On the evening of November 22, over 600 members of the Niagara community packed Partridge Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts centre to celebrate the legacy of Niagara College president Dan Patterson and reflect on his accomplishments at a special event hosted by the Niagara College Board of Governors. In May 2019, Patterson announced he would conclude his tenure as president after a 25-year career at the College.
In a surprise presentation, the Niagara College Board of Governors announced that the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus would be proclaimed the Daniel J. Patterson Campus, in recognition of Patterson’s outstanding contributions to the College – which includes the campus’s evolution into one of Canada’s most unique learning environments.
The evening began with an Indigenous welcome by elder Gary Parker and a rousing performance by Chorus Niagara, which led into the first of three themes for the evening – the unrelenting passion and energy Patterson has shown throughout his career. Dr. Bonnie Rose, a former vice president academic at Niagara College and at Niagara University, in Lewiston, NY, and a former member of the college’s Board of Governors, reflected on Patterson’s passion for student success, which has been a prime motivating factor in the college’s transformation into one of Canada’s leading post-secondary institutions.
“Dan’s DNA is always intertwined with that of the college,” said Rose. “He is passionate, trailblazing and welcome. A visionary and exuberant risk-taker, with the discipline and drive to make dreams come true.”
Niagara College’s Student Administrative Council demonstrated in powerful form the lasting impact Patterson’s student-focused approach has had on Niagara College students through the years, as NC alumni from every year of Patterson’s tenure – from 1995 to 2020 – joined together on stage to thank ‘Dr. Dan’ for the many years of support he’s given to students across the College.
The second portion of the evening drew attention to the strong relationships Patterson has built and fostered within the Niagara community and beyond. Linda Franklin, president and CEO of Colleges Ontario, spoke about Patterson’s legacy of advocating for Ontario college system.
Patterson also received several honours that reflected the immense impact his career has had on the economic and social fabric of the Niagara community. St. Catharines mayor Walter Sendzik presented Patterson with the key to the City of St. Catharines, while Niagara-on-the-Lake Lord Mayor Betty Disero, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati and Welland Deputy Mayor Adam Moote each declared November 22 as Dan Patterson Day in their respective communities. Regional Chair Jim Bradley also presented Patterson with a special certificate of recognition.
“The key to the city is presented to individuals who have made outstanding contributions and I can think of no leader more deserving than Dr. Dan Patterson,” stated Mayor Sendzik. “Dan has been a passionate and energetic champion of Niagara. Through his infectious energy and passion, Dan has inspired generations of students, entrepreneurs and local leaders to pursue their dreams. He has left an indelible mark on Niagara College and our entire community. On behalf of the City of St. Catharines, congratulations on a remarkable career. We thank you for your leadership, vision and commitment to Niagara.”
In addition to the distinguished guests who brought greetings to the event, several others who were unable to be present sent video greetings, including Ontario premier Doug Ford, former premiers Kathleen Wynne and Mike Harris, Lt. Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell, and former US ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman, and his partner Vicki.
The final segment of the evening celebrated Patterson’s legacy as a builder, as Dr. Suzanne Johnston, retired president of the Niagara Health System and a member of the Niagara College Board of Governors spoke about Patterson’s identity as a builder of relationships, and his ability to engage with the Niagara community leaders and employers.
John F.T. Scott, Chair of Niagara College’s Board of Governors and the evening’s emcee, also shared that, in addition to the proclamation of the Daniel J. Patterson Campus, the College will establish the Dan Patterson Legacy Fund, which will provide support for bursaries, world experiences and scholarships for Niagara College students. Surplus funds from the evening will support the new fund.
“Throughout his tenure as president, Dan has not only led a significant transformation of Niagara College, but has also played a significant role in the growth and development of our community and beyond – and those contributions shone brightly in our celebrations this evening,” said Scott. “The Niagara College Board of Governors is honoured to join with Dan’s colleagues, and business and community leaders from Niagara and beyond in expressing our thanks to Dan, and recognizing his remarkable legacy.”
Following an Indigenous honour song by the Ohnia:kara Singers, Patterson’s partner Saundra, who herself has been a passionate supporter of Niagara College and its students, shared her own personal thoughts on Patterson’s career.
“When Dan joined Niagara College, he did so with amazing enthusiasm. He had truly found what he wanted to do in life. With his dedicated leadership and that of the others who worked with him, Niagara College is what it is today.”
In his address to the crowd, Patterson shared the remarkable career path that led him through several positions within the federal government, culminating in his leading the training branch. It was through that experience that he grew to understand the power of a college education, leading him to Niagara College. He expressed gratitude for the evening’s tributes, and looked back at his fondest memories from his 25-year tenure.
“My fondest memories and points of pride were all captured here tonight,” said Patterson. “I always felt it was a privilege to lead Niagara College, and I never took it for granted.”
Patterson also shared what his life might look like post-Niagara College. “Saundra and I intend to stay in Niagara. It’s our home and to help in any way we can to ensure Niagara continues to be a special place for all of us,” said Patterson. “I’m sure I will continue to find fulfilling professional involvement in post-secondary education.” Patterson was recently appointed as chair of the Ontario Centres of Excellence, and also serves on the Board for Colleges and Institutes Canada – a national advocacy group committed to promoting the important role colleges play to support economic development.
Dan Patterson, Ph.D, has been president of Niagara College since 1995. Under his leadership, enrolment has grown from 4,500 to over 11,000 full-time students in over 130 programs. Patterson has presided over significant changes to the College’s two pioneering campuses, and the introduction of unique academic programs geared toward the workforce needs of the Niagara economy that have made Niagara College one of Canada’s most innovative post-secondary institutions.
(Source: Niagara College media release)