Editor’s Note: The following text appeared in the Algonquin College convocation program. 

For more than 50 years, Carl Nicholson has been a man with a mission. In his own words, “I’m driven to build a better world.”

By any standard, he has been highly successful in this task. Best known since 1994 as the Executive Director of the Catholic Centre for Immigrants Ottawa, Carl guides an agency helping thousands of immigrants and refugees each year.

But the mission doesn’t end there. Carl has been a tireless advocate for several not-for-profit and immigrant services organizations, often helping to found, lead or chair them. He is, for instance, a founder and member of Local Agencies Serving Immigrants. He has sat on boards, committees and advisory panels of many agencies and advocacy groups, including the Capital Community Credit Union, Local Agencies Serving Immigrants, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, the Community and Police Action Committee, The Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership Council, the Canadian Border Services Agency Advisory Committee, the Executive Committee of the Human Resources Council for the Voluntary Sector, the Ottawa Police Services Board, and the National Settlement Council and the Advisory Committee for the Deputy Minister with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Carl’s sense of service came with him to Canada from Jamaica when he emigrated as young man in 1966. He was soon hired by CUSO, Canadian University Students Overseas, to place volunteers and coordinate aid projects – everything from drilling water wells to teaching modern farming techniques – in places like Togo, Nigeria, and Ghana, working either in the country or from home base in Ottawa. He still has ties to Africa through his volunteer participation in Watercan, which delivers clean water and hygiene to three east African countries.

This work has not gone unrecognized. Carl has received numerous honours for his efforts to build a better world. To mention a few: In 2004, he was given the “Investing in People Award” by the Community Foundation of Ottawa. That same year, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa awarded him its Diocesan Order of Merit. The National Institute of Jamaican Canadians presented him with its Lignum Vitae award in 2007. in 2011, he received the Ottawa Community Leadership Award in honour of Martin Luther King from the Dream Keepers organization. More recently, he was invested with the Order of Ottawa by the City of Ottawa.

Carl credits his parents and his Christian heritage for instilling his sense of duty. “I learned from my parents that there is pleasure in causing good things to happen for others.”

If there is one lesson Carl would like us to take away from this Convocation ceremony, it is one his parents taught him: “Helping people is a joy.”

Carl was awarded his honorary degree on June 19.