The Alumni of Distinction Awards recognize graduates for their career achievements and community contributions that provide an exceptional source of inspiration for future generations.
Nominations for the 2024 Alumni of Distinction Awards are now open until February 15 . If you know of an inspiring graduate, nominate them today.
Brian Hogben - Business Administration, 2001
Owner and Principal Broker, Mission35 Mortgages
Brian Hogben is a driven entrepreneur who believes in giving back to his community.
Following graduation from college, Brian’s desire to see the world took him to Australia, where he received his bachelor of business in international management through pathways articulation agreements with Mohawk.
Inspired by his father’s hard work in paying off his mortgage early, Brian founded Mission35 Mortgages, an award-winning company with 10 locations across southern Ontario.
Brian makes it a business goal to support a community organization every quarter. He also supports Mohawk College students through mentoring, classroom speaking on topics such as personal finances and through a bursary.
His tireless passion for spreading the message of financial literacy has also led him to writing and publishing three books.
Scott Eccles - Automotive Service Technician, 2006
Owner, Eccles Auto Service
Scott Eccles is continuing his family’s tradition of running a successful community-orientated auto repair business.
After completing a diploma in business, Scott continued his learning through his apprenticeship at Mohawk and became a Red Seal licenced technician.
Joining his father’s auto repair shop, Eccles Auto Service, Scott began as an auto technician apprentice and progressed to more senior roles before becoming owner. The shop has received recognition and awards locally and nationally for both its outstanding service and achievements by their technicians.
Scott also supports his community in a number of ways including serving as board member on the Downtown Dundas BIA, sponsoring local sports teams, volunteering with an animal fostering program, and during the pandemic, supporting local businesses through a gift card program.
Melanie Wong - Public Relations and Corporate Communications, 2012
Founder, Olive + Splash Bamboo Apparel
Melanie Wong is a passionate designer and entrepreneur committed to sustainable and ethical practices in the fashion industry.
After working for a public relations agency, Melanie chose a new path and founded Olive + Splash Bamboo Apparel, a sustainable made-in-Canada athleisure clothing company. Melanie oversees all aspects of her business including design and manufacturing, online sales, accounting and media relations. After becoming an early producer of fabric facemasks and launching an innovative drive-through store during the COVID-19 pandemic the company has seen enormous growth.
Melanie is also the host of Welcome to my Hustle, a show on Instagram that highlights the stories of inspiring professionals making a difference in their respective fields.
She is a proud graduate, past varsity athlete and has continued to return to Mohawk College as a guest speaker. She also holds a university bachelor of arts degree in political science – international law.
Clare Freeman - Child and Youth Worker, 1995
Executive Director, Hamilton Community Legal Clinic
Clare Freeman has dedicated her career to improving the lives of the most vulnerable as a passionate leader and advocate in the social service sector.
After working as a trauma counsellor, Clare went on to teach at Mohawk College and has led key non-profit organizations in Hamilton including Dr. Bob Kemp Hospice and Interval House, a domestic violence shelter. She now serves as executive director of Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.
Clare has received awards in recognition of her community leadership and commitment to social justice issues. She has made lasting contributions through research and by serving on local, provincial and national boards and committees. Clare also volunteers her time as president of the Rotary Club of Hamilton AM.
In addition to her diploma from Mohawk, Clare holds a bachelor of arts and a master’s of social work.
CREATIVE ARTS & DESIGN
Reta Ismail - Journalism and Communications Media, 2006
News Anchor, CTV News London
Reta Ismail is a successful media professional whose life experience, work ethic and mindset has served her throughout her career.
Born in Iraq, her family fled the war-torn country in 1990 and lived as refugees in Greece before being sponsored to settle in Canada.
Reta’s first connection to Mohawk College began in high school during her co-op placement at the college’s radio station, C101.5FM. It was during her postsecondary program that she served as news director of C101.5FM, then after graduation she continued to work in radio as a reporter.
Switching to television a few years later, Reta’s passion for the industry led to a 15-year career behind the scenes and in front of the camera as producer, videographer, weather specialist, assignment editor and host of Bake Sale Showdown. Today, Reta is the six o’clock weekday news anchor for CTV News London and the first Assyrian anchor in Canada.
