Distinguished Alumni Awards

Kwantlen Polytechnic University Alumni Association (KPUAA) is proud of its more than 52,000 highly skilled and diversely educated alumni who every day make important contributions to industry and society. Our alumni have earned demanding credentials in everything from business administration to music and fine arts, nursing, fashion design, construction, liberal arts and journalism. They are accomplished, dynamic leaders that value innovation, creativity and social responsibility. Since 2007, Kwantlen Polytechnic University has recognized many deserving KPU alumni through the Distinguished Alumni Awards. Below is a list of recipients and their stories.

2018 Award Winner

Kristan Ash, Bachelor of Bu

Kristan Ash, BBA '02
siness Administration, 2002

Executive Director, Northwest Division of Family Practise

Over a dozen years ago, Kristan Ash was part of a small group of KPU alumni who recognized it was time that the institution had an Alumni Association. Kristan lent her considerable talents to this outcome and in 2008 the KPU Alumni Association was founded.

Kristan came to KPU after obtaining a diploma in nursing in 1996 in Regina, Saskatchewan. She decided she could make a more significant contribution on the management side of health care and found KPU was the place that could help leverage her real world knowledge with progressive and practical training in business principles. She obtained her BBA from Kwantlen in 2003 and launched her first business in the spring of 2004. Her business was acquired and merged with another local home care company, Nurse Next Door and during her time with the organization she launched and expanded the now very successful international franchise. Her career in the past 15 years includes entrepreneurial leadership and consulting roles within the health care field. She managed the development, construction and opening operations of Bear Creek Villa, a seniors living facility in Surrey and her current role is as Executive Director of the Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice.
In recognition of her very significant business accomplishments, Kristan was named one of Vancouver’s top Forty under 40 business leaders in 2014, along with several awards and acknowledgements for the companies she managed.

Her business acknowledgements are significant surpassed only by her willingness to give back to her community and specifically her Alma Mater. In addition to serving as board member and volunteer with a variety of community groups, she spent six years as board member on KPU’s Board of Governor rising to the position of Chair, five years on the KPU senate and six years on the KPU Alumni Association board of directors including service as Chair. Her contribution to KPU are profound.

2016 Award Winners

Steve Ewen

Steve Ewen, Certificate in Journalism, 1989
Sports reporter, Province newspaper

Steve Ewen graduated from Matthew McNair Secondary in Richmond in 1988 and enrolled in journalism at Kwantlen in 1989. At the time, it was a one-year program, based out of the Richmond campus. Steve did his two-week practicum at the Now newspapers and was hired full-time upon graduation. He eventually became the sports editor of the Coquitlam Now. Steve moved to The Province newspaper in 1994, first taking on the high school sports beat but eventually covered the Whitecaps, Vancouver Canadians, BC Lions and Vancouver Canucks full-time. He was inducted to the Vancouver Canadians Broadcast and Journalism Hall of Fame in 2014, won the Tom Borelli Award as National Lacrosse League media person of the year in 2015 and received a Paul Carson Media and Broadcast award for leadership and courage in 2016. Steve was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, leading to eight surgeries and a year away from work. He’s been cancer free for over five years. When he was first diagnosed, Steve did what now comes naturally to him: he wrote about his experience, creating a blog – Crush the Tumour With Humour – that chronicled his experience. Even after being declared cancer-free, Steve continued to bring hope and inspiration to others through his blog and public speaking engagements. He has also taken part in the Ride to Conquer Cancer, raising over $37,000 for the BC Cancer Foundation. Asked how Kwantlen contributed to his long and highly successful career as a reporter, Steve said, “Kwantlen gave me the tools and the contacts to have success in journalism. Instructors like Charlie Giordano, Ian Mulgrew and Neil Graham were able to pass along what life was really like at both the community newspaper and daily newspaper level. That proved invaluable. “That said, what I’m most proud of, as a Kwantlen journalism graduate, is the students the program is turning out now. They’re ridiculously advanced. It’s a credit to the all-star journalism faculty that the school has put together.”  


