Olds College Alumni - Employing their Passion

Olds College Helped... Employ My Passion

From family farms owned for generations, to new industry leading businesses, from brand new ideas, to harnessing traditional methods, Olds College alumni have a track record of doing some pretty amazing and innovative things. We would like to help share your story with your fellow alumni.

Please take a moment to read a few of our proud Alumni features! 

Sheena Ryan

Article originally published in our Summer 2015 Horizons issue.


Exercise Rider & Jockey Graduate, 2009

  • 2014 Sovereign Award Winner 
  • Outstanding Apprentice Jockey
  • Purse Earnings over $1.2 million

Sheena Ryan graduated from the Olds College Exercise Rider and Jockey program in 2009, and on April 10, 2014, at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, her training, dedication to her profession, and perseverance paid off as she was announced as the 2014 Sovereign Award winner for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. This was the second straight year that Sheena was nominated for the Outstanding Apprentice Jockey award. She won 37 of 320 mounts before losing her apprentice allowance, with purse earnings over $1.2 million.

“Winning the sovereign award means a lot to me,” she beams, “It means a lot to my career and shows that hard work pays off.”

Sheena’s dream has always been to be a jockey. When she first had her entrance examinations, to try to secure a position in the Exercise Rider and Jockey program, Sheena recalls being asked why she should be accepted into the program.

“If you don’t, I will go to the racetrack and start there,” she responded. “I want this.”

And just like that, Sheena’s journey began. She arrived at Olds College eager to learn, and in four difficult months, she had gained the basic knowledge of becoming a jockey, and more importantly, of the hard work that it entails.

“Its hard work at the racetrack,” she describes, “you have to want it bad, keep your head down, and work hard. My instructors at Olds College all knew what it takes to succeed in this game and they made me work hard and taught safe, efficient ways to work in the barns. I was better prepared taking the course before working at the racetrack because I had no clue what went on there before. My teachers at Olds College helped prepare me for what would be expected of me.”

Upon leaving Olds College, Sheena was introduced to Ron Grieves, who is a trainer at Northlands Park in Edmonton. She has now moved on to Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, and has recently shed the title of Apprentice, and is now a full-fledged Journeyman jockey, working with her agent to gain as many mounts as possible, and keep the owners happy. The days are still long, as Sheena arrives at the track in the mornings at around 6:00 am. She then confers with trainers, and plans her day. She has to work with the horses she is caring for at times set by the trainer, and then provide feedback to the trainer. She also meets with her agent daily, and has to train daily, which can include cutting weight in the sauna, and doing an elaborate pre-race routine on race days. Then it all comes down to the race, and trying her best to win.

“Not everyone gets to live their dream every day,” explains Sheena. “The instructors I worked with, and the training I received all helped me get to the place where I am today. Olds College truly helped me Employ My Passion. I will never forget my experience at Olds College. I would recommend Olds College to anyone. It was a good experience and the best thing that I have ever decided to do.”

RACE AHEAD of the pack!
View more information on our Exercise Rider & Jockey Training Program

John Duncan

Article originally published in our Spring 2015 Horizons issue.


Production Horticulture & Greenhouse Management Graduate, 2001

  • Recognized by Greenhouse Canada: 'Top 10 under 40'
  • Horticulture & Garden Panel Contributor
  • Calgary Zoo Lecturer 

Following high school, John Duncan researched most of the Canadian horticulture schools, deciding on Olds College, where he graduated in 2001 with a diploma in production horticulture and greenhouse management.

“Olds College had the most ornamentals production,” he says. “I enjoyed my time there, and I still keep in touch with some of my instructors.”

Along with contributing to horticulture and gardening panels, Duncan is lecturing at a new program focused on tropical plants at the Calgary Zoo.

This zeal and dedication resulted in Greenhouse Canada naming him as a ‘Top 10 Under 40’ in October, 2014. The awards were created to recognize younger generation leaders who promote the horticulture industry.

“It’s extra meaningful,” he says, “because my peers nominated me. And I feel I have worked very hard to get where I am.”

