Alex & Jo Campbell  Centre for Health & Wellness

2009 Distinguished Alumni Awards

Camosun College is proud to announce the recipients of its annual Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Nella Nelson (left), Dr. Brad Nelson (right)

Nella Nelson (left), Dr. Brad Nelson (right)

Nella Nelson

District Coordinator Aboriginal Nations, Greater Victoria School District


Nella Nelson is a 1972 graduate of Camosun's University Transfer program and a recognized leader for her contributions to educational systems for Indigenous students.

Ms Nelson is a member of the Tsawataineuk Band of the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation, and is originally from the N'amgis Nation of Alert Bay, BC. She attended Camosun College in 1972 and went on to complete her degrees in anthropology/sociology and secondary education at the University of Victoria.

Married for 37 years, Nella is a mother and grandmother. Over the years, she and her husband, Alex, have cared for 28 First Nations young people from their home communities.

While honoured to receive the Distinguished Alumni award, Nella says her 37-year long pathway would not have been possible without the support of her husband Alex and her parents, George and Ruth Cook. "My parents always championed education in our family, and they are now part of the Elders' voices at Camosun College and UVic, where they continue to support other Indigenous students." The Award represents an educational journey and Nella credits Camosun College for providing the springboard to pursue education at the University of Victoria. She says, "I saw my people represented at the college and I knew that First Nations people could create change through post-secondary education."

In addition to her full-time work, Nella sits on several boards and, through her community work, supports children, people in need of housing, post-secondary education, sexually exploited youth, and diversity. She strives to ensure that her students are receiving every opportunity available and is an advocate for all students, staff and the Greater Victoria School District.

Onowa McIvor, Director of Indigenous Education at UVic's Faculty of Education says, "Nella's dedication to education is evident in all aspects of her life, and we are constantly inspired by all she does for that cause. Nella continues to be a constant activist around suicide prevention, racism and educational issues. Her years of experience and wisdom hold our education students in rapt attention. The UVic Faculty of Education feels deeply privileged and grateful for all she does to further the cause of education in our community."

Some of Nella's community contributions include the Queen's 125 Commemorative Medal for community service (1994), YM/YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Education, Training and Development (1998) and she has co-authored several papers on developing First Nations curriculum and human rights.


Dr. Brad Nelson

Director, Deeley Research Centre


Dr. Brad Nelson is the founding Director and Senior Research Scientist at the Trev and Joyce Deeley Research Centre and a Camosun College student from the early '80s.

An expert on the immune system, Brad and his research team are developing novel strategies to enhance the immune response against cancer as a new form of treatment. The Deeley Centre now plays a significant role in preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer, and is helping Victoria emerge as an international centre for leading-edge cancer research.

Brad was born in New Westminster and grew up in Vancouver. He completed his undergraduate studies at Camosun College, UVic and UBC. From there, he pursued a Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. He held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre (FHCRC) in Seattle and faculty appointments at FHCRC, the Department of Immunology at the University of Washington and the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, all in Seattle.

In addition to his work as a cancer researcher, Dr. Nelson is committed to education–as demonstrated by the High School Internship Program he developed at the Deeley Research Centre. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia, as well as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Departments of Biology and Biochemistry/Microbiology at the University of Victoria, where he teaches within the graduate program, the Island Medical Program and the Centre for Biomedical Research.

He says, "Camosun is where I found out how much I love biology and science in general. It began with a tide pooling trip to Ogden Point in Biology 100, and grew into a career trying to understand how the immune system responds to cancer. I hope my story demonstrates how much can be accomplished with an inquisitive nature, a personal passion and a great education."

Contact information

Camosun College

Communications Department