.
Rob G. C. Sobey is a fourth-generation family business member and a Corporate Director of Empire Company Limited. In 2014, after 25 years in various roles with Sobeys, he retired as President and Chief Executive Officer of Lawton’s Drug Stores Limited to focus more time and energy on philanthropy, volunteering, and governance.
Rob is a champion for education, visual arts and military sectors. Among his many accomplishments, he is a Distinguished Patron of the National Gallery of Canada, a member of the Founders Circle of Fogo Island Arts, a member of Britain’s Tate Museum American Patrons Committee and founding Co-Chair of the museum’s Canada Foundation. He is Chairman of the Sobey Art Foundation and leads its annual Sobey Art Award – the preeminent prize for Canadian contemporary visual art.
Rob has been recognized through many honours, including selection as CEO of the Year in 2009 by Atlantic Business Magazine and induction into its Top 50 CEOs Hall of Fame in 2011. He is the recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his military service and has also been named Honorary Lifetime Governor of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Rob has served on several post-secondary education boards including Queen’s University, Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
He serves as chair of the Donald R. Sobey Bursary Advisory Council. This ten-member group of community and law enforcement representatives works to fulfil the hope of providing a new path for those who face barriers to education.
For many years, Rob has been a fervent supporter of his community and of NSCC. He is past Chair of the College’s Board of Governors and, notably, stepped into the leadership role of Chair of NSCC’s Make Way Campaign – supporting student aid, innovative programming, instructional equipment and centres of expertise.
In 2017, the Sobey Family donated a combined gift of $6.5 million to the NSCC Foundation. It was the largest philanthropic investment received by the College and set the Make Way Campaign into motion. Rob’s outstanding leadership as Chair of the Campaign has meant the fundraising goal of $25 million has been surpassed, reaching over $33 million.
He cites his great grandfather, JW Sobey, for instilling in his family the gift of giving back. JW would say for every 25 cents you give to the community, you get a dollar in return. This, Rob says, is one of the most enduring pieces of wisdom passed down in his family – “The catalyst for us to understand the power of giving back and the imperative to drill this responsibility into each subsequent generation.”
Barb Stegemann is a social entrepreneur and business leader from Halifax who is dedicated to fair trade, sustainability and equity for those seeking a better life in third-world countries. She is the creator and owner of The 7 Virtues, a fragrance company that provides employment and empowerment to farmers in Afghanistan, Haiti, parts of the Middle East and Rwanda who cultivate and process essential oils for the perfume brand.
The 7 Virtues has seen nationwide success after Barb landed a successful venture capital deal on CBC’s Dragon’s Den - the first Atlantic Canadian woman to do so at the time. The brand is now among the top ‘Clean at Sephora’ products sold in Sephora stores across Canada and the USA and has been a newsmaker in Forbes, Vogue, Elle Canada and Atlantic Business Magazine.
Since growing her business in North America, Barb has authored the best-selling book The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen, and was featured in the award winning feature-length documentary Perfume War.
Her many achievements include an Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree from The University of New Brunswick, being named the first female Honorary Colonel for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 14 Wing Greenwood and Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada WXN, along with many awards for entrepreneurship.
Barb is an advocate for inspiring social entrepreneurship and promotes this through speaking engagements across North America, including recently at NSCC. Together with NSCC Applied Research and Nova Scotia Business Inc., she has collaborated to employ students in a marketing and social media strategy project. The project has surpassed its goal and has provided NSCC students the opportunity to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom through applied learning.
Raised by a single mother on assistance, Barb's sister Dr. Marjorie Robbins taught her that the only way to break the cycle of poverty is through education and she did that by earning a bachelor of arts degree as well as a bachelor of journalism – a foundation for the incredible work she has accomplished.