Retired Canadian Air Force Captain Receives Caritas Medal During BPS Commencement

January 31, 2014  |  by Michael Freedman

  • Big Canoe, Maher

    The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Niagara University president, presents the Caritas Medal to retired Capt. Kevin Big Canoe.

  • BPS Commencement
  • BPS Commencement
  • BPS Commencement

Niagara University’s College of Education held its seventh commencement in Ontario on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Toronto Centre for the Arts in North York.

The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University, conferred the degree of bachelor of professional studies in education on 177 graduates during the event.

Click here to view additional photos.

Just moments prior, Caritas Medal recipient Kevin Big Canoe posed a question befitting of a retired Canadian Air Force captain.

“Who is packing your parachute?”

Capt. Big Canoe was channeling the story of Charles Plumb, a highly decorated U.S. Navy captain whose fighter jet was shot down during a Vietnam War combat mission. He spent the next 2,103 days as a prisoner of war in communist war prisons.

After surviving captivity, Capt. Plumb was approached in a Kansas City restaurant by a man who told him that he was the person who packed Capt. Plumb’s parachute prior to that fateful mission. Capt. Plumb has admitted that the encounter left him anxious, wondering if he had ever even said hello to the man who played such a prominent role in his being alive today.

“So,” Capt. Big Canoe asked the graduates, “who do you trust?”

Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day, he insinuated.

Capt. Big Canoe then added, “I am certain many of those people are here tonight, the faculty, your family and friends, those who are with you and helped support and encourage you throughout your endeavors.”

Following Capt. Big Canoe’s remarks, three students who achieved the highest grade point average in their respective fields of study received gold medals. They were David Martin Klacko and Jyoti Kochhar for the primary-junior program, and Melissa Wilson for the intermediate-senior program.

Niagara University, a Catholic and Vincentian university in Lewiston, N.Y., offers a bachelor’s degree in teacher education, with programs in primary-junior and intermediate-senior teacher preparation, at sites in Toronto and York. The university, founded in 1856, has written consent from the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to offer its programs, which are accredited by the Ontario College of Teachers. It has offered education programs in Ontario for more than 30 years.

Further information on Niagara University and its program in Ontario is available at