2022 Honourees | St. Clair College

Michael Audet

Michael Audet

Class of 1988 - Business Common
E.L.K. Energy
Essex, Ontario

When it was time to make a choice about where to pursue post-secondary education, Michael Audet said going to St. Clair College was an automatic decision.

After excelling in math as a student at Belle River District High School, Audet chose to enroll in the three-year Business Administration-Accounting program at St. Clair College and credits his group of close friends for making it easy to come to class every day.  While attending St. Clair, Audet earned a summer job at the Town of Essex and after earning his accounting diploma from the College, he has worked his way from municipal government into various positions in the utility industry.

Over the course of his 34-year career, Audet has served in a variety of management positions within municipal government and the utility industry but considers his role as a key player during the municipal mergers of the late 90s and the formation of ELK Energy Inc. to be a proud career achievement.

As the CEO of ELK Energy, Audet has overseen significant change and regulatory transitions over the past three decades and has helped establish ELK as a competitive and successful company in the power and electrical service industry while providing one of the most affordable energy services across the province to its thousands of residents across Essex, Lakeshore and Kingsville.

As a leader, Audet is known to be responsive and has been described as the calming voice of reason and responsibility at ELK Energy. Under Audet's leadership, ELK has not only survived the ever-changing and evolving electricity sector but has proven to be among the industry leaders with various community outreach programs supporting conservation.

Audet has established himself as a humble person who does not seek the spotlight or limelight. Despite numerous nominations and awards that have been offered to him during his professional career, the St. Clair Alumni of Distinction award is the only honour Audet has ever accepted.

Karen Bolger

Karen Bolger

Class of 1985 - Developmental Service Worker
Executive Director
Community Living Essex County
Essex, Ontario

Growing up in Amherstburg, Karen Bolger was told by her parents to help wherever she could. During a 36-year career at Community Living Essex County, Bolger has lived up to that motto by helping thousands of people and their families get the care and services they deserve.

As a teenager, Bolger volunteered at a local fitness program for people with intellectual disabilities and after making a connection with a friend named Marie, she was inspired to attend St. Clair College in Chatham to become a Developmental Services Worker at the age of 17. Bolger credits her DSW instructors in Chatham for being respectful to their students but also placing high expectations on them.

Within one year of graduating from college in 1985, Karen was already working full-time and quickly making her way into a management role at Community Living Essex County, the largest not-for-profit employer in Windsor-Essex and the largest developmental services agency in the West region of Ontario.

In her role as Director of Operations, Bolger was known as a caring and compassionate manager who listened to staff's concerns and acted on things when needed. Bolger was also a key player in the establishment of several annual fundraising events for Community Living Essex County which were geared towards supporting specific goals or projects and linked with key community events such as the Ruthven Apple Festival, Jingle Bell Run, Walk & Wheel and holiday gift-wrapping stations at Devonshire Mall.

In 2017, Bolger was named the winner of the George Sutton Scholarship Award in recognition of over 30 years of involvement in the Developmental Services sector championing local, regional, and provincial activities including the Windsor- Essex Service Provider Collaboration Committee, Local Enhanced Community Response Network Co-chair, Windsor-Essex Compassionate Communities Committee, Regional ECR Committee, and the Enhanced Specialized Services Planning Committee.

Bolger was promoted to Executive Director of Community Living Essex County in 2018 and now oversees a group of 740 employees who offer a wide variety of supports and services to over 700 local children, youths, adults, and their families while also providing management for 62 support locations including 57 small group living homes.

Married to Norbert Bolger, Karen has one daughter, Brittany Bolger, and two sons, Kyle and Cody Charette.

Tim Byrne

Tim Byrne

Class of 1979 - Civil Engineering Technology
Essex Region Conservation Authority
Essex, Ontario

During Tim Byrne's storied 37-year career at Essex Region Conservation Authority, he has managed emergency responses to natural disasters, protected over 150 km of shoreline in our region, provided direction on large-scale industrial projects, and appeared in court many times defending environmental conservation.

