An academic tribute to a Canadian blues legend and special recognition of four students for academic excellence will highlight University Canada West’s (UCW’s) 2016 convocation ceremony at Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre on Friday, July 15. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m.

An honorary degree will be conferred upon Tom Lavin, a Chicago-born, Canadian blues legend who is not only lauded as a musician and record producer, but also a high tech, venture capital consultant. As well as founding Power Blues, a band with which he has sold more than one million records worldwide, Lavin the CEO has founded several public companies and a private college.

In 1994, the Renaissance man started one of the first Internet services in Canada ( and took it public on the Canadian Exchange (CDNX).

Learning, musically or otherwise, is all about exploration,” says Lavin, who moved to Vancouver in 1969 to study film and work as a recording studio musician.

There is a time and place for learning in solitude, in pairs and in groups, however, first and foremost to me is the importance of ‘beginner’s mind’ — being able to approach an investigation without preconception.

Among UCW’s 28 graduands crossing the convocation dais this year will be three recipients of the University’s Medal of Academic Excellence (formerly Dean’s Award). Another student will be formally recognized as the University’s 2016 Valedictorian.

The Medal of Academic Excellence pays tribute to graduands with the highest cumulative grade point average (CGPA) in their degree program. It also celebrates stellar success in benefiting communities and research through application of core competencies.

Rory Rickwood and Glen Dietz, two medal recipients in their sixties, credit UCW’s online options for pursuing degrees for making them the success stories they are today.

Rickwood has just completed a Bachelor of Arts in Business Communication (BA) that he began online in 2009, while working full-time as a human resource manager for the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Seven A-pluses netted the Port Alberni, BC resident a 4.05 (maximum is 4.33) CGPA.

For Dietz, maintaining a 4.0 CGPA in his online Master of Business Administration (MBA) studies was all in a day’s work, one course per term for four and a half years.  Recently hired as an informatics technical specialist, the London, Ontario resident was fully engaged in running his own business as a health consultant while studying online at UCW.

Jason Della Porta, UCW’s third 2016 medal recipient, struggled to overcome fears of scholastic inadequacy and maintain a full-time job to feed his family while pursuing his Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) degree online and in class.

Surmounting the challenges he faced has made the taste of success all the sweeter for this 33-year-old. Della Porta is graduating with the highest CGPA in his program, 3.78 out of a potential 4.33.

Viewed by University Canada West (UCW) faculty as a promising spokesperson with leadership qualities, Jad Debai, who is graduating with a BCom degree, has earned the title of Valedictorian. Debai is now maintaining a 4.0 CGPA in UCW’s MBA degree program.

Brad O’Hara, UCW VP-Academic, notes convocation is not a moment to be taken lightly in any graduand’s career history. He says: “Research shows that most jobs in high demand require a university degree and that university graduates have in-demand skills such as global awareness, critical thinking, problem solving and communication.  With this strong foundation acquired at UCW, we’re confident that all of our graduates will be highly productive agents of change in today’s complex world and wish them all the best.

UCW President Arthur Coren will officially confer 11 MBA, 15 BCom and two BA degrees on graduands.

Members of UCW’s Academic Council and Board of Governors will attend convocation.  The ceremony starts at 11:00 a.m., wraps up at about 12:15 p.m. and will be followed by a reception at 1 p.m. where Lavin and recognized graduands will be available to talk to media.

UCW is part of the Global University Systems (GUS) international network of higher-education institutions headquartered in the Netherlands. With institutions and affiliates across the UK, Canada, Germany and Singapore the group educates more than 50,000 students from 160 different nationalities.

UCW delivers programs that provide students with the applied and theoretical basis for success in the workplace and future academic endeavours. Established in 2004 by David Strong, former University of Victoria president, UCW offers quality education with courses that transfer broadly into the public education system. Courses are offered at UCW’s downtown Vancouver campus and online. For more information visit

Carol Thorbes, Communications/Media Relations

1-604-915-9607, extension 2227, [email protected], (email best)


Tom Lavin1-604-250-5155[email protected]


Tom Lavin & The Legendary Powder Blues Band 


Rory Rickwood[email protected]


Glen Dietz1-647-893-3793 (Ontario), [email protected]


Jason Della Porta1-514-636-6095 (Quebec), [email protected]


Jad Debai: +966508551770 (Saudi Arabia),  1-778-926-8483 (Vancouver, BC), [email protected], (email best contact)


Note: High-resolution jpeg files of all the students and Tom Lavin are available here.