Speakers share secrets of success with Niagara College Class of 2016

From the Niagara College Blog – June 22, 2016

As she took the podium on day two of Niagara College’s Spring Convocation Ceremonies, designer/ entrepreneur Shannon Passero encouraged new graduates to hold on to any feelings of excitement and nervousness they may have about what the future holds.

“Those are the feelings of someone who is an entrepreneur, of someone who blazes a trail for others to follow and wants to make an incredible contribution to their world and those who share it,” said Passero, co-founder, designer and creative director of Pure Handknit, Neon Buddha, and owner of The Post Office retail boutique in Thorold.

The St. Catharines resident delivered the convocation address to new graduates from the College’s School of Business and Management Studies, and School of Academic and Liberal Studies, highlighting traits commonly possessed by successful entrepreneurs; including perseverance, resourcefulness, lifelong learning and – most importantly – passion.

“You must discover what drives you and makes you want to stay up late at night and get up early, whether that’s through a traditional career path, owning your own business or working for someone else, or deciding to stay home and look after your children,” she said.

Passero also spoke about her own passion for investing in people. As an employer in the third world, her brands have helped improve the lives of thousands of workers. Here at home, she donates a portion of her profits to global and domestic initiatives, and supports women through her annual grant program for women in business.

She challenged grads to be responsible for inspiring change in their own way. “When you implement one positive change, you can watch it take root and develop into other positive transformation,” she said. “One single change can start a chain reaction.”

Passero received an honorary Bachelor of Applied Studies during the afternoon ceremony.

Her mother Florence Cooney also received special mention at the ceremony. Cooney, who graduated from the college in 1969, was unable to attend her own convocation ceremony because it was her wedding day.

“Now life has come full circle 47 years later with Shannon receiving her honorary degree at Niagara College,” said Cooney.


Those who attended the College’s morning ceremony celebrating the School of Justice and Fitness Studies, and the School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies, heard an inspiring convocation address from Ontario Provincial Police superintendent Mike McDonell. McDonell, who received an honorary diploma in Justice Studies, shared lessons he has learned since his own graduation more than 40 years ago, as well as nuggets of wisdom from his professional experiences, which included 35 years with the RCMP.

He spoke of the value of hard work and service – to the community, the country, and to the betterment of people – and recounted how his own hard work and determination earned him a spot on Canada’s first counter-terrorism team in 1986.

“I learned a lot about myself on this team: how to put those butterflies in my stomach into flight formation. I had/have a fear of heights, but I was jumping out of perfectly sound aircraft and climbing and jumping off buildings in no time,” he said. “I learned and cherished the rich value of having faith in yourself and confidence in your partners.”

McDonell encouraged graduates to follow their passions, to choose the road less travelled, and to believe in themselves, underlining the importance of connection to others and service. “Please consider power as the ability and determination to positively make a difference in the world – the power that comes from service and from caring,” he said. “Yes, one person can make a difference and it begins with you.”

More than 1,725 new graduates were celebrated at NC’s convocation ceremonies on June 22.

Spring Convocation 2016

Convocation kicked off at NC on June 21 with guest speaker David Penny, who received a Distinguished Alumni Award. Ceremonies will continue June 23 with Jane Rufrano, CEO and CFO of Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre, who will receive an honorary diploma in Health Studies at the morning ceremony (10 a.m.); and Patrick Wedaseh Madahbee, Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation, who will receive an honorary diploma in Community Studies at the afternoon ceremony (3 p.m.). Ceremonies will conclude on the morning of June 24 with Paul Charette, chair of the Board of Directors (and former CEO) at Bird Construction, who will receive an honorary diploma in Technology Studies (10 a.m.).

Watch live stream
Niagara College’s convocation ceremonies are streamed live at: niagaracollege.ca/convocationlive

About NC
Niagara College offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs at campuses in Welland, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Niagara Falls; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Continuing Education courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit NiagaraCollege.ca.


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