Past Recipients

In 1957, the first KW Citizen of the Year Award was presented to a businessman and one of the University of Waterloo principal founders Mr Ira Needles. Identifying a resident from the Kitchener and Waterloo area to receive this esteemed honour was carried out by the Twin City Jaycees for another 49 years. The list of past recipients is located under the “History” tab of this section of our website. In 2007 the Lions Club of Kitchener was asked to continue this tradition and the club received many nominations in their first year with Mr. Dennis Watson being chosen. So we continue this gala event with the help of various sponsors and assistance from the community to recognize deserving citizens.

KW Citizen of the Year 2015

Neil Aitchison

“Community service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy,” is a phrase often shared by the 2015 Citizen of the Year for Kitchener-Waterloo – Neil Aitchison. The local celebrity received close to 20 letters of support from key leaders in the community.

“I am truly humbled and honoured to be the recipient of this prestigious award,” shares Neil. “I love K-W and it has been an incredible privilege to live in and serve this community.”

Neil began his community involvement over 40 years ago. With his deep, recognizable voice and quick wit he is often sought after to emcee events. Along with being a founding member of the Kitchener Westmount Rotary Club, his numerous volunteer roles have included the K-W Symphony, K-W Musical Productions, Gilbert & Sullivan Society, RAISE Home Support, Waterloo Regional Police Service, Twin City Harmonizers, the Working Centre and K-W Oktoberfest.

Neil’s many contributions have not gone unnoticed and over the years he has received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award, Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award and the Waterloo Award. Neil has also been honoured three times with the Paul Harris Fellow – Rotary’s highest award for community service.

The self-described first graduate of Conestoga College (alphabetically), Neil has two scholarships in his name and served for seven years as a Board Governor.

His significant contributions to the arts sector through his dedication to Drayton Entertainment as a founding Board member, employee, performer and volunteer has greatly impacted the arts communities in both Waterloo Region and Wellington County.

“Neil has contributed a lifetime of public service and has made an incredible impact in our community and around the country,” shares Dr. Jack Bishop, Citizen of the Year Committee Chair. “The Lions Club of Kitchener is pleased to pay tribute to this remarkable community champion.”

KW Citizen of the Year 2014

Dr. Walter McLean

The Honorable Reverend Dr. Walter McLean, former Member of Parliament (MP), past Secretary of State of Canada, long serving Rotarian, delegate to the United Nations, Knox Presbyterian Minister, humanitarian, local community leader and mentor has been selected as the 2014 Citizen of the Year for Kitchener-Waterloo. Reverend McLean received more than 28 letters of support from key leaders in the community.

“It has been an incredible privilege to serve my country and my community,” shares Walter. “I am both humbled and honoured to be recognized as this year’s Citizen of the Year.”

The past Canadian Secretary of State has led an exemplary life, with a record of service beyond compare. Locally, his contributions include initiating the University of Waterloo’s Canada Day celebrations, starting a grief counselling service and hospital chaplaincy program and serving on advisory boards for KW Oktoberfest, Big Sisters, Wilfrid Laurier University and Habitat for Humanity to name but a few.

Walter’s work and tireless commitment to Waterloo Region and the countless hours he has devoted to organizations home and abroad for 60 years has provided significant global exposure for our community.

 

KW Citizen of the Year 2013

Elizabeth Witmer


For more than 30 years, Elizabeth served the K-W community as a school board trustee and as an MPP for Waterloo North and Kitchener-Waterloo. She is a former Deputy Premier and held several cabinet posts as Minister of Labour, Minister of Health and Long-term care, Minister of Environment and Minister of Education. During her time as Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Elizabeth helped to establish the Cardiac Care Centre at St. Mary’s Hospital and the Regional Cancer Centre at Grand River Hospital – both impressive additions of much needed and vital healthcare services in our community.

She is the longest serving female MPP and is now Chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board – helping the organization improve the quality of service it provides to Ontario workers and employers.

