Initiative will cultivate learning opportunities for Horticulture students
Members of the Niagara College community are planning a special way to honour the memory of one of their most dedicated long-time champions, which combines her love for students, passion for horticulture and support for student learning.
With spring in the air, budding plans are in the works for a memorial garden in honour of NC’s long-time ‘first lady’ Saundra Patterson who passed away in January 2021. Saundra was not only known as the devoted partner of NC’s former president Dan Patterson – who served 25 years at the College – but as a College supporter in her own right who left an indelible mark on the NC community.
The Saundra Patterson Memorial Garden will be created in the upper courtyard of the Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The initiative stems from NC’s School of Environment and Horticulture whose faculty and students – along with staff at its Teaching Greenhouse – have forged a special connection with Saundra over the years.
“Our Horticultural staff and faculty immediately agreed that a memorial garden would be a meaningful way to honour Saundra, who loved gardening and loved our students even more,” said Alan Unwin, dean of Business, Tourism and Environment. “This project will beautify our campus, support student learning, and be a special way for our College community to remember Saundra for many years to come.”
Applied learning will flourish with the memorial garden project. During the Spring term, students from a variety of horticulture programs will have an opportunity to design the memorial garden as part of their landscape design course, and the winner will be selected by the end of the term. Students are expected to begin the building phase in September and complete the garden by the end of Fall term. By the time the garden is in full bloom, about 150 students will have had their hands in the project.
Horticulture professor Dena Gavin noted that the entire department has embraced the idea of having a dedicated memorial garden and it will be incorporated into many classes – from designing and planting to maintaining it.
“Saundra loved gardening, the College, and our department. She treated us all like her closest friends and spent time with our students,” said Gavin. “I was honoured to have known such a strong woman. This garden will be an amazing tribute to her and will be loved by many for years; her passion and story will be talked about by many.”
President emeritus Patterson was moved to hear about the initiative.
“Saundra was so pleased to see the way the campus has developed into becoming one of the most beautiful learning environments in the country … it’s so extraordinary to think that a memorial garden will be created in her honour,” said Patterson. “I am so pleased that her legacy and her love for the College will continue on for the enjoyment of students, faculty, staff and visitors to the College.”
The memorial garden will be completely funded by donors who contribute to the Saundra Patterson Memorial Garden and Horticultural Bursary Fund. More than $7,000 has been raised to support the initiative to date, and Carol and David Appel of Niagara-on-the-Lake have generously committed to match every new donation up to $10,000. With the Appel’s gift of $10,000 matched by new donations, the fundraising initiative would be more than halfway to its $50,000 goal.
“The fact that the memorial garden will be completely funded through the generosity of donors is a testament to how important and loved Saundra was in our College community,” said Marc Nantel, vice-president, Research and External Relations. “With our donors’ support, the Saundra Patterson Memorial Garden will blossom into a beautiful place of special reflection on campus for everyone to enjoy, while continuing to create learning opportunities for our students.”
Funds raised that exceed the $50,000 goal for the permanent memorial garden will support student learning through the Saundra Patterson Horticultural Bursary. A tireless supporter of student learning, Saundra contributed to many bursaries for students over the years. She established an endowed bursary fund in 2006, which has disbursed almost $10,000 in bursaries to date.
Bonnie Rose – a close friend of the Pattersons who has held senior executive positions at Niagara College and served two terms on its Board of Governors – was delighted to hear that the initiative to honour Saundra’s memory will focus on student involvement.
“Saundra truly nurtured students as she did her own garden, with respect for their potential, with empathy for their worries and sorrows, with challenges to spur them to do their best, and always, with great joy in their successes,” said Rose.
For more information or to make a donation visit the Saundra Patterson Memorial Garden and Bursary page on the NC website.
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine science, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.
Photos: Dan Patterson NOTL Courtyard rendering: President emeritus Dan Patterson holds a rendering of early plans for the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus and its vision of it becoming a ‘living laboratory’ prior to its opening in 1998. After his 25-year tenure and the evolution of the campus as one of the most innovative and beautiful in the country, Patterson stands in the courtyard where the Saundra Patterson Memorial Garden will be created in honour of his late wife who was by his side from the beginning. True to the spirit of the ‘living lab’ vision for the campus, Saundra’s garden will continue to create applied learning opportunities for students
Dan Patterson NOTL Courtyard Scout: President emeritus Dan Patterson pets Scout, the College’s Teaching Greenhouse cat, in the courtyard at the Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The orange tabby is part of the special legacy Saundra left at NC. In early 2020, she supported the adoption of Scout and was instrumental in selecting his name among finalists from a college-wide contest. She also took great care of Scout’s predecessor Basil who was the College’s beloved Greenhouse cat for more than 15 years, and hosted a memorial in his honour in Oct. 2019.