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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
2024 Willowbank grads all working in heritage sector
Eight of Willowbank's 10 grads were able to attend their convocation, from left, Riley McMahon, Elzbieta Gach, Alexandra Moss, Christine Morgan Rier, Alexander Latham, Charlie Porter, Katherine Slattery and Christy Kirwan. Julia Hodgson

The latest cohort of students from Willowbank’s heritage conservation program graduated in a convocation ceremony on the weekend — and all 10 grads are now working in the heritage sector.

The graduates represent a diverse array of backgrounds and experiences, “united by their passion for embracing the interconnections of our built, natural, and cultural resources,” the Queenston-based school said in announcing the convocation.

The heritage conservation program is known for its progressive and unconventional model, which enables students to gain knowledge beyond the classroom, through a combination of theory and hands-on learning.

“Our students are passionate about history, conservation, traditional building methods, sustainability and community design,” the school said in a news release.

The graduation ceremony took place on Saturday in the Bright Parlour at Willowbank, where past-chair Patrick Little welcomed guests to the School of Restoration Arts.

Among those attending were Marie Bowering, Indigenous community connections facilitator, and Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa.

Valedictorian Charlie Porter delivered a poignant, reflective speech.

“We leave this institution as stewards of our cultural heritage, caretakers of our built environment, and advocates for the preservation of Canada’s history,” he told the audience.

“Whether we find ourselves physically restoring historic buildings and their materials, planning for the future of Canada’s heritage, or advocating for heritage conservation policy, our experience at Willowbank will be indelible.”

The faculty address was delivered by Bianca Verrecchia, intermediate heritage planner for the Town of Grimsby and a Willowbank graduate.

She focused on the academic achievements of the grads and the impact they will have on the preservation field.

 “As Willowbank graduates you understand that heritage is not static. It evolves, adapts and reflects the diversity and richness of our past and present.”

In his keynote address, David Adames, CEO of the Niagara Parks Commission, highlighted how essential the Willowbank program is to the built and cultural heritage in Niagara and beyond.

He stressed the importance of cultural stewardship and also shared impressive updates on the restoration and adaptive reuse of the historic hydro generating stations in Niagara Falls, an example of the genuine need for skills learned at Willowbank.

The diplomas were awarded by Willowbank president Dr. Faisal Arain and a reception hosted by 124 on Queen was held at the school.

With all of this year’s graduates employed in the heritage sector, their contributions “to the field of heritage conservation and sustainability will be instrumental in ensuring that our cultural and built heritage continues to thrive for generations to come,” the school said.

As well, Willowbank is now accepting applications for the three-year heritage conservation program starting this coming September.

Anyone interested in heritage conservation and sustainability is encouraged to reach out via www.willowbank.ca to learn more about the program.

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