Known as having a heart for public service and caring deeply for those around her, Elizabeth continues to offer advice, friendship and mentorship to others – locally, nationally and internationally.

KW Citizen of the Year 2012

Jim Erb

Bienkowski_Steve34429.jpg

Jim Erb, local businessman, philanthropist, community leader, loving father, husband and adoring grandfather, has been selected as the 2012 Citizen of the Year for Kitchener-Waterloo!

Devoted to his career in funeral service, Jim has served many individuals and families where his authenticity and compassion has been felt during extreme times of need. Over the past four decades, Jim has made enormous contributions of time and talent to our community as a city of Waterloo councillor, committed church contributor and a member of the Kitchener-Conestoga Rotary Club where he has lead projects like the annual Turkey Drive and Rotary Dream Home. A passionate community builder, Jim’s generosity and giving spirit has also been felt by a number of organizations including the United Way of Kitchener-Waterloo, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, Kitchener Waterloo Council of Churches, Centre for Family Business, Wellesley Apple and Cheese Butter Festival, The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation, Shalom Counselling Services, and the KidsAbility Foundation.

Most recently, Jim Erb’s tireless dedication and love for our community was recognized when he received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and at the 2013 Greater KW Chamber of Commerce’s Business Excellence Awards when he was honoured with the Michael R. Follet Community Leader of the Year Award.

“Jim has made an incredible impact in our community and is such a deserving individual,” shares Dr. Jack Bishop, Citizen of the Year Committee Chair. “The Lions Club of Kitchener is pleased to pay tribute to this remarkable community leader.”

 

KW Citizen of the Year 2011

Steve Bienkowski

Bienkowski_Steve34429.jpgChief Operating Officer (COO) for the Kitchener Rangers was selected as the 2011 Citizen of the Year. His professional and business acumen combined with his enthusiasm for the sport has helped guide the Kitchener Rangers leadership team through successful operational and organizational transformation. Under Steve’s direction, the Kitchener Rangers have both won and hosted the coveted Memorial Cup. He has brought a strong community focus to the hockey club that has resulted in generous corporate sponsorships and donations to a number of charitable and non profit organizations including: St. John Ambulance, Kitchener Sports Association, Children’s Wish Foundation, Kitchener Minor Hockey Association, House of Friendship, Kitchener Panthers Baseball Club, Waterloo Region Food Bank, THEMUSEUM, Waterloo Regional Boxing Academy, and the Royal Highland Fusiliers. In recognition of his many years of volunteer service to St. John Ambulance, Steve was honoured with the Order of St. John from the Governor General of Canada.

KW Citizen of the Year 2010

Mike Collins

IMG_9000_high_res_for_printing.jpgThe General Manager of the Rogers Radio Group, was selected as the 2010 Citizen of the Year. A natural-born broadcaster, Mike has worked in the media industry for close to 22 years. Most of his career has been devoted to CHYM FM and 570 News as Sales Manager, Promotions Manager, and since 2005 as General Manager. He has sat on numerous boards, councils, and committees of organizations including Mosaic Counseling and Family Services, KidsAbility, Conestoga College, K-W Oktoberfest, YMCA, and is an active member of St. Jerome’s Parish and the Kitchener-Westmount Rotary Club. Mike was recently awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship Award, the highest honour a Rotarian can receive. He is also a recipient of the Melvin Jones Fellowship from Lions Clubs International for his community dedication.

 

 

K-W Citizen of the Year 2009

Rosemary Smith

IMG_0280_Rosemary-2.jpgAwarded the 2009 Citizen of the Year grew up in Owen Sound and developed a strong spirit of community involvement. She first became a resident of Kitchener-Waterloo in 1970. Rosemary joined The Mutual Life of Canada (now Sun Life) in 1971 thus began a very successful thirty year career. By the time Rosemary was chosen to lead the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation in 2001, she had created a track record of connecting with her community by way of: The Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, Recipient of the YWCA’s Woman of Distinction Award for Business (2000), Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, The United Way Volunteer, Founder, Cambridge Women in Networking, K-W Women in Networking, K-W YWCA, Steering Committee, Leadership Waterloo Region and Member, Zonta Club of Kitchener-Waterloo, Steering Committee, Waterloo Region Immigrant Employment Network and Leadership Roundtable, Opportunities Waterloo Region.

