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Awards business comes full circle

I have been in the award business for at least a quarter century.

I have been in the award business for at least a quarter century. My experience in this netherworld started in a downtown Hotel in Toronto where I had just arrived from Sudbury to become a principal shareholder in a company called Canadian Controlled Media Corporation, which was the proud owner of Scoregolf magazine.

The company, well before my investment decision had planned its first awards ceremony, not only for the best golfers in Canada, but also the best greens keepers, best teaching pros, etc.

It is still a going concern today and happily I am still a principal shareholder.

I arrived early for the pre-dinner reception and it was fantastic.

People were excited, the program had attracted the interest of more than a few TV stations and daily newspapers and there was a buzz in the air. There was also, even by Northern Ontario standards, a lot of liquor in the air.

Being thirty something and not fifty something I wasn’t shy myself about sharing the odd dram.
Well, a lotta dram.

The pre-dinner, VIP cocktail party rolled on ... and on and on. The departing owner of the company was having a lot of fun, as were the new owners and their guests. For at least an hour it seemed no one remembered an entire banquet hall had filled up with hundreds of people looking forward to the first annual Score Golf Awards. I need not tell you the rest. The head table arrived, for the most part drunk and happy. The speeches went on and on, the jokes got worse and worse, and people in the audience who had not had the benefit of a free and well stocked bar started leaving well before the last award was presented.

It was a disaster and an inauspicious beginning to my new career in the consumer magazine business in Canada. As I recall it took us a while to pay back the sponsors and even longer to entice them back to the awards program.

Some years later we screwed up our courage and launched the Northern Ontario Business Awards (NOBA) program in Thunder Bay in 1987 and this year we celebrate our 20th year, back in Thunder Bay again. We also launched the Influential Women of Northern Ontario awards program in 1997 and if you live in Sudbury, you will know about our Community Builders Awards (CBA) program, which is in its third year.

About eight months ago I got a call from Sylvia Barnard, the president of Cambrian College in Sudbury. She asked if I would consider becoming a judge for this year’s “Premier’s Awards for Ontario College Graduates.”

I hesitated. For all my experience in the awards business, I had never been a judge. My experience was in finding judges, not being one. I didn’t hesitate long. Sylvia is a no-nonsense, hard driving executive and you had better have a very good reason to turn her down. Sylvia had convinced the College Compensation and Appointments council to bring this very prestigious awards dinner to Sudbury and I am glad they did. They put on a tremendous dinner (the hosting was shared with College Boreal, the first time two colleges have hosted this dinner together) and the quality of the honourees was extraordinary.

The success of Ontario college graduates is breathtaking.

From internationally recognized singers to proprietors of groundbreaking technology companies, from social activists, to the owner of the first Montessori School for Autistic Children, the variety of achievement born in the college system is wonderful.

The power of the college system, and its focus on preparing Ontarians for work life achievement was evident with the winner’s careers and their unabashed willingness to credit College education in Ontario as a key source of their inspiration.

Our company is no stranger to this process. Some years ago the Publisher at Northern Ontario Business, Patricia Mills, was nominated for an award as was the publisher of our Northern Life newspaper, Abbas Homayed.

This year our young and ambitious Editor of Northern Ontario Business, Craig Gilbert, was nominated.

I enjoyed my first Busman’s holiday immensely and satisfied myself with a modest glass of Ontario White Wine. Some things do change.

Michael Atkins is president of Northern Ontario Business. He can be reached at