Niagara College campus on Taylor Road has been renamed to Daniel J. Patterson Campus, after the outgoing college president who has made a lasting impact not only on the college, but on the entire Niagara community during his 25-year tenure.
Patterson said the surprise announcement, made by the Niagara College board of governors at a special celebration held last Friday, came as a shock.
“I had no idea that was in the works,” Patterson told The Lake Report. As Niagara College is geographically a “gateway” to NOTL and borders other Niagara municipalities, having the NOTL campus named after him was a “moving gesture.”
“Securing the campus was a dream come true. To now having my name on it is truly humbling. Without a doubt, a particular highlight for me and my career.”
The event bidding farewell to Patterson, who will be stepping down as college president next June, attracted more than 600 people at Partridge Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.
It was an emotional night filled with tears, laughter and heartfelt wishes, Patterson said, and he was “moved” to see so many people from various sectors come together to also acknowledge the role Niagara College plays in the community.
“It was a night I will never forget,” he said in an interview. “I’m not someone who likes the centre of attention but it truly was a special night.”
Patterson started his career at the college in 1995. During his tenure, enrolment has grown from 4,500 students to more than 11,000 full-time students in more than 130 programs, according to a college media release. One of the evening highlights that struck a chord for Patterson was when college alumni from every year of his career, from 1995 to 2020, came out on stage to thank him.
“I know all of them and it was a real joy to see they came back to celebrate my 25 years,” Patterson said.
The event, hosted by board chair John Scott, started with an Indigenous welcome by elder Gary Parker and a performance by Chorus Niagara.
The evening also focused on Patterson’s legacy and the relationships he has built within and beyond the Niagara community.
Videos showing congratulatory messages came from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, former premiers Kathleen Wynne and Mike Harris, Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, and former U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman and his partner Vicki.
Patterson’s wife Saundra also made a surprise speech about their life together.
Regional chair Jim Bradley also presented Patterson with a special certificate of recognition, while St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik gave Patterson the key to the City of St. Catharines.
“I’m not sure what I can do with it, but it was a wonderful gesture,” Patterson said. “It was lots of fun.”
Friday, Nov. 22, was also proclaimed Dan Patterson Day by the mayors of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls and Welland.
While he will continue to live in Niagara, Patterson said he will also embark on a new journey as a chair of the Ontario Centres of Excellence. On top of being a board member of the Colleges and Institutes Canada, Patterson said he intends to mentor students and help raise money for bursaries, scholarships and projects designed to provide Niagara College students an opportunity to live abroad.
Patterson said he will step down knowing the college, which had “humble beginnings,” has transformed into a “world-class institution of higher learning.”