A Dedication to Kelly Buchanan Dunham

A Conversation about Mohawk College with President Ron McKerlie

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A Dedication to Kelly Buchanan Dunham #thriveglobal #livingfearlesslylisamcdonald

Once upon a time, in the autumn of 1991, I was a young woman who was full of aspirations, vigour and lofty ambitions. I had embarked upon a wondrous adventure; not fully realizing during that particular juncture of my life – that the future trajectory of my life journey stood to be profoundly transformed; catapulting me on a catalytical, full-circle, hindsight 2020, back to grassroots, humble beginnings moment in my life.

This particular pathway led me through the ever-inspiring doors of Mohawk College – specifically, the Fennel Campus in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Although I had been accepted into all three of the programs I had applied for; my heart was set on the three year Child and Youth Worker Diploma Program. The other two programs I had also been accepted into were two year diploma programs. I instinctively knew that an additional year of in-class instructional learning, coupled with an extra four month practicum field placement, could only work to my futuristic advantage. This proved to be a sound decision for all other endeavours,  job opportunities, job interviews, and eventual undertaking of four additional years of academia at McMaster University. McMaster University and Mohawk College work very closely together; often with the pairing of professors/faculty members who teach at both educational institutions. Yet another win win scenario for all parties involved.

After a robust career of dedicating myself to twenty-five years in social services (crisis management specifically) – first as an entry level front line worker; scaling rapidly into upper senior management positions – I eventually exited this vocation; pivoting full throttle into entrepreneurship. The transferable skills I had acquired via my Senior Management positions certainly equipped me for much within my newfound role and experiences within the entrepreneurial world. 

As a member of the Mohawk College Alumni, it would not be for many years until after having graduated from Mohawk College in 1994, that I would cross paths with one of Mohawk College’s finest instructors, and purest of human beings. I had the profound honour to eventually call this superb individual a friend, peer, colleague and collaborator. This incredible, unforgettable, irreplaceable, indomitable spirit of a soul was the one and only Kelly Buchanan Dunham. Kelly, sadly and unexpectedly passed away this summer of 2020. This has of course left a gaping hole not only in my heart, her family’s heart, the heart and soul of both Mohawk College, McMaster University, but virtually everyone who had the same distinct honour and the immense privilege of knowing her.  Many had been taught by Kelly, and/or coached by her on the basketball courts. In actuality, there have been a plethora of roads travelled by countless others whose personal journey through life has been significantly enriched and more deeply impacted due to knowing Kelly on any level or for any reason.

Had it not been for Kelly directly, or for her being the amazing connector she undeniably was, or for her having kindly sought me out as an alumni member to partake in the peer mentoring program to Mohawk College’s graduating students (within all disciplines) – it is highly unlikely that Ron McKerlie – President/CEO of Mohawk College and Mohawk College Foundation would have had his assistant reach out to me this past August; requesting that he and I schedule a fifteen minute phone call for the very next day. Had it not been due to Kelly directly, I would quite likely not have received the distinct honour of being a Convocation Speaker only a few years ago. Kelly was forever paying it forward and being of service wherever and whenever opportunity struck – – in fact, it was Kelly herself who initiated and created the opportunities; readily dishing them out like candy to all who could benefit and prosper from her kindness and from her innate sense of vision. Her heart was huge. Her spirit was larger than life. Her infectious laughter was instantly recognizable to all even from rooms or hallways generously spread apart in distance. R.I.P my dear friend. I love you. I miss you. I am eternally grateful to you!

I dedicate this Feature Article of Ron McKerlie to the memory of Kelly Buchanan Dunham – A MAGNANIMOUS DYNAMO in every conceivable way!

Now, to continue along with the ‘Fast Forward’ button which seems to remain a constant thread between myself and my ongoing relationship and my loyal commitment to Mohawk College. As I previously indicated…I was completely taken aback upon discovering an email in my inbox from the Assistant to the President/CEO of Mohawk College; requesting fifteen minutes of my time so as to speak with President McKerlie on the telephone. Ummm…you don’t need to ask me twice. I was all over it!

I had immediately texted my Dad (a longstanding Professor of Mohawk College/McMaster University and Mohawk College Hall of Fame Inductee) and asked if he had any thoughts as to why the President of Mohawk College would seemingly and randomly right out of the blue, wish to schedule a telephone meeting with me for the very next day. My Dad immediately called me up…”That’s a big deal, Lisa!” President McKerlie is a big deal!” “He’s a busy guy, I can’t imagine why he would wish to speak with you personally, but keep me posted!” My Dad went on to say that even with his long standing career at the college, and having been inducted into the Hall of Fame – he himself had never before received a request from the President of the College to have a direct person-to-person conversation.

