Lethbridge College is celebrating the success of four outstanding alumni with the 2024 Honouring Excellence Awards.

Honorees this year include Distinguished Alumni Heidi Gravelle (Bachelor of Applied Arts – Correctional Studies 2005); Career Virtuoso Leta Pezderic (Fish and Wildlife Technology 2003, Renewable Resource Management 2002); Community Leader JP Gentile (Recreation Management 1996) and Rising Star Bryan Pachal (Massage Therapy 2018).

“It is such a pleasure, year after year, to celebrate the remarkable people who got their start at Lethbridge College and who are now doing amazing things in their communities,” says Kathy Veres Sassa, chair of the college’s Alumni Advisory Council. “Our alumni community is certainly something special, and this year’s Honouring Excellence award winners are a wonderful representation of it. We look forward to recognizing Heidi, Leta, JP and Bryan, and all of their accomplishments, in April.”

The college and broader community will celebrate the achievements of the 2024 recipients at an Honouring Excellence recognition event to take place at 6 p.m. April 18 at Lethbridge College. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the Honouring Excellence website.

This event is made possible by affinity program partner TD Insurance, who has been a valuable supporter of Lethbridge College alumni for more than 10 years.

The Distinguished Alumni award was established in 1992 to commemorate the college’s 35th anniversary, while the other three alumni awards were created in 2007 to commemorate the college’s 50th anniversary.

For more information, visit or email [email protected].


A woman wearing glasses, smiling

Distinguished Alumni: Heidi Gravelle (Bachelor of Applied Arts – Correctional Studies 2005)

From completing her degree at Lethbridge College – while raising her family as a single parent – to leading her community as Chief of the Tobacco Plains Indian Band (Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it), Heidi Gravelle has never let adversity stand in the way of her personal growth and service to her community.

Outspoken, compassionate, and committed to the wellbeing of vulnerable children, Gravelle worked extensively with social agencies in Lethbridge, Saskatoon and British Columbia. Despite suffering her own hardships, she was an unwavering supporter and empathetic listener to families and children affected by trauma and addiction.

While completing her Bachelor of Applied Arts – Correctional Studies degree, Gravelle worked in a specialized parenthood home mentoring four Indigenous children. This experience sparked her passion for working with youth, and after graduating from Lethbridge College, Gravelle continued on this path, becoming a voice for many who had been silenced.

Desiring a better life for herself and her three sons, Gravelle moved to Saskatoon and became executive director of the White Buffalo Youth Lodge, serving Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth in the city. In a few short years, Gravelle turned the underfunded and in-debt organization around, to where it was fully funded and employed three staff members. While in this position, she also completed a certificate in professional directorship, a credential that would serve her well in the next stage of her career.

Feeling a pull to return home to her community in Tobacco Plains, Gravelle made the move in 2018 and became director of Health, Wellness and Community Services – a portfolio that involved identifying health, education and social priorities for on- and off-reserve members.

In 2019, she followed in the footsteps of her grandmother, Elizabeth Gravelle – the first female First Nations Chief to be elected in Canada – and became Chief herself. She was re-elected in 2023.

Gravelle is leading the way for her community and taking unprecedented steps toward self-governance for the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it First Nation, not because she has to, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Through her ability to understand the trauma and lateral violence that exists in First Nations communities as a result of colonization, Gravelle leads by ensuring her priority remains consistent - improving the lives of her people. She finds paths to wellness and re-connection to traditional customs by spending time outdoors, and she is a strategic and driving force toward advancing the rights and interests of the Tobacco Plains Band and its territory. She is also a proud grandmother, a role that fills her with gratitude.

For all of these reasons and more, Gravelle has been named this year’s Distinguished Alumni.


a woman standing in a hallway, smiling

Career Virtuoso: Leta Pezderic (Fish and Wildlife Technology 2003, Renewable Resource Management 2002)

Leta Pezderic is passionate about all things nature.

She grew up in Claresholm, Alta., and moved to Lethbridge to pursue her post-secondary education. Currently, Pezderic and her husband reside north of Coaldale in the coulees along the Oldman River, where they are raising their three boys (and her many beloved chickens).

As the Grassland Stewardship manager for the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC) Alberta Region, she has been pivotal in supporting NCC’s initiatives, particularly in conserving and stewarding Alberta’s grasslands. Noteworthy contributions include educating and bringing awareness to the importance of conserving nature, developing and implementing innovative Stewardship Credit programs, mentoring new Natural Area managers and coordinators, and supporting and collaborating with ranchers and partners. Most recently, she was instrumental in facilitating a conservation easement for the 55,000-acre McIntyre Ranch located south of Lethbridge, which has been the largest private conservation initiative in the Canadian Prairies.