As you might expect, John’s passion for horticulture has resulted in an extensive personal collection of plants. His interest remains piqued by orchids, although his collection is somewhat smaller these days. “I have between 50 and 60 of them now, but also every other weird plant you can think of,” he laughs.

GROW your Education!
View more information on our Horticulture & Turfgrass Management programs!

Jim Chatenay

Article originally published in our Spring 2015 Horizons issue. 


Agriculture (AG. 2-1) Graduate, 1962 

  • Life-Long Canadian Farmer Advocate 
  • Diamond Jubilee Award Recipient 

Jim Chatenay graduated from Olds College in 1962 from the Ag 2-1 program. This was the more advanced Agriculture program, taking two years’ worth of information and putting it into an accelerated one year program, and Jim felt that by taking this program, he could get back to the farm faster. Also, Olds College had music and curling programs, both of which Jim is very accomplished in. In the fall, 1961, Jim left the farm to go to Olds College where he began his lifelong fight for the Canadian farmer.

Jim began his farming career wanting to change the face of the cattle industry; he was originally a Hereford breeder but switched over to a brand new breed introduced to Canada, the Charolais. In 1964, Jim and a group travelled to France to learn more about this new, larger breed, and he became influential in importing this breed into Canada.

Jim became an enigma to the Canadian Wheat Board early on in his farming career. Back in the day, one had to apply to renew their Wheat board permit. Jim had his witnessed on a Sunday, which at that time was invalid and his permit lapsed and he had to re-apply….game on! Jim had heard whispers through the grain industry that there was a group unhappy with the Canadian Wheat Board and the monopoly they held on farmers. Jim became an elected member of the Canadian Wheat Board by running on a simple platform; if you like the monopoly, don’t vote for me.

After many years of fighting the Wheat Board, in a show of defiance, a group of farmers drove down to the border with one bag each of wheat. The detractors to this movement made sure the Border Patrol and Police were waiting on the Canadian side of the border to arrest the group regardless of how small the infraction was. In 1996, Jim was sentenced to 62 days in prison for crossing the border and donating that one small bag of wheat to a 4-H club. 

As they led Jim and 13 other farmers into the prison, shackled and handcuffed, a group of Jim’s friends and supporters back home were organizing a combine convoy to, ironically, harvest Jim’s crops for him. In a show of tribute, the farmers were led on combine out of the shop by the woman who stood behind her man, Olive Chatenay, and this event was covered by CBC television.

Upon Jim’s release from his short stint in jail, he immediately went to the Canadian Wheat Board meeting where he was still an elected board member!

Since those days, there have been several changes to the Canadian Wheat Board and Jim has become a folklore legend and a decorated Canadian finally being rewarded for his stand against the Canadian Wheat Board by being presented with a Diamond Jubilee Award and being appointed to the Farm Products Board.

Jim Chatenay, farmer and alumnus of Olds College, follows one set of principles, “Freedom begins with an act of defiance”. Mr. Chatenay has become a legend in his own time in the farming industry.

View more information on our Agriculture programs!

Ron Vermeulen

Article originally published in our Spring 2015 Horizons issue. 


Surface Land Agent Graduate, 1985 

  • LandSolutions Business Founder 
  • Industry & Community Leader 
  • Award Winning Entrepreneur  
Ron Vermeulen is not only an alum of Olds College, he is a long-time friend, industry partner, and community leader who is a perfect example of what our students and graduates can achieve. Vermeulen is the Vice President of Corporate Development for LandSolutions, a service company that provides land acquisition, land management and environmental services to the energy industry. Vermeulen founded LandSolutions over 14 years ago, and has seen it grow to have six offices across Canada, employing over 125 staff, of which approximately 25% are Olds College graduates. 

The initiative shown by Ron Vermuelen throughout his career was also evident while he was a student at Olds College. A Surface Land Agent program student from 1983 to 1985, Vermeulen recalls one particular situation that reflects what he calls, “a Land Agent’s initiative, resourcefulness, resilience and a reflection of the camaraderie that is built within the class”. 

Vermeulen and some of his classmates provided support to a friend that they felt was wrongly accused in a traffic accident in front of the College. After researching traffic laws and compiling evidence and witnesses, they were able to get the charges dropped. 

