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Foundation announces 2018 Distinguished Alumni

The Holland College Foundation has named Jan Cowper, Irwin MacKinnon, and David Poirier as the recipients of its 11th annual Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Foundation Board Chair Ron Keefe said that the Holland College 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are excellent representatives of Holland College and that each one should be commended for their accomplishments and commitment to their chosen professions.

“Jan Cowper, Chef Irwin MacKinnon, and Chief David Poirier, have all had significant impact in their communities and their industries,” said Keefe.  “They are wonderful examples to current and future students of how graduates have used their Holland College education to build a successful career.”

Jan Cowper


Jan Cowper is a graduate of Holland College’s Dental Assisting program and has served her profession and community as a dedicated volunteer for almost 30 years. She has been employed in private practice, taught at Holland College, introduced and taught a Dental Reception course at the Atlantic Business College in Fredericton, and is currently the Team Leader, Federal Programs, Medical Authorization Centre-Dental at Medavie Blue Cross.

Jan was instrumental in the birth and implementation of the National Dental Assisting Examination Board’s Clinical practice exam.  She is currently a facilitator for the Maritime Provinces, and serves the NDAEB (National Dental Assisting Examination Board) in both official languages.

Jan received her 25-year pin in 2017 for Active membership within the NBDAA and recognized for her more than 25 years’ service as a dental assistant. In the past five years, Jan has been involved in planning and attending numerous continuing education courses to enhance her professional practices in dental assisting as well as volunteering at the Ronald McDonald Room at Moncton City Hospital and for Bike for Juvenile Diabetes.

Most recently, Jan has completed the Harvard School of Business E-Learning program (Harvard Manager Mentor!) for Medavie Leaders.  It was a pilot program with only 50 leaders invited to participate and Jan is an Elite graduate finishing all 25 modules with highest distinction.

Chef Irwin MacKinnon


Irwin MacKinnon graduated from The Culinary Institute of Canada, worked in Switzerland, then Germany, and returned home to PEI where he became the head chef at Papa Joe’s restaurant, a position he has held for more than 25 years.

Irwin has launched many careers, serving as a mentor to dozens of interns and students in his kitchen from the Culinary Institute of Canada, helping up and coming students find their own culinary voice.

He has traveled globally to promote Island lobster, oysters, and mussels, but well known among farmers, producers, and artisans as a pioneer of the use local movement on PEI. He has led many PEI-focused initiatives, including Fall Flavours, a multi-culinary event held each year in September that raises the profile and awareness of both Island chefs and venues.

Irwin has competed in and coached both Skills Canada and the Provincial Junior Chef competitions.  He is past president of the PEI Chef’s Association and inducted into the Honour Society of the Canadian Culinary Federation in 2014.  Papa Joe’s was named in 2011 as the winner of the annual “Taste Our Island” award, won the “best burger” award in Burger Love 2012, and in 2015 and 2016, Chef Irwin was named as the Best of Sea Chique Chef of the Year as well as being named a semi-finalist in the Garland International Chef’s Challenge.

In 2017, he was a Taste our Island award finalist and People’s Choice Award winner, as well as the 2017 PEI Association of Chefs & Cooks, Chef of the Year award recipient. In 2018, Chef Irwin he was awarded the Culinary Federation Eastern Region Chef of the Year” award and in 2018, the Canadian Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year award.

Chief David Poirier


David Poirier, a graduate of Holland College’s Atlantic Police Academy, is highly respected by his fellow officers, members of the public, city administration, and mayor and council.  David worked his way up through the ranks from the most junior constable, to sergeant, and then to Chief of Police of Summerside, PEI.  He has been chief since 2006 serving with distinction all through his 41 years on the police department.

David has been awarded two lifesaving awards during his career, and honoured with an award from the Royal Canadian Humane Association for assisting in saving several race horses at the Summerside Raceway during a fire in 1982.   Additionally, he is the recipient of the Police Exemplary Medal for 30 years of meritorious police service in Canada, the Della Rowledge Murphy volunteer award from the Cancer Society, Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal, Community Hero Award from RBC, the Paul Harris Fellow Award from the Rotary Club and the Municipal Police Officer of the Year Award.

Additionally, volunteerism has been a huge part of David’s life, evidenced through his involvement with the St. Eleanor’s Lions club, the City of Summerside, and the Cancer Society.  He is a recent member of the Summerside Rotary Club, sits on the Police Review Leadership Committee, and is a member of the National Police Service Advisory Committee.  In 2017, he was awarded the Canadian Police Exemplary Long Service Medal for his 40 years of Exemplary Service.

Cowper, MacKinnon, and Poirier join past recipients Melody Dover, John Sylvester, Melanie Wildman, Scott Annear, Patti Larsen, David Trainor, Wayne Stewart, Cory LeDrew, Kevin Proude, Sue LeFort, Delaney Chisholm, Norma Lee MacLeod, John Ledwell, Paul Livingston, Robert Webster, Barry Sheen, Kathy Ward Doucette, Steven Barber, Tim Banks, Louise Vessey, David Garcelon, Basil Stewart, Jeff Poirier, Eva O’Hanley, Jamie Hill, Sonya Corrigan, Alan MacLeod, Steven Collicutt, John Avery, Brent Blackmore, Alanna Jankov, and Kevin O’Brien as Holland College Distinguished Alumni.  A display celebrating all alumni who have been honoured with the award is located at the college’s Prince of Wales Campus in Charlottetown.
Holland College president Dr. Brian McMillan said that alumni are paramount to the Holland College success story.

“The social and economic impact that our graduates have is significant and far reaching,” said McMillan.  “We have more than 40,000 graduates making a difference worldwide, and their success brings us tremendous pride.”

A reception and awards dinner will be held on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 at the Tourism and Culinary Centre in Charlottetown. For more information or to purchase tickets, please contact the Holland College Office of Alumni Relations at (902) 566-9303 or alumni@hollandcollege.com. Find out how to nominate an alumnus of Holland College for a Distinguished Alumni Award by visiting Alumni & Friends at hollandcollege.com. Nominations are accepted year-round.


For more information about this release, please contact:
Jo-Ann Campbell-Boutilier, Executive Director - College Advancement and the Holland College Foundation
Tel: (902) 629-4273
Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2018