He was once described by a student, as being the best computer teacher in all of Canada.
Doug van Vianen has enjoyed spending his working and retirement years, teaching others how to use the computer.
Doug grew up in Penticton and completed 13 years of schooling at Pen High. Having good marks his parents were willing to pay for him to go to university. His sister, thinking their parents couldn’t really afford to do that, suggested to him that he join the Canadian Air Force and get his university education through them.
“I joined the Regular Officer Training Program, which was a plan where you went to university and took your courses and then in the summer you took Air Force courses,” van Vianen said. “Second only to meeting my wife, Wendy and marrying her, it was the best decision I ever made.”
Through this plan van Vianen’s tuition and books were paid for.
He also received a monthly cheque from the Air Force, while attending the University of British Columbia, where he was studying math and physics. In the summer he took electronic and computer courses at the Clinton Air Force Base in Ontario.
“I wrote my first computer program in 1958. You can imagine what the computer looked like then,” van Vianen said.
“The Air Force was using them for Norad, tracking airliners and bombers.”
After graduating from UBC and receiving his commission as an officer in the Air Force, van Vianen was sent to National Defense Headquarters where he did research and wrote papers on such things as anti-submarine warfare and how to rendezvous satellites using computers.
After serving the required three years in the Air Force, van Vianen decided to leave in order to pursue a career in teaching.
“I always liked teaching,” he explained. “Even as a kid I played school and in high school I was in the Future Teachers Club.”
He took a position at the Northern Ontario Institute of Technology, in Kirkland Lake, Ontario.
“I thought to myself, I’m a bachelor so I can stand a year up there with no problem. I ended up staying for thirty three years!” van Vianen said laughingly.
Although he was teaching math, electronics and physics, he continually pushed the college to offer computer courses. He ended up creating the computer studies department and eventually became the Dean of Computer Studies for the whole Northern College, which included five campuses.
It was on one of his trips to Toronto that van Vianen met his wife Wendy, who coincidently had been born and raised in Kirkland Lake.
They were married in 1970 and resided in the small mining town until van Vianen retired from the College in 1996.
Shortly thereafter the van Vianens decided to return to the warmer climate of the Okanagan, where Doug had been raised and still had family.
After settling in Summerland, van Vianen started teaching computer courses at the Okanagan University College part-time and did so for almost four years. He also served on the College Advisory Board.
It was around the same time that the Penticton Retirement Centre, where van Vianen’s parents resided, started the Penticton Senior’s Computer Club.
“Because I liked teaching and also appreciated how much my parents liked the place, I joined as a volunteer instructor,” van Vianen said.
The computer club proved to be very popular and drew people from all over the Okanagan, including many from Summerland. Many courses were offered to teach seniors how to use computers.
“This week Doug retired from there,” explained Wendy van Vianen.
“He’s gone there and taught every Wednesday for 19 years.”
Doug van Vianen explained that the computer club was now closing down.
“Student numbers were dropping. People don’t want formal courses on computers now,” he said.
“They want short courses on smart phones, iPads and tablets. We were also having a harder time getting volunteer instructors.”
It was his love of teaching and the people who wanted to learn that kept Doug motivated to keep volunteering through the years.
His wife Wendy van Vianen felt he should be recognized for his service and said,
“I think it’s so nice that he’s introduced so many people to computers, thousands really, and they sensed his love of computers so it was kind of contagious.”
If you know a positive story about someone in our community, contact Carla McLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Summerland Review newsroom at 250-494-5406.