“To me Olds College is not just about academia but also experience and helping build character.” explains Vermeulen. “Olds College gave me the hands-on experience and skills as well as communication skills to develop my career. It helped me build confidence to work in a career that requires one to communicate with all types of people in all walks of life in an effective, professional way.” 

Upon completion of his first year at Olds College, Vermeulen obtained a summer position in his field, that worked into a part time position during his second year. This opened the door to a new job upon graduation, where he basically hit the ground running. 

“My Olds College experience is simple. It was the best time of my life.” explains Vermeulen. “Hands-on learning. Good friends. Supportive instructors and the College provided me with both the education as well as opportunities to be introduced to professionals in industry where I was able to make connections and obtain a job in my chosen career.” 

We are proud of our history with alumni such as Ron Vermeulen, who has gone on to become a leader in the community and in industry. Ron has given back to his industry, sitting on a number of professional boards, receiving awards for volunteerism and awards of merit along the way, as well to his community, including showing consistent support to Olds College by sitting on advisory committees. 

View more information on our Land & Environment Programs!

Stephanie Evans

Article originally published in our Spring 2015 Horizons issue. 


Equine Science Graduate, 2010

  • Full-time rider in Cavalia and Cavalia’s Odysseo, 
    International Travelling Equestrian Show 
    (created by co-founder of Cirque de Soleil)

In September of 2008, when Stephanie Evans left her home in Orangeville, Ontario as an 18 year old to embark on her journey to Olds College, she was both nervous and excited to move to Alberta. Once she arrived in Olds, she found a group of friendly and supportive friends and students. 

“It was nice to be around so many people who loved doing exactly what I do,” Evans mentions. “The teachers definitely pushed us to our full potential, which made us stronger and wiser in the end.” 

Having grown up in a similar environment, where the stables had strict rules and required lots of hard work, Evans’s organization and efficiency came in handy when it came to making time for all of her chores, classes, and riding time. “Olds College made sure we were independent and professional individuals,” Evans comments. 

Evans was hired by Cavalia before college ended in the April of 2010. She then flew immediately to North Carolina where she joined the travelling equestrian show. The training she had received at Olds College helped Evans to live a dream that she had since she was thirteen years old. Her training at Olds College prepared her for every detail. She had learned so much about the horse inside and out, that she was able to groom and ride while taking the best care of the horses. Anatomy and physiology classes made her much more attentive to the horses’ well being, and the introduction to massage therapy helped her appreciate how they move.. Like Olds College, Cavalia required long days of hard work and dedication. 

Evans has worked for Cavalia and Cavalia’s Odysseo, two shows created by Normand Latourelle, a co-founder of Cirque de Soleil. During her first year with Cavalia she was a groom, and had five or six horses to wash, prepare and clean tack, and she also warmed up and cooled down horses throughout each show. 

In addition to all of her grooming work, Evans was able to participate in morning riding classes. She had to prove that she was serious about riding in the show, and did not miss one day of riding class. This required long days, as Evans was to be there early in the morning until almost midnight after the performance was over. After one year of demonstrating her passion, Evans was promoted to being a full time ride, where she would spend every day caring for horses, rehearsing, and preparing for the show. Throughout the show, she had four to five costume changes and six or seven horses to work with. At the end of the show, all of the riders would rinse off and dry the horses legs, help braid manes, and put away tack. 

Evans’s Olds College experience and four years of performing with Cavalia and Odysseo allowed for her to move on to her next challenge. Evans is currently taking higher level dressage lessons at Lipica (the original home of the Lipizzan horse) at the world famous Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre. She now has the opportunity to ride for professional dressage trainers in Spain, on pure Spanish horses. Evans’s placement in Spain is so she can expand on her knowledge base, and experience more of the classical Spanish dressage. The experience thus far has been amazing in a beautiful country with huge horse awareness and horse culture.

RISE to the Challenge!
View more information on our Animal & Equine Programs!


James Bezan


Article originally published in our Spring 2015 Horizons issue. 


