2019 alumni awards recognize extraordinary contribution

Camosun College is proud to announce its annual Promising and Distinguished Alumni Awards recognizing two extraordinary alumni who have made outstanding contributions in their fields.

Gowan Armstrong (right) ,  Mary-Anne Bowcott (left)

Gowan Armstrong (right), Mary-Anne Bowcott (left)

Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Gowan Armstrong 

Forest industry leader, operational controller, and mentor

Forest industry leader, operational controller, and mentor Gowan Armstrong is the recipient of the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award.

Gowan calls himself an “accidental accountant” – but there’s nothing accidental about the upward trajectory that his career has taken since he completed two Camosun business diplomas (general management and accounting) in 2003.

“What I enjoy most about my work is building relationships and working with all sorts of different people, from operational managers to other finance professionals to senior executives,” says Gowan. “I enjoy variety and human contact.”

While he’s a senior finance team member of Canfor, one of the world’s largest producers of sustainable lumber, pulp, and paper, Gowan’s ability to build relationships and support people has been one of the defining characteristics of his career. He entered the forestry industry after graduation, accepting a position as an accountant at Western Forest Products. Gowan navigated his accounting career through company restructuring and economic downturns, and in 2012 he moved his family from Vancouver Island to Fort St. John to work for Canfor. This year he was promoted within the company and relocated to Prince George.

Gowan has gained a reputation for bringing out the best in people and being generous with his time. He supports the people on his team and throughout the company and is praised for his work ethic and diplomatic way of handling every situation. His co-workers comment on his composure, respectful manner, and positive outlook.

It’s no accident that Gowan is known within Canfor as a mentor who encourages the leader within everyone. His advice to Camosun graduates is similar to what he tells new finance professionals at the company: “Know how you, as a person, function and process information. Then understand that not everyone is like you and be receptive to other people’s learning styles. Listen to and respect other people, and you will be an effective leader in any organization.”

Promising Alumni Award recipient Mary-Anne Bowcott

The recipient of the 2019 Camosun College Promising Alumni Award is Mary-Anne Bowcott, a journeyman plumber, business owner, and advocate for women in trades.

Mary-Anne graduated from Camosun’s Plumbing program in 2013, discovering her interest in plumbing after taking the women in trades exploration course. Before starting at Camosun, she already had five years of experience in the construction industry as a roofer but knew that it wasn’t the career path for her.

“I definitely learned a lot in school that I wouldn’t have learned on the job,” says Mary-Anne. “Camosun was a great place to learn and the instructors were fantastic.”

Having already gained a reputation for being a hard worker, Mary-Anne took the skills and connections she made at Camosun and jumped into her career. Within two years of graduation, she was running her own business, Westcom Plumbing and Gas in Sooke, and getting active in local trades organizations.
With women making up only 4.7 percent of building trades workers in BC, Mary-Anne is aware of the obstacles that she and other women face in the industry. She has stepped up as an advocate for women in trades, giving back by supporting other women through the BC Tradeswomen Society and speaking at events.

Yet her all-women crew at Westcom has turned out that way by circumstance, not design. “People perceive me as hiring only women, but that’s just the way that it’s ended up,” she observes. “I’ve never seen a resume from a journeyman plumber, ever. I think I deter men from applying to work for me because I’m a woman in a male-dominated industry.”

Despite the challenges, Mary-Anne and her company continue to gain momentum and recognition within the industry. Her achievements haven’t only caught the attention of Camosun – she recently received the Canadian Construction Association’s (CCA) 2018 CCA Person of the Year Award; the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce Trades and Skilled Labour Excellence Award in 2017 and 2018; and the 2018 BC Construction Industry Leader Award.

She’s enjoying the recognition, but keeping her eyes on the future. “I really want to grow my company to a larger size and have it run itself. I like being ‘on the tools,’ but the hours are long. I’ve always dreamed of having a company with 50 or 100 employees.”

Contact information

Camosun College

Communications Department