The Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation logo

Board of Directors

Our Board is comprised of a group of individuals who are passionate about increasing the number of First Nations, M├ętis and Inuit students graduating from science and engineering programs in Canada, putting in countless hours to achieve our goal.

Verna J. Kirkness

Honorary Chair

A lifelong advocate of Indigenous education, Verna Kirkness created new learning opportunities for Canada’s Indigenous people through her work as a teacher, counselor, consultant and professor. As the first education director for what is now the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Assembly of First Nations, she played a pivotal role in the development of the MIBs position paper, Wahbung: Our Tomorrows and the 1972 landmark policy of Indian Control of Indian Education. As a professor at the University of British Columbia, she worked to extend new programs, support services and cultural enrichment to Indigenous students. Verna has written and edited eight books and is published extensively in academic journals. She has received numerous awards, including the Order of Canada in 1998.

Tony Williams, B.Sc. (Hon), FCIA, FSA

Board Chair and President

Tony is an Alumni of the University of Manitoba where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Mathematics (1977). He is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries. He is a founder and former president of PBI Actuarial Consultants, Ltd. with head office in Vancouver. Prior to retiring in 2016, he provided actuarial and consulting advice to organizations in the private sector and public sector across Canada. His clients included First Nations, whom he advised regarding risk and investment management of their land claims settlement funds and other financial issues.

Tony is a member of the UofM Faculty of Science Dean’s External Advisory Board and the UofM Alumni Council. He is donor and volunteer for several organizations focussed on Indigenous Science and justice. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the UofM WAWATAY Program for Indigenous Science students. He is also a volunteer and donor for the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network (WISN) of Lahaina, HI and the WISN Indigenous Science and Peace Studies Program (ISPS) at the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica.

Tyson MacGillivray

Board Vice Chair

Mr. MacGillivray is a resident of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He received his BSc. from St. Francis Xavier University in 1996. Tyson is the Area 3 Superintendent of the Frontier School Division. Prior to this, he was a teacher, vice-principal and a principal in the Shamattawa Education Authority. He chairs the School Advisory Committee for the Foundation and was also instrumental in the recruitment of Program participants from Winnipeg high schools.

Dr. Mark Whitmore, PhD

Board Vice President

Dr. Whitmore holds degrees in Mathematics and Physics from McMaster University. He was a faculty member at Memorial University of Newfoundland from 1977 to 2014, where he also held a variety of academic administrative positions. He moved to the University of Manitoba in 2014 for a ten-year term as Dean of Science, during which he became a strong supporter of The Verna J. Kirkness program. Following the completion of his term as Dean, he led the Faculty of Science Indigenous Achievement Initiative for three years until his retirement and move to Blind River, Ontario. He served on a number of boards of directors during his career, and has recently joined the North Shore Health Network Board of Trustees in northern Ontario.

Patrick Lauzon, BSc., APMR

Board Vice President

Mr. Lauzon is a resident of White Rock, British Columbia. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree from UBC in 1978 and did advanced studies at Simon Fraser University. From 1981 to 2010 he held a range of positions in a number of therapeutic areas within Merck Canada. In 2001 he was appointed Manager for Corporate Affairs and Policy in BC with responsibility for liaison with the academic health research community, the business and biotechnology sector, patient and disease advocacy groups, and the BC Government.

Dede Derose, M.Ed., B.Ed.

Board Secretary

DeDe was British Columbia’s first Superintendent of Aboriginal Achievement, and is a prominent advocate for Aboriginal student success. Born in Williams Lake to a Secwepempc family and as a member of the Esketemc First Nation, DeRose graduated from UBC’s Indigenous Teacher’s Education Program (NITEP) with a Bachelor of Education in 1981. She also earned a Diploma in Education in 1990, and completed the UBC Ts”kel Master’s Program in 1993. DeRose taught in the Cariboo Chilcotin School District for nine years, and then served as principal for various elementary schools in the Kamloops/Thompson School District for nearly two decades. In 2012, DeRose was appointed to the BC Ministry of Education as the first ever Superintendent of Aboriginal Achievement. The position was created to improve the rates of high-school graduation for Aboriginal youth, which is on average 30% lower than non-Aboriginal students.

Dr. Annemieke Farenhorst, Ph.D.

Board Member

Dr. Annemieke Farenhorst is a Professor of Soil Science and the Associate Vice-President Research at the Univ. Manitoba. She holds a Doctorandus in Physical Geography and Soil Science from the Univ. Amsterdam and a Doctoral degree in Geography from the Univ. Toronto. Dr. Farenhorst was the Prairie NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering from 2011-20, and directed the NSERC CREATE H2O program for First Nations Water and Sanitation Security from 2013-19. Previously, from 2005-14, she also led a large network to advance food security for small-scale farmers in Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua. Dr. Farenhorst has been recognized for her professional contributions through a range of awards including being a 2016 WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women award winner.

Laura Buller, B.A., B.Ed.

Board Member

Laura Buller graduated in 2014 with her Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Winnipeg’s Community-based Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (CATEP). She is currently a high school support teacher in the Winnipeg School Division, working in a program that builds foundational relationships with students and supports both their academic and social-emotional needs. She mentors Indigenous students enrolled in a teacher development program as they transition to post-secondary education. Through her advocacy for Indigenous students in the classroom and throughout the community, she has received awards such as the Premier’s Award for Excellence in Education and Indspire’s Guiding the Journey: Indigenous Educator Award as a role model. 


The Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation logo

To increase the number of Indigenous students graduating from pure and applied science, engineering, and mathematics programs in Canada. Charity Registration #822843629 RR 0001

Picture of student in a lab with a microscope behind them.

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 1681
Cochrane, AB T4C 1B6

Toll-Free: 1-888-647-1701

Office: (587) 814-0444

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