Tawnya Brant - Aboriginal Small Business Management, 2015
Chef and Owner, Yawékon by Chef Tawnya Brant
Tawnya Brant is an accomplished chef who proudly celebrates her Indigenous culture through food and cooking.
While growing up on the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, Tawnya’s family lived off produce from their garden and hunting. This approach to food ultimately influenced her choice to pursue a career as a culinary chef.
Tawnya began her career as a freelance support chef, helping to open everything from mom-and-pop shops to prime franchise restaurants. After attending college, she launched her business Yawékon Foods By Chef Tawnya Brant. The daily menu for ‘quick gourmet’ takeout supports Indigenous food producers and hunters, showcasing time-honoured ingredients from her culture, and fusing Haudenosaunee dishes with other global cuisine.
Phyllis Fehr - Practical Nursing, 1991; Concepts in Bereavement Support, 2008
Dementia Advocate and Speaker
Phyllis Fehr is a human rights activist, policy creator, researcher and spokesperson who has made it her mission to change the way people think about and understand dementia.
She spent much of her career working as an ICU nurse. It was at the age of 53 that she learned she had early-onset Alzheimer’s. Since then, Phyllis has vowed to live life to the fullest and advocate for those who live with dementia to be treated with dignity and respect by health-care professionals and the wider community.
Phyllis has served on several boards including Ontario Dementia Advocacy Group, Dementia Alliance International and Reimagining Dementia: A Creative Coalition for Justice. She has co-created campaigns, co-authored research papers, and been a key policy advisor to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada local and national board and to all levels of government. Phyllis has also given numerous presentations and keynote addresses including to the United Nations and the World Health Organization.
MOHAWK COLLEGE EMPLOYEE
Crystal Winchester - Law and Security Administration – Private Security, 2005
Professor, Mohawk College | Indigenous Community Liaison Officer, Correctional Services of Canada
Crystal Winchester has prioritized integrating her Indigenous heritage into her career and is committed to advancing Indigenous education and promoting representation.
Currently serving as the Indigenous community liaison officer within the Correctional Service of Canada, she has demonstrated leadership in previous roles as parole officer, correctional program officer and project officer within the national headquarters. Her contributions have included the development of a national training standards for Indigenous employees. Crystal is also a Mohawk College professor and volunteers with many organizations in the Hamilton community.
In addition to her Mohawk diploma, Crystal holds a bachelor of arts degree in criminology and contemporary studies.
Janet Greener - Recreation & Leisure Services, 2004 ; Mental Health and Disabilities Management, 2020; Social Service Worker, 2022
Founder, CEO & Principal, Beechwood Brainery Inc.
Janet Greener is a lifelong learner and entrepreneur providing education and support services for children, and their families, who experience developmental disabilities or mental health conditions.
After realizing a critical gap in youth services, Beechwood Brainery Inc. was born—a small school providing alternative programming, tutoring, counselling and respite supports, now serving two locations. Prior to this, Janet worked as a teacher, recreational therapist, mental health practitioner and director of education with the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association.
For 25 years, she has also volunteered with the Waterloo Region Track 3 Ski School, which provides adaptive ski opportunities to neurodiverse children.
Janet is a three-time graduate of Mohawk College and credits her experiences in college for sparking her love of learning, recognizing that the more knowledge she has, the more she can give back to her community.
Cheyanne Hammell - Architectural Technology, 2007
Manager, Special Projects, PCL Constructors Canada Inc.
Cheyanne Hammell is a visionary leader in the construction industry committed to breaking down barriers for girls and women.
Cheyanne began working in construction as a Mohawk College placement student with PCL Toronto before being hired as a field coordinator upon graduation. She progressed within the company and is now special projects manager. She leads specialized projects in the Greater Toronto Area, overseeing a large team in 25 to 30 unique projects at any given time for essential infrastructure such as hospitals, airports and offices. Cheyanne is a LEED Green Associate and LEED AP Building Design + Construction credentialed.
She has achieved success in a traditionally male-dominated field, being recognized with several prestigious leadership awards. Cheyanne is dedicated to improving diversity in her industry, volunteering with and participating on several committees to empower girls and women to explore careers in science, trades, engineering and technology.