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Two Presidential Awards presented at this year’s Kyiv Konnection

May 16, 2022 | News, Community, Canada, Featured

Left to Right: Kevin Fitzgerald, Dr. Olena Bilash, Dr. Ernie Skakun. Photo: Marco Levytsky

NP-UN Western Bureau.

Since the Ukrainian Foundation for College Education (UFCE) has not held a Kyiv Konnection Banquet since 21019 due to the pandemic, two President’s Awards were presented this year.

The recipients were Kevin Fitzgerald, the Associate Vice-President, Alumni and Development for Grant MacEwan University (GMU) and former UFCE President Dr. Ernie Skakun.
Fitzgerald worked with UFCE to negotiate the latest Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with GMU. It negotiated every five years and the latest was signed in 2020. A committee of UFCE board members met regularly for about a year prior to review and reflect upon the previous MOU and changes in the vision of GMU, as well as the priorities set by the Director of URDC. The goal is to secure stability for Ukrainian Canadian and Ukraine – Canada related projects and programming at McEwan University.

“Change was in the air at that time – the COVID pandemic was about to take hold and interaction switched from face-to-face to online. Kevin and I spent many hours in conversation. He worked hard to understand our concerns and the spirit of our proposed changes. He was always present to us, always followed through on every commitment he made within the agreed-upon timelines, and acted as a fair mediator of comments and concerns voiced by McEwan leadership,” said Dr. Olena Bilash, who presented both awards.

“The month of June 2020 was spent tweaking the MOU on a near daily basis and there was talk of postponing the signing date; however, I was not comfortable being without an MOU and Kevin worked miracles with MacEwan’s legal team and senior executive so that we could successfully sign that document on July 1, 2020 which would also correspond with the arrival of then new president Dr Annette Trimbee.

“Later that year Kevin nominated UFCE for a provincial philanthropic award and tweeted a lovely video of our success. He also made sure that UFCE was engaged in all internal and external events related to McEwan. In short, he made the work of UFCE visible,” she added.

In addition to his work with UFCE, Dr. Skakun has had a long-term appointment as a public member of the board of examiners of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta, APEGA, has served on the Board for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada Foundation and is recognized and appreciated as a longtime leader at the Saint Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Edmonton.

Dr. Skakun also has an award named in his honor. It states: He is a leader in psychometrics and medical education in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta and is awarded annually to someone who demonstrates quality of instruction or teaching, integration or innovation, and application or discovery.

He has numerous research articles to his credit and brings his critical research skills, knowledge of how universities and professional societies are organized and operate, strategic thinking and a deep commitment to community service to the UFCE Board, to all activities of URDC, and to the Ukrainian Canadian community.

“In my mind he represents the True Ukrainian Canadian Spirit. He is committed, has a cup that is always at least half full, knows how to gather people for noble causes and have fun along the way, is humble about his accomplishments and has a love of the land,” said Dr. Bilash.

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