As scheduled and predictably punctual, President McKerlie rang me up. After exchanging initial pleasantries, he went on to express that his reason for wishing to speak with me was because I had been nominated (not sure by whom but thank you) for the 2020 Alumni Distinction Award in the Business Category. President McKerlie further elaborated in mentioning that this award would be presented to me on October 22, 2020 at the Virtual Awards Ceremony, hosted of course, by Mohawk College. JUST WOW! To say I was blown away (still am) and immensely grateful (forever will be) would be a complete understatement! After profusely thanking President McKerlie, I hung up the phone, only to call him back almost immediately. It was during that second telephone conversation that I had invited President McKerlie to be my guest on the Living Fearlessly with Lisa McDonald international radio/podcast show. The purpose of course was to publicly express my wholehearted gratitude to him and the college, and to also spend quality one-on-one time on the airwaves for further discussing one of our mutually favourite subject matters…the heart and soul of…MOHAWK COLLEGE!

President McKerlie was exceptionally gracious to have kindly accepted my invitation! 

There was no doubt in my mind in the lead up to taking the airwaves with President McKerlie, that our discussion would be a full-on, full-out, impassioned, and highly energized conversation. I was right. I was also right to have applied to Mohawk College back in 1991, which by the way, was the only College I wished to attend, and was the only College I had in fact applied to. To reiterate — I love win win scenarios. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving! Having any affiliations with Mohawk College is a badge of honour. I consider myself incredibly blessed to have received so many phenomenal experiences and incredible opportunities in which to give back to the College…the College that continuously gave so much of itself to me. 

Mohawk College was the inception of my journey for all else that was to follow in my life. It was during those transformative years of attending Mohawk College that I became a part of something larger than myself. It was at this educational institution that my eyes were truly opened to experiencing firsthand what it meant to be fully immersed in a culture of progression; one which embraced diversity, inclusivity, multiculturalism, and one which fostered expansion for every element and area of one’s overall ability to personally grow and to professionally develop. I am very fortunate to have received so many incredibly vivid memories associated with what is to be an important part of any student’s life. Thank you, MOHAWK COLLEGE!

Much thanks to you the #ThriveGlobal community for generously taking the time to read this week’s Living Fearlessly with Lisa McDonald…Feature Article…for keenly wishing to learn more, and not only about the remarkable leader and human being, which is President Ron McKerlie, but for also taking the time to gain newfound insights into what is an amazingly iconic Canadian College; one which is consistently sought out by want-to-attend students from all around the globe and from every nationality. I also wish to express my wholehearted gratitude to you for additionally taking the time to kindly click onto the enclosed podcast link of our riveting interview discussion with one another.

My immense appreciation to President McKerlie for bringing his A-Game (no surprise!) to the Living Fearlessly with Lisa McDonald global airwaves; heard in 145 countries, 220 TV/Radio Terrestrial Satellites, and the potential for millions of podcast downloads. Education, Awareness, Advocacy, and Entrepreneurship are amongst some of my favourite subject matters in which to delve into, so thank you again, President McKerlie, for further indulging me, the loyal listeners and the podcast subscribers for what proved to be an amazing conversation! You are appreciated by myself and innumerable others for all you continue to tirelessly do. I have immense respect for how deliberately, how intentionally, and for how meaningfully you choose to live and lead such a purpose-driven life! It is my honour to have spent this impactfully heart-warming time with you, President McKerlie. It is equally my honour to be a part of the fantastic Mohawk College Alumni. Thank you for growing me!

For anyone here who would like to further connect with either or with both President McKerlie and myself, please know that it would be our mutual pleasure to hear from you, and to learn how we might potentially be able to be of further service to you! Until next week’s uploaded Feature Article piece, I wish you only my very best! In the words of Byron Katie, “I want for you what you want for you.”


Uplifting You To Fear Less And To Live More! 

Be your own Hero. Be your own Shero. 
Be your own Leader. Be your own Best Friend! 
Love & Gratitude ~ Lisa
#Grateful #ThriveThursday #ThriveGlobal #LivingFearlessly


Since 2014, Ron has served as President/CEO of Mohawk College and Mohawk College Foundation in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. Previously, Ron served ten years in the Ontario Public Service as Deputy Minister Open Government, Interim President of ORNGE Air Ambulance, Deputy Minister, Government Services and Corporate CIO and Chief Strategist for Ontario.
Prior to joining the Ontario Public Service, Ron’s career spanned twenty-five years in the private sector where he held senior executive positions with Rogers Communications and Bank of Montreal.

Ron holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Dalhousie University, and ICD.D designation from Rotman, is a Fellow of the Institute of Canadian Bankers and a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program.

Mr. McKerlie is a member of the Board of Directors for ORION and former Chair of the Board for World Vision Canada.

President of Mohawk College and Foundation, husband, father, grandfather, avid traveller, voracious reader and observer of humanity.

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