Everyday heroes receive honorary degrees from KPU

Mon, Oct 3, 2016

Surrey, B.C. – The two Surrey residents who will be awarded honorary degrees from Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) this week spent their entire lives either saving people, or inspiring them.

Bill McNamara, a retired firefighter, and David Proznick, a retired music teacher, will receive their awards at KPU’s annual fall convocation ceremonies Oct. 6 and 7.

“It is a privilege for us at KPU to recognize individuals for their outstanding service to the public,” said Dr. Alan Davis, KPU president and vice-chancellor. “I can think of no one more deserving of the honour than these two men who have made such significant contributions to our community.”

Bill McNamara 
Bill McNamara made his living as a firefighter for the Surrey Fire Service for 28 years. In the early 1970s, he moved to Surrey, built a house with his wife Carole, and joined the local fire hall. He worked his way up the ranks and eventually became one of the city’s fire chiefs. An active role model for his firefighters and the community, McNamara competed in every World Police and Fire Games well into his senior years, collecting a stunning 51 total medals and being inducted into the games’ Hall of Fame.

In the 1990s he competed in the Firefighter’s Combat Challenge and organized hundreds of firefighters who also competed. Under his watch, the Surrey Fire Service had the highest team participation rate in North America.

“It wasn’t about medals or glory,” McNamara is quick to point out. “It was about showing those who worked with me that they could do it, too. ‘Look,’ I would tell them. ‘If a 50-year-old can do this, then you don’t have an excuse.’ I wanted them to be fit and healthy so they stayed safe on the job.”

Outside of the literal lifesaving McNamara performed as a firefighter, he is also dedicated to helping as many people as he can. He sits on the board of the Friends of the Surrey Museum and Archive Society, and works with the North Surrey Lions Club and the Centre for Child Development. He co-chaired the B.C. Senior Games and was the president of the Surrey B.C. Summer Games. In 2010, he received the Good Citizen Award from the City of Surrey, and in 2012 he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

“Bill lives, works, and breaths Surrey,” said Dr. Alan Davis, KPU president and vice-chancellor. “Everything he does is to elevate this city however possible.”

McNamara’s advice to the next wave of KPU grads, “Find a way to give back. I have found numerous ways to volunteer in our community and each and every one of those has made me a better person. No matter what task I undertook, I found myself surrounded by talented and generous people, many of them strangers at first, some of whom have since become close friends.”

KPU will award McNamara his degree on Oct. 6.

UPDATE: Photos of Bill McNamara accepting his honorary degree.

David Proznick
A music teacher by profession, David Proznick retired from Semiahmoo Secondary after nearly four decades of teaching. In that time, hundreds of students not only discovered their musical gifts, but later went on to identify themselves as musicians who “played under Proz.”

Many of the Lower Mainland’s active working musicians were taught by Proznick. So contagious, in fact, was Proznick’s love of music and teaching that a number of his students went on to become music teachers themselves, including his daughter Kelly Proznick.

“Music and teaching are my passion, not just a job,” said Proznick. “I consider myself fortunate that I have spent my career doing what I love; having our three children come to school with me through high school and motivating students to work hard and grow from playing their first few tentative notes in the beginning to becoming accomplished musicians capable of contributing to arts and culture in their communities in significant ways, each of their own choosing.”

Proznick began his career as an assistant music director in Saskatchewan. He went on to serve as a bandsman apprentice followed by five years as a professional musician. It was this experience on the bandstand that helped him connect with young struggling musicians. He believed in his students’ abilities and instilled in them an excitement and confidence for creating music. Proznick’s teaching style is unique and full of humour to explain sounds he didn’t want, and image-invoking analogies to bring to life sounds he did.

Proznick has received multiple awards, including the Surrey Civic Treasure award for his outstanding contributions to his students and the community, BC Music Educator’s Lifetime Achievement award, South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce award for contribution to the arts in this community, and he was inducted into the Envision Jazz Festival’s Hall of Fame. On the national and international stage, Proznick was recognized by Jazz Report Magazine Toronto for jazz program of the year, Berklee College in Boston for excellence in music education, and the John Phillip Sousa Legion of Honor awarded in Chicago by Bandworld Magazine.  

“Dave created a legacy of students who view music as something more than itself,” said Dr. Alan Davis, KPU president and vice-chancellor. “He inspired these students, and for many of them lit a spark for music that grew into an inferno.”

KPU will award Proznick his degree on Oct. 7.

UPDATE: Photos of David Proznick accepting his honorary degree.

Honorary degrees are awarded to those in recognition of dignified achievements or outstanding service to the public. Nominees are exceptionally distinguished scholars, creative artists, public servants, prominent people in the community and the professions, and others who have made significant contributions locally, nationally or globally.

More information about KPU’s convocation ceremonies, including program times and photos of the honorary degree recipients, is available at kpu.ca/convocation.

About Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Kwantlen Polytechnic University has served the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 200,000 learners. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs in business, liberal arts, design, health, science and horticulture, trades and technology, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 120 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates, citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at kpu.ca.

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