Agricultural Production Graduate, 1985

  • House of Commons Member of Parliament
  • Re-elected four times since 2004
  • Internationally awarded and recognized

James Bezan was first elected as Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake, Manitoba in 2004, and has had a number of important positions and has worked on a number of key projects in the over ten years since. 

First arriving at Olds College in 1983, James Bezan is a graduate of our Agricultural Production program, majoring in Livestock Technology. 

“My Olds College experience was crucial in shaping me into the person I am today.” states Bezan. “It was a key time in my life as I transitioned into my adult life, and helped me to centre my belief systems and my passions”. 

Even as a student, Bezan’s political aspirations were apparent. “In 1984, leading up to the federal election, the student body started campaigning for Professor Ian Hall for Prime Minister,” explains Bezan. “There were signs all over campus with Hall for PM.” 

Upon graduation, Mr. Bezan gained employment as Animal Health Foreman at the Red River Feed Lot in Sanford, MB. He continued to use the expertise he gained at Olds College in the cattle industry throughout the 1980’s and into the 1990’s, when he opened up his own company in 1996. Bezan was also an Executive Officer of Manitoba Cattle Producers Association. 

Mr. Bezan was first elected to the House of Commons in 2004, and has been re-elected four more times so far. In that time, he has had a number of important roles,serving as Chair on several Standing Committees, including Agriculture and Agri-Food, Environment and Sustainable Development, and National Defence. Bezan has also served as Vice Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group, is co-founder of the Canadian Parliamentarians for Human Rights and Democracy in Iran, and currently serves as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence 

Thanks to his work, including a private member’s bill that recognized the Soviet-imposed Holodomor forced famine of 1932 - 1933 as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people, James Bezan has received recognitions from a number of Ukrainian and Canadian-Ukranian organizations, including the Ukraine’s highest civilian award, the ‘Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise’, awarded to people who have made a historic contribution on behalf of Ukraine. 

In 2012, Bezan was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal 

“Olds College helped me get my career started” states Bezan. “It was at Olds College where I first began to develop my expertise in agriculture, and the Communication program was key to developing the ability to deal with media and public speaking. My experience at Olds College set me on the course of being active within agricultural organizations and made me advocate in civil society.” 

CAMPAIGN for the Future!
View more information on our Agriculture & Business Programs!

Grant Cantin

Article originally published in our Spring 2015 Horizons issue. 


Horticulture Graduate, 2000

  • Wimbledon’s Deputy Head Groundsman
  • Managing 30 crew members on 45 acres
  • Pinacle of Sports Turf

The Wimbledon Championships is not only the oldest tennis tournament in the world, but arguably the most prestigious as well. Wimbledon is the home of tennis, having been on the same site since 1922. As such a prestigious site, it is crucial for the grounds to be perfect at all times. This is where Olds College alumnus Grant Cantin comes in. 

As Deputy Head Groundsman at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, the home of Wimbledon, Cantin runs the crew of 30 groundskeepers on a day to day basis. Every day is different at the All England Club, so everyone has to be flexible and prepared to tackle new problems. Cantin is currently training a groundskeeper to be the Irrigation Engineer, a position that Grant himself held for 7 years. With 41 grass courts and a 45 acre site that is fully landscaped, it is essential that the irrigation system runs smoothly. 

The courts are reseeded at this time of year, so Cantin and his team shave off all of the grass, bringing the ground back to soil, so they can re-grow everything again. Installing new grass every year ensures that the rye grass courts remain in pristine condition, with no Poa Annua (annual meadow grass) or other invasive grasses taking root in the courts. It is an incredible amount of work, but the players, members and groundstaff all expect perfection. 

“My Olds College experience was great, it got the ball rolling in my golf career and now has lead me to Wimbledon, the pinnacle for sports turf in my opinion”, explains Cantin. “Everyone knows what Wimbledon is and the rich history it holds. I never thought I would end up in tennis but Olds College and golf got me started.” 

The Olds College Turfgrass Management program helped Grant Cantin realize that there is a lot more than people realize that goes into any grass surface, golf, tennis, or even the grass in a park. 