Joel McKay
Joel McKay, Diploma in Journalism, 2008 and Bachelor of Applied Journalism, 2009
Chief Executive Officer, Northern Development Initiative Trust

Joel McKay was appointed Northern Development Initiative Trust’s Chief Executive Officer in October, 2016. Northern Development Initiative Trust combines funding with smart thinking to help Northern British Columbia thrive. Today, the Trust’s capital base totals $260 million and is managed sustainably to ensure that its resources and expertise can continually be used to strengthen communities throughout our region for years to come. Joel joined the Northern Development executive team as Director of Communications in June 2012, with responsibility for the Trust’s communications and marketing, economic research and analysis and Fabulous Festivals and Events grant program. Joel was previously Assignment Editor at Business in Vancouver, where he was responsible for leading a team of journalists. Prior to that, Joel was the natural resources reporter BIV, covering forestry, mining, oil and gas, fisheries and First Nations issues across the province. For the past four years Joel has led a successful communications services program that has provided public relations capacity to small local governments and First Nations throughout rural BC. The editor of the Small Town P.R. Playbook, Joel is a Jack Webster award winner, and was named one of Prince George’s Top 40 Under 40 business leaders in 2013. He is also an alumni of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference and a regular columnist for Business in Vancouver, writing about economic and northern issues. Joel holds a diploma in journalism as well as a bachelor of applied journalism. Asked to reflect on his experience at KPU, Joel said, “The education, mentorship and experience I received at Kwantlen was absolutely essential to my success. Metro Vancouver is a difficult media market to launch a career in, but the skills, support and network I gained through Kwantlen allowed me to accelerate my career and capitalize on opportunities I wouldn’t have had elsewhere. “I owe a HUGE thank you to the faculty who helped me find success: Mark Hamilton, Chad Skelton, Ann Rees, Beverley Sinclair, Frances Bula, Jean Konda-Witte and Katie Warfield.”

2014/15 Award Winners

Ken Puls

Ken Puls, Dipl’ 98, Accounting and General Studies
President & Chief Training Officer, Excelguru Consulting Inc.

Ken Puls graduated from KPU in 1998 with a diploma in accounting and general studies, and is president and chief training officer at Excelguru Consulting Inc. Puls started his career in public practice accounting and spent five years working with small businesses before moving into private industry accounting where he also became an expert in Microsoft Excel. He created a website that hosts a large knowledge base of Excel help articles, a blog, and an active forum dedicated to helping users with their Excel issues. The website has almost 400,000 unique visitors annually, and has even been referenced by NASA in a project for reporting power levels on the International Space Station. For the past several years, Puls has been teaching courses for companies and associations around the globe, showing Excel users how to get the most out of the program. His public contributions have earned him the Microsoft MVP award every year since 2006; an award given annually to "the best and brightest from technology communities around the world.” He was recognized as one of Vancouver Island's "Top 20 under 40" business and community leaders in 2013 and as a fellow of the Certified Management Accountants of Canada (FCMA).


Tania Dick
Tania Dick, BSN, 2003
General Duty Nurse - Cormorant Island Community Health Centre: Island Health Authority
President Elect - Association of Registered Nurses of British Columbia

