Colleges Ontario announces Murray Brewster and Erica Williams as 2022 winners
They graduated from Niagara College decades apart, but on the evening of November 28, two NC alumni made history as outstanding Ontario college graduates who were announced as winners of 2022 Premier’s Awards.
Multi-award-winning journalist Murray Brewster (Ottawa), who graduated from NC’s Broadcasting – Radio, Television and Film program in 1985, and Founder of Erica’s Embrace, Erica Williams (St. Catharines), who has been supporting Black women across Southwestern Ontario since she graduated from NC’s Social Service Worker program in 2018, were among seven winners of this year’s prestigious Premier’s Awards announced by Colleges Ontario during its Higher Education Summit in Toronto.
It was the first time that two NC alumni have won Premier’s Awards during the same year.
“We are very excited that two of our amazing NC alumni have won Premier’s Awards this year, for the first time in our College history,” said NC President Sean Kennedy. “We are immensely proud of Murray and Erica who are both exemplary members of our alumni community of more than 100,000 graduates who are making a difference throughout Niagara, across Ontario and around the world.”
Brewster, who is a Parliamentary Defence and Foreign Policy Reporter for CBC News won in the Creative Arts and Design category. Since he graduated from the College in1985, Brewster has built a world-class career which has helped Canadians, as well as victims of conflict around the world.
“My experience at Niagara College was more than courses and textbooks; it was the people who stuck with me,” said Brewster.
Brewster, who grew up in Welland, built a successful career in broadcasting and print journalism which has taken him around the world, including 15 months in Afghanistan travelling with troops during the five-year Kandahar combat mission. That experience was the subject of his book, The Savage War: The Untold Battles of Afghanistan, (2011), and he was the lead writer on the documentary Kandahar Journals.
Brewster has built a reputation as a trusted journalist on military-security matters. Wherever he’s reporting from — Ottawa, Africa, Ukraine or the Arctic Circle — his journey as one of this country’s impactful journalists has made him a familiar and reassuring voice to millions of Canadians. His consistent reporting for CBC News – after more than a decade at The Canadian Press – helps Canadians grasp their country’s ability to protect its sovereignty in this tense era of global wars and threatening geopolitical ambitions.
Brewster’s excellence and impact have been recognized by over a dozen prestigious national awards, including 14 national Radio and Television News Director Awards; two Atlantic Journalism Awards; the Ross Munro Award for defence writing; the prestigious Michener Award Certificate of Merit for public service in journalism; and a finalist citation in the prominent National Newspaper Awards. He was also recognized with NC’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2017 when he addressed graduating students from NC’s schools of Media, Trades and Technology during a Spring Convocation ceremony at the Welland Campus in June 2017, which marked his first return to his alma mater since he graduated in1985.
St. Catharines resident Erica Williams won the award in the Recent Graduate category.
A dedicated social service worker and savvy non-profit entrepreneur, Williams created necessary and otherwise overlooked support services for racialized individuals since graduating with her diploma only four years ago. Through her organization, Erica’s Embrace Support Services, Williams and her team gather and distribute Black hair care and beauty products to women’s shelters across Southwestern Ontario. It is the only known service of this kind in the area.
Her years in school and the various hands-on experiences she gained allowed her to see this gap in the field and gave her the push she needed to pursue such a meaningful venture.
“Sometimes change starts with an idea and, sometimes, change starts with you,” said Williams. “I thank Niagara College for giving me the knowledge and confidence I needed to pursue my dreams.”
In April 2022, Williams connected with current NC students as a featured guest of the College’s virtual Ask an Alumni Anything event.
Brewster and Williams were among seven NC alumni who were nominated for 2022 Premier’s Awards. They are the seventh and eighth alumni from NC to win Premier’s Awards since the awards were launched in 1992. NC alumni who have won previously include:
- 2014 winner Royal Canadian Navy Capt. Rebecca Patterson (Nursing grad, 1987);
• 2012 winner David Pratt (Greenhouse Technician grad, 2007);
• 2011 winner Jerry Howell (Computer Engineering Technology grad, 1988);
• 2008 winner Jordan Harris (Winery and Viticulture Technician grad, 2004);
• 2003 winner Heather Kilty (Social Welfare Worker grad, 1969); and
• 1995 winner Carol Alaimo (Journalism-Print grad, 1984).
Presented annually by Colleges Ontario, the Premier’s Awards honour the important social and economic contributions of Ontario college graduates in seven categories – Apprenticeship, Business, Community Services, Creative Arts and Design, Health Sciences, Recent Graduate, and Technology.
Colleges Ontario’s 2022 Premier’s Awards presentation was held on November 28 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. Visit the Premier’s Awards website at co-awards.org.
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture, and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.
Nov. 25, 2022: Seven Niagara College alumni earn Premier’s Awards nominations
Brewster and Williams were both featured in NC’s encore digital magazine this year:
View Alumni Spotlight featuring Erica Williams here.
View Alumni Spotlight featuring Murray Brewster here.