“The soils, grass species, growing environment, fertilizers, irrigation, pests and weather all play major roles in your end product,” explains Cantin. “Turf Management is a science nowadays, and a lot more goes into it than people think. An education is the first stepping stone to becoming involved in a turf career.” 

When asked about what it is like to work in such a prestigious environment, Cantin explains the real motivation. “Our Grounds staff have won a few awards over the years, but that is just a trophy. When people like Roger Federer or Andy Murray tell us that the courts are beautiful and perfect and to keep up the good work, that is our trophy. I have been here for 13 years, and I still love coming to work every day.” 

GROW Strong!
View more information on our Horticulture & Turfgrass Programs!

Cheri Milaney

Article originally published in our Spring 2015 Horizons issue. 


Fashion Graduate, 1990

  • Award Winning Designer
  • International High Fashion Runways
  • Collections for Fashion Week

In the competitive industry of high fashion, Olds College alum Cheri Milaney has managed to become an award winning industry leader with a strong reputation as a world class designer. She is known for being one of the first designers to showcase real women and not standard models in an international runway show, as well as a creator of jewellery and Italian perfumes. 

While Milaney’s inspiration is heavily influenced by Italian style, she gives a great deal of credit for her success to the skills she developed while a student in the Olds College Fashion Merchandising and Production program. From 1989 through 1991, Milaney’s hard work and dedication, both in class and as President of the Students’ Association, helped instil both the confidence and skill set to achieve her dream of becoming a high fashion designer. 

“My training at Olds College helped me to process my skills and gain the experience I needed to start my own business.” states Milaney. “It was one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life. We were like a big family.” 

Cheri Milaney is based out of the United Kingdom, and has been developing and marketing her collection of clothing for fifteen years. She has expanded to include Italian made perfume that she sells to boutiques. In addition to being responsible for all the design and overseeing the production of all of her products, Cheri takes charge of business decisions, including sourcing international factories for her products, and recently expanding and selling her collection in the Italian, Russian and Middle Eastern market sectors. 

Milaney often travels to Italy both for inspiration and trend research. She has been granted an award from the Matinee Fashion Foundation, and has participated in International Fashion Shows including the Winter Olympics in Turino, Italy, Ningbo, China, Vancouver Fashion Week and Toronto Fashion Week. Cheri Milaney has become a fixture in the fashion industry, and a reflection of what every Olds College student can accomplish with the right mix of hard work, inspiration, and skill. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION on Cheri Milaney and her products, please visit www.cherimilaney.com

View more information on our Fashion & Apparel Programs!

Omar Moreno

Article originally published in our Spring 2015 Horizons issue. 


Exercise Rider & Jockey Graduate, 2007

  • Award Winning Jockey
  • Hundreds of wins, thousands of races
  • Millions earned in purse money

Award winning jockey Omar Moreno, a graduate of the Olds College Jockey and Exercise Rider program, has ridden in thousands of races, winning hundreds of them, but like most students, when he first arrived at Olds College, he was not sure of himself. 

“I remember feeling that I would never learn to ride,” remembers Moreno. “But the teachers supportive encouragement is what kept me going. I am thankful for it everyday.” 

Moreno remembers Olds College as, “one of the most fun and exciting experiences I’ve had in my life (that) took me from my comfortable environment and gave me something new and fun.” 

Moreno has taken his Olds College experience, and turned it into a very successful career as a jockey. Now in his fourth year at Woodbine Racetrack in Ontario, Moreno spends his time racing horses for different owners and trainers, ensuring that he gives every horse he rides the best chance to win, and ensuring that each horse has a safe trip around the wire. As a jockey, Moreno is self employed, and rides for different owners. 

“Olds College was the most important stepping stone for me and my thoroughbred racing career.” states Moreno. “Olds gave me the skills and confidence I needed to become an Eclipse Award winning jockey. To this day I still refer to the methods they taught me.” 

Moreno also won the 2009 and 2010 Sovereign Awards for Canadian Apprentice Jockey of the Year. 

RACE AHEAD of the pack!
View more information on our Exercise Rider & Jockey Training Program!