 

K-W Citizen of the Year 2008

Mac Voisin

COY_Mac.jpgSelected as the Citizen of the year on 2008. He founded M&M Meat Shops in 1980 and it has become one of Canada’s most successful franchise operations. Born and raised in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Mac’s philosophy of “Act Big Even when you’re medium” has driven the M&M chain’s remarkable growth and its fundamental focus of giving back to the community. Mr. Voisin always finds time to assist the local Food Bank, Junior Achievement, and the St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation. He also serves as the Honourary Chairperson for the Local Chapter of the CCFC. Mac actively supports local philanthropic projects, including The Canadian Veteran’s Memorial in Waterloo, Canada’s first multi-dimensional tribute to veterans; and Waterloo Region Mission Services, Charles Street Campus, Southern Ontario’s first addictions treatment centre focusing on youth.

 

 

K-W Citizen of the Year 2007

Dennis Watson

dwatson.jpgVice President & General Manager, CTV Southwestern Ontario. Some of Dennis Watson’s contributions to our region include his work with Junior Achievement of the Waterloo Region Inc, Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation, Centre in the Square, Skills Canada, The United Way, Chamber of Commerce, Conestoga College, Cambridge Memorial Hospital and the list continues.

 

 

 

 

 

Citizen of the Year History

1957 Mr. Ira Needles

1958 Mr. Hugh J. Heasley

1959 Mr. Ewan Cameron

1960 Mr. Gordon Hamblin

1961 Mr. Donald Roberts

1962 Dr. Joseph Connell

1963 Mrs. Mabel Krug

1964 Mr. Alvin Kaufman

1965 Mr. Arthur W. Sandrock

1966 Mrs. Edith MacIntosh

1967 Dr. Walter Downer

1968 Dr. J. Gerald Hagey

1969 Dr. Finlay G. Stewart

1970 Mr. Vincent L. Scherrer

1971 Mr. William Cowls

1972 Mr. Walter Bean

1973 Mrs. Elaine Cole

1974 Mr. William P. Pernfuss

1975 Mr. Jack Harper

1976 Mr. Russ Buie

1977 His Honour Judge Ross Fair

1978 Mr. Charles Greb

1979 Mr. Owen Lackenbauer

1980 Mr. F. Clay Hall

1981 Mr. William E. Renaud

1982 Mr. Frank Hoddle

1983 Mr. Don Weber

1984 Dr. Jack D. Bishop

1985 Mr. Murray J. Haase

1986 Mr. James Beingessner

1987 Mr. James F. Robertson

1988 Mr. Edward J. Hayes

1989 Mr. Bob Wagner

1990 Mr. David E. Graham

1991 Mrs. Betty Thompson-Bauman

1992 Mrs. Susan Harkins

1993 Mrs. Elaine Rees

1994 Mr. Don Craig

1995 Mrs. Barbara Cochrane

1996 Mrs. Jacqui McFarlane

1997 Mr. Don Willcox

1998 Ms. Mary D’Alton

1999 Mr. Peter Hallman

2000 Mr. Shawky J. Fahel

2001 Mr. Bill Weiler

2002 Mr. Brian Ruby

2003 Mr. Terry Reidel

2004 Mr. Joe & Mrs. Stephanie Mancini

2005 Mr. Tom Jeary

2006 Mr. Tom White

2007 Mr. Dennis Watson

2008 Mr. Mac Voisin

2009 Ms. Rosemary Smith

2010 Mr. Mike Collins

2011 Mr. Steve Bienkowski

2012 Mr. Jim Erb

2013 Ms. Elizabeth Witmer

2014 Dr.Walter McLean

2015 Neil Aitchison