For five years, Don served pastorates in Melita and Russell before joining Brandon University. There he was instrumental in the establishment of innovative and effective teacher training programs designed to increase the number of Aboriginal teachers in Manitoba. Don served as director of the Indian-Metis Project for Action in Careers through Teacher Education (IMPACT), and director of the Brandon University Northern Teacher Education Project (BUNTEP). He subsequently joined Red River College as Dean of Aboriginal Education and Institutional Diversity.
Don's commitment to education and community development has been nearly boundless. Over the years, he has taken on an incredible number of appointments and duties, many of a voluntary nature. He has been an energetic coordinator and liaison officer for dozens of community projects throughout the province where he worked closely with Aboriginal Elders and so developed a high regard for their strength, wisdom, and humility. He served as coordinator of program support services and education for the Core Area Training and Employment Agency in Winnipeg. Don also served as director of education for the Island Lake Tribal Council, and he did sterling service as Executive Director of the First Nations Education Resource Centre.
In 1999, Don was appointed Chair of the Council on Post-Secondary Education (COPSE) which post he occupied for eight years with great distinction. Don played an important role in the enormous expansion of Manitoba’s colleges and universities during those years. Dozens of new academic programs were established; significantly more students enrolled and graduated than ever before; pure and applied research flourished; and colleges and universities engaged more effectively with communities in Manitoba, Canada, and throughout the world.
Perhaps Don's greatest achievement during those years was the establishment of the University College of the North (UCN). During one crucial year in the development of UCN, Don stepped down as Chair of COPSE and took on the task of chairing the UCN implementation team. Displaying enormous tact, steely determination, and unfailing good humour, Don mobilized public and private support for UCN; he helped devise the College's distinctive governance structure; and he played an instrumental role in defining and shaping the academic mission of UCN.
Don Robertson has dedicated his life to the betterment of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike through education at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels. His outstanding leadership in education over many decades has been celebrated through many awards and prizes, including a Doctor of Education (honoris causa) from Brandon University in 1992, the Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, and the Order of Manitoba in 2004. Perhaps more important than formal awards, Don has won the admiration and warm affection of untold thousands who have benefited from his insight, his hard work, and his strong advocacy.
-citation delivered by Dr. Richard Lobdell, Vice-Provost (Programs)