Growing up as the second oldest of 11 children on a farm on Naylor Sideroad & County Road 46 in Essex, Byrne learned the basics of civil engineering working alongside his father and brothers in the family construction business. After graduating from Belle River High School in 1975, Byrne took a year off and decided he wanted to pursue a career that was practical and hands-on. He quickly chose St. Clair College.

Byrne studied in the Construction Technician program at St. Clair for one year before moving into the College's brand-new Civil Engineering Technology program in 1977. After graduating from St. Clair in the class of 1979, Byrne dabbled in various farm construction projects and farm work.

Late in 1979, Byrne accepted a job with Lafontaine, Cowie, Buratto and Assoc. where he completed civil engineering fieldwork for that engineering firm, maintaining employment until the spring of 1984. In the fall of 1984, a provincial special employment program dealing with erosion protection on Municipal Drainage projects became available that had Byrne being hired on at ERCA as a contracted employee in 1984. And he never left.

Byrne was sent to the Ontario Police College to undergo conservation law training in 1985. Since then, Byrne has been responsible for implementing guidelines on how to manage flood response across the region while also forming policies that impacted the way provincial conservation authorities conduct business. Through the years, Byrne has applied for and been successful in securing tens of millions of dollars in government aid to fund numerous flood-control projects and initiatives in every municipality and community in the region of Windsor-Essex.

On Feb. 1, 2021, Byrne became the Executive Director of ERCA after overseeing the protection of Essex County's watersheds for 35 years. Since then, Byrne has focused on providing leadership and direction to ERCA's response to Bill 229 while collaborating with local municipalities to help steer the organization through its next phase.

Despite his long list of accolades, Byrne considers his family his greatest success. Tim met his wife Cindy Young at St. Clair College and they have been married since 1981. Tim and Cindy have a daughter, Brynn Jager, a son, Joshua, and one grandson, Louis Michael.

"People can't exist outside of the environment; people are the environment. We are just creatures that have God-given gifts to be stewards of the environment and the other creatures who inhabit this world. Everybody lives downstream from somebody." - Tim Byrne.

Kristin Kennedy

Kristin Kennedy

Class of 1997 - Nursing
Erie Shores Health Care
Leamington, Ontario

After studying at St. Clair College, Kristin Kennedy started her career on the front lines as a registered nurse and held a variety of clinical leadership positions in the medical sector before being named Chief Executive Officer of Erie Shores HealthCare in 2020.

Kennedy believes a pivotal change in her life happened when she began working as a Nurse Manager within Windsor - Essex County. At a time when she was undecided about her future, Kennedy drew inspiration from many senior administrators who demonstrated a high standard of care that she would emulate during her 25-year career in healthcare.

"I always wanted to have a voice in healthcare and be able to change/impact healthcare for our communities but also have the voice of a front-line staff member at the forefront as a leader," Kennedy said.

After serving as VP of Patient Services & Chief Nursing Executive at ESHC, Kennedy assumed the role of CEO in October 2020 during the height of the pandemic in a region whose agri-food sector, marginalized groups, and economy had been hit hard.

Despite the inherent challenges, Kennedy rose to become a key political voice in the region and collaborated with Bruce Krauter, Chief of Windsor-Essex EMS,  to form CCRST - Covid Community Response and Stabilization Team. This group of 30 from ESHC, along with healthcare partners, was sent to local communities to conduct outbreak testing, vaccinations, and health assessments to divert people from going to ER.

Kennedy holds the designation of Certified Health Executive (CHE) from the Canadian College of Health Leaders and a Master of Health Management from McMaster University. Focused on helping educate the future leaders of healthcare in Ontario, Kennedy also serves as an assistant professor with McMaster University's DeGroote School of Business and School of Rehabilitation Science.  

In 2019, Kennedy was awarded a Professional Achievement Award from McMaster University, which recognized her career endeavours and achievements that have made a significant contribution to healthcare management. Kennedy also served one year as one of seven nurses selected from over 70 applicants to join the Inquiries, Complaints, and Reports Committee for the College of Nurses of Ontario.

