George Galbraith has an emotional attachment to the Vernon campus of Okanagan College.
The well-known Vernon resident was holding back tears and his voice was cracking as he announced a $250,000 donation towards the completion of a new trades training centre at the Coldstream college which is currently under construction, and available for viewing on your left as you turn into the facility off College Way.
One of the three shops in the nearly 14,000 square foot facility will be named after Galbraith’s late son, Kieran, and students will be attending classes in the facility come August 2018.
“To see it already out there, and knowing students are coming in August, it’s the biggest Christmas present that I could hope for,” said Galbraith to a raucous round of applause by close to 50 people on hand at the college’s Kalview Café for the announcement Monday morning.
Galbraith’s first job upon returning to Vernon in 1973 was teaching a business course in the barracks when Okanagan College was located at the Vernon Army Camp. In 1988, he was appointed to the college’s board of directors and served the mandatory allowed six-year term.
It was during that time that the college entered into negotiations with the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria and became known as Okanagan University College.
“That was a pivotal point in the development of this institution and educational opportunities,” said Galbraith.
He’s been been following the college ever since, and has funded two scholarships.
“When they came to me with the idea of a trades building, a light went on,” said Galbraith. “It was a very happy occasion for me to look at it and say, ‘Yes, I want to be involved.'”
Galbraith’s donation has been matched by another well-known community supporter.
Kal Tire’s director of communications, Tracy Cobb-Reeves, announced that the Vernon-based tire magnate was also contributing $250,000 to the centre.
“We’re proud to support a new learning environment that will provide the highest quality trades training and a promising career path for students,” said Cobb-Reeves. “This new centre will create a positive impact for our local economy and help keep qualified tradespeople in the North Okanagan.”
Okanagan College regional dean Jane Lister said the three new shops will allow the college to run three different programs at the same time. The first class is a foundation program in plumbing starting Aug. 7. There will also be a women in trades and youth gateway program, both starting in September.
The new facility, said Lister, will make a significant difference to the college’s trade students.
“Not only will it provide a really great educational space where they can learn their trades, but it will also bring the students up to the campus where they can access all the different services we have for students,” she said.
“By having everything at the campus, it will be a much better educational experience.”
Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton acknowledged the donations from Galbraith and Kal Tire, both renowned for their philanthropy and civic spirit.
“Once again, they are supporting the community, this time through significant contributions to a leading-edge facility where Okanagan College students will train to become part of the solution to address the skills shortage in the province,” said Hamilton.
The Bright Horizons Building For Skills campaign began a goal Monday to raise $1 million for the completion of the facility and to run programs. The two donations put the campaign halfway toward its goal.
“We’re looking for $1 million locally,” said campaign chair Michael Tindall, who served on the college’s advisory committee with Galbraith starting in 1992. “We have contributions from the federal and provincial governments of $2.7 and $2.9 million, respectively, which allowed us to go ahead and build the building.
The exterior of the new building is expected to be completed by Christmas, and the roof will be finished in the first two weeks of January, said Lister. A substantial completion date, meaning 90 per cent of the building will be done, has been set for April 30, 2018.
“I’ve been assured by the builders we’re going to meet that date,” said Lister.
The Okanagan College Foundation also announced a partnership with Community Foundation of the North Okanagan.
The collaboration will give individuals and businesses the opportunity to make a donation to the campaign through the charity of their choice.
The first gift to the campaign was a $50,000 pledge from North Okanagan home building and renovation company Keith Construction, announced in May 2017.