Tania Dick graduated from KPU’s bachelor of nursing program in 2003. She is a nurse at Cormorant Island Health Centre and president-elect of the Association of Registered Nurses of B.C. She has served tirelessly as an advocate for quality nursing care, with a focus on aboriginal populations and rural communities. She holds a master's degree in nursing from the University of British Columbia and was recognized by that institution as the first aboriginal graduate of the Nurse Practitioner program. Dick is a dedicated advocate and role model for aboriginal people interested in pursuing health care-related education and serves as a nurse mentor to students KPU’s nursing post-baccalaureate program. She recently served as a Consultant for Aboriginal Health Policy with the BC Nurses’ Union, where she worked directly to foster quality health care for aboriginals as well as provide support for other Aboriginal nurses. Dick is from the Dzawada'enuxw First Nations Band of Kingcome Inlet, B.C., and has applied her expertise and own personal understanding of the challenges faced by aboriginal communities to her practice in places such as Bella Bella, Alert Bay, Masset on Haida Gwaii, and Kingcome Inlet. Her devotion to vulnerable and disadvantaged aboriginal populations serves as an inspiration to health care professionals and community members alike. She is also determined to improve the very limited primary health care available in remote regions of British Columbia.


2013 Award Winners

Stephanie Cadieux

Stephanie Cadieux, Dipl’ 94, Marketing Management
Minister of Children and Family Development

Stephanie Cadieux graduated from KPU’s Marketing Management Diploma program in 1994 with honours. She has represented British Columbians as an MLA, in Surrey-Panorama and now in her "home" riding of Surrey-Cloverdale, where she has lived since 2001. She is BC's Minister of Children and Family Development, and earlier served as Minister of Social Development, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and Minister of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government. Stephanie has been living with a spinal cord injury since a car crash at the age of 18. She has been an active community volunteer and has also spoken at various KPU events.


Baltej Dhillon

Baltej Dhillon, Dipl’ 88, Criminology
Staff Sergeant, RCMP

Baltej Dhillon graduated with a Diploma in criminology in 1988 from KPU. Shortly after that Dhillon decided to join the RCMP. He met all the initial requirements but RCMP policy did not allow a turban. The issue went to then-Commissioner of the RCMP, who sided with Dhillon, and pressure was put on the federal government to change the policy. In 1990, the federal Solicitor General, announced in the House of Commons that the policy was amended to permit Sikhs to wear the turban while on active duty in the RCMP. Baltej was the first turbaned cadet to enter training in the history of Canada. He is currently the head of the British Columbia RCMP Provincial Intelligence Centre. Baltej was a founding member of the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Alumni Association and served as the chair of the board in 2009. He has been recognized with numerous awards for his community and youth service, including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award in 2003, then the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award in 2012.


Maryanne Mathias

Maryanne Mathias, BA 2002, Applied Design Fashion
Co-founder and owner of Osei-Duro

Osei-Duro was founded by Maryanne Mathias and Molly Keogh as an experiment in design and production in Ghana, West Africa. The company, which has offices in Los Angeles and Acrra, Ghana, is dedicated to creating socially responsible and sustainable clothing fashion forward clothing. Osei-Duro uses small scale manufacturing and works with local Ghanaian seamstresses, tailors, and small factories and providing them with training to increase the quality and marketability of their products. Many of Osei-Duro's garments are hand dyed, and feature a variety of artisanal pieces such as hand crochet and hand cast brass. Maryanne Mathias has a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design and Technology from Kwantlen Polytechnic University and an MBA in Sustainability and Strategic Management from the University of British Columbia.


Chris McCue

Chris McCue, Dipl’ 94, Environmental Protection Technology
President of McCue Environmental Contracting

Chris McCue, President of McCue Environmental Contracting, has 19 years’ experience in the design, construction and operation of contaminated site remediation technologies and industrial wastewater treatment systems, first as a consultant and now as a specialized contractor. Mr. McCue graduated from Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Environmental Protection Technology program in 1994. Upon graduation, Mr. McCue secured employment in environmental consulting, focusing on contaminated site management and remediation. Mr. McCue left consulting in the summer of 2000 to found McCue Environmental Contracting. He is a member of KPU’s Environmental Protection Technology Advisory Committee. As a member of this committee, he provides industry expertise for the program and also hires fellow alumni from KPU. He is also a board member of the British Columbia Environment Industry Association.


2013 Award Winners videos

Previous Distinguished Alumni Award Winners