Pezderic has a diploma in Renewable Resource Management and a certificate in Fish and Wildlife Technology from Lethbridge College, as well as a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Lethbridge. While attending school, she spent her summers working for Parks Canada in Waterton Lakes National Park. After graduating, she worked at Cows and Fish, Lethbridge College and Alberta Environment. She spent seven years with the Oldman Watershed Council before joining NCC in 2015.

This Career Virtuoso has also supported Lethbridge College in a number of ways since graduating. She has been a member of the college’s Environmental Science Advisory Committee since 2019, a guest lecturer for college classes and field trips, and a guest presenter for the campus chapter of The Wildlife Society.

She is rarely without her camera and loves to capture nature’s beauty through photography. Her photographs of wildlife and landscapes are featured in many conservation organizations’ promotional materials, supporting the mission to protect our natural habitat. Her work can be found online under River Run Photography.

Throughout her professional career, Pezderic has garnered the respect and admiration of colleagues and clients, while demonstrating effective teamwork, leadership and a commitment to local ecosystem conservation. Her excitement in what she does is infectious, and she inspires others by sharing her extensive knowledge with them. She says she speaks for the soils, plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects – everything that inhabits the disappearing habitat that she strives to conserve. 


a man standing in a hallway smiling

Community Leader: JP Gentile (Recreation Management 1996)

JP Gentile has been a familiar face at Lethbridge College for more than 27 years.

After completing his Recreation Management practicum hours in the campus recreation office, Gentile was hired on as an assistant. One year later, he was promoted to the coordinator position, and after that – campus recreation manager, a role he still holds today.

Gentile, a former Kodiaks soccer player, also helped coach the men’s team for 10 years following graduation.

In his role as campus recreation manager, Gentile provides recreation opportunities for students that include sports leagues, tournaments, drop-in activities and planned activities like skydiving, dance lessons, ski trips and more. He also partners with Be Fit for Life to offer students discounted fitness classes. And, most recently, in response to the increased number of international students from India, Gentile created a cricket league and became known as the Cricket League Commissioner.

Gentile has also led initiatives outside of campus recreation, including the coordination of last spring’s Canstruction event, spearheading the Lethbridge College Students’ Association clothing drives, and organizing a student-run concession for Kodiaks games.

He is always willing to help students, however and wherever he can, whether that means serving pancakes, running information booths, being a confidant and support system or boosting vehicles in cold weather. Gentile is an advocate for Lethbridge College students and does his best to make sure they have a fun, well-rounded college experience.

Over the years, Gentile has also made connections with various community organizations including the Lethbridge Hurricanes, ENMAX Centre, Castle Mountain, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden to negotiate ticket prices so he can subsidize some of the cost of tickets to events for students.

It’s because of Gentile’s commitment and dedication to the success of students, the LCSA and the college as a whole that he is receiving the Community Leader award.


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Rising Star: Bryan Pachal (Massage Therapy 2018)

Bryan Pachal embodies the spirit of innovation and dedication in the realm of health and wellness. As founder of Effect Therapy Health Centre in Lethbridge, Pachal has pioneered a comprehensive approach to health care in establishing the largest complementary health clinic in the area.

Pachal’s journey began with a solid foundation in business administration from the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, B.C., followed by studies in business marketing and finance at the University of Northern British Columbia. However, it was his passion for holistic health that led him to pursue and complete the Massage Therapy diploma program at Lethbridge College, which laid the groundwork for his future endeavours.

Immediately after graduation, Pachal’s entrepreneurial spirit drove him to establish Effect Therapy Health Centre, which has since expanded from a standalone three-treatment-room massage therapy clinic to a twelve-treatment-room health centre. Effect Therapy offers a wide range of services including massage therapy, acupuncture, physiotherapy and registered psychology. Pachal also has plans to grow the centre further, by including chiropractic care and a host of health-education programing for all clients serviced at Effect Therapy.

Over the years, Pachal has focused on business development, fostering community relationships and enhancing client experiences. His commitment to education and growth is evident in his recruitment of graduates and the integration of practicum placements for Lethbridge College students. Pachal is also a member of the Massage Therapist Association of Alberta, and previously served as committee chair.

As Pachal leads Effect Therapy with a focus on innovation, collaboration and the delivery of holistic care, while embodying the principles of leadership and commitment for the betterment of his community, he is every bit the definition of a Rising Star.