Kennedy is also currently enrolled in the LLM Health Law degree program at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto.

Tomoko Oxenfarth

Tomoko Oxenfarth

Class of 2020 - Fashion Design Technician
Maison Louise
Windsor, Ontario

Since graduating from St. Clair College in 2020, Tomoko Oxenfarth has flaunted her skillset in fashion shows across North America and launched her own clothing brand, Maison Louise Canada.

Oxenfarth grew up in Osaka, Japan with a fashion sense influenced by her family whose heritage has intertwined with the design industry for over a century. After Oxenfarth graduated from college in Japan studying English Literature, she started a small business but ultimately decided to take a leap of faith and move to Canada to study Fashion Design at St. Clair College.

Oxenfarth's talent was apparent as she displayed her keen eye for design while going above and beyond to perfect the skillset she sought to gain at St. Clair. During her second year of study, an opportunity arose to submit her collection of designs to Detroit's Michigan Fashion Week event in March 2020. Oxenfarth's simplistic yet graceful designs led to introductions with buyers from some of the biggest brands in the industry. This experience skyrocketed Oxenfarth's motivation to open her own business.

Oxenfarth won the school's top designer prize when she graduated from the St. Clair Fashion Design Technician program in 2020 and was showing off her collections at Toronto Startup Fashion Week and Vancouver Kids Fashion Week shortly afterward.

Despite the challenges presented during the pandemic - plus the additional responsibilities of raising a newborn baby - Oxenfarth worked hard and used whatever spare time she had to prove she was ready to showcase her entire Maison Louise Canada collection to the world with a professional website and social media platforms. Less than one year after graduating from St. Clair College, Oxenfarth launched www.maisonlouise.ca.

The brand name is derived from one of Canada's largest tourist destinations, Lake Louise, Alberta, which Oxenfarth visited many times as a child with her parents. She uses a kaleidoscope of colours in her designs, particularly turquoise, taken from the rich colour of the water in Lake Louise.

The various women's wear and kids' wear items in Maison Louise Canada's collections feature simplistic, yet graceful designs inspired by Oxenfarth's home country of Japan. The theme for the 2022 spring and summer collection is French Flower Garden.

Chris Vadori

Chris Vadori

Class of 2010 - Advertising
Social Media Manager - Canada
Skip the Dishes
Toronto, Ontario

After graduating from high school Chis Vadori was undecided on his future path. After researching different programs at St. Clair College, Vadori found a mix of all his interests combined in the Advertising & Marketing Communications Management program offered at the downtown Windsor campus at the St. Clair College Centre for the Arts.

Vadori said what he appreciated about his professors at St. Clair was their many years of experience and first-hand accounts in an industry that very much interested him. Vadori said he felt that his instructors really cared about their students and wanted to see them succeed.

"I appreciated their time and effort to take us under their wings. It felt like a family where everyone wanted us to do well, succeed, and graduate. In a university with hundreds of students, you don't get that kind of one-on-one relationship like you to do at St. Clair." - Chris Vadori.

Vadori's fondest memory during his time at St. Clair was the four-week placement opportunity the program provided at the end of his third year. After showing a keen interest in event management, Vadori was placed with an advertising agency in Toronto called Endeavour Marketing - a boutique agency specializing in events and activations. Vadori's work experience with Endeavour quickly vaulted him into a nearly 10-year stint with the American Express credit card company.

Beginning as a market analyst and managing events for AmEx, Vadori was quickly promoted to Senior Market Analyst - Brand Advertising and oversaw product campaigns with clients such as Toronto Pearson Airport. A few years later, Vadori was once again promoted to Manager, International Brand Communications and Marketing based out of New York City to oversee AmEx's social media.

After five years in New York City, Vadori made the difficult decision to leave AmEx in order to return to Canada and spend more time with family and friends. In 2021, Vadori saw an opportunity to grow and learn professionally by accepting the Social Media Manager position at Skip the Dishes - Canada. Now Vadori is creating and scheduling content and synchronizing specific marketing strategies for each social media platform for one of the largest food delivery service apps in the world.