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Dec. 8, 2019 | Sunday
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Patterson stepping down as Niagara College president
Niagara College president Dan Patterson has announced he will retire in 2020. (Supplied)

Saying goodbye is hard, especially when you have served almost 25 years as Niagara College’s president.

Dan Patterson, who announced his decision to the college staff and faculty on Tuesday, said he will not seek another term after his current one ends on June 30, 2020.

The decision wasn’t easy to make, said Patterson, but he will be leaving the college knowing it’s in a good financial situation. When he began his duties in 1995, there was a major cut to the college and the government at the time cancelled the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus.

“We were just devastated at the time because we had all these plans to build this campus, which now has a 38-acre vineyard,” Patterson said in a phone interview.

“No other college or university has a 38-acre working vineyard, a two-acre hop yard, a greenhouse.”

From “humble beginnings” fast-forward to 2019, Niagara College now boasts a lot of firsts: Canada’s first commercial teaching winery, Canada’s only brewmaster and brewery operations technician program, and the only full-time college program in photonics engineering technician and technology in the country. The college also offers Canada’s only artisan distilling program and a new commercial cannabis production program.

If the 70-year-old Patterson had to describe his experience serving as a president, he would call it “exhilarating.”

“It’s been an honour, a privilege to be at the helm of an extraordinary college that’s been very transformative and a leader in Canada,” Patterson told The Lake Report.

During his presidency, enrolment has grown from 4,500 in 1995 to 13,000 in 2019, with students coming from more than 90 countries. Since 1995, the budget has also increased to $210 million from $58 million.

“I’m so proud of what I and my team have been able to accomplish and marvel at what we’ve accomplished,” Patterson said.

Patterson, who lives in St. Catharines, said he looks forward to spending more time with his wife Saundra, but will continue to be involved in promoting post-secondary education.

Having received a number of community recognition awards, including the 2010 Niagara-on-the-Lake Citizen of the Year, Patterson’s priority has always been students and linking them to “the world of work.”

“The board of governors accepted Dan’s announcement with deep appreciation for all that he has done, and great respect for his wish to move into a new phase of his life,” said John Scott, chair of Niagara College board of directors.

“Dan’s leadership has provided an exceptional era at Niagara College and we look forward to the opportunities to express our appreciation in celebration of his accomplishments over the coming year,” Scott said in a statement.

The board of the governors will be announcing the details of the search process for the next president in the next coming weeks.

“When you’re there for that long, 25 years … I think, in many ways, it does mark the end of an era,” said Patterson.

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