John and Thea Patterson’s Inspirational Gift to Support Trent Graduate Research at Abbey Gardens in Haliburton

April 26, 2017

New graduate research assistantship endowment to strengthen Trent’s commitment to experiential learning

John Patterson at podium, Julie Davis seated

Trent University has received a $150,000 funding infusion thanks to the generosity of two change-leaders, John and Thea Patterson, who have created a new endowment fund to support Trent graduate research at Abbey Gardens.

Abbey Gardens is a not-for-profit charity that has transformed a spent gravel pit (300 acres) into green space with gardens, hiking trails, food hub and educational displays with local partnerships all furthering their mission to create opportunities to learn about living more sustainably.

“Today marks an exciting day for Trent University, Abbey Gardens, and the School of Graduate Studies,” said Julie Davis, vice-president of External Relations and Advancement, at the gift announcement held at Abbey Gardens earlier today. “John and Thea Patterson, loyal supporters of Trent University, have devoted their lives to making the world a better place. They have spent decades incorporating education, technology, business and faith into their work thus tackling challenges here in Canada and abroad. This inspirational gift solidifies John and Thea’s confidence in the work that Trent students and Abbey Gardens have and will continue to do long into the future.”

John and Thea Patterson’s $150,000 endowment will create the Abbey Gardens Graduate Research Assistantship as part of Trent University’s $50 Million Campaign: Unleash the Potential. It will support a two-year Graduate Research Assistant role with Abbey Gardens. The student's primary focus includes such topics as gravel pit rehabilitation for permaculture, food hubs, farmer’s markets and food security; heritage animals and crops; the impact of policy and legislation on the rural enterprise; strengthening seasonal recreation-based economies; and creation and sustainability of rural social enterprises.

“When we returned from 32 years of service abroad, we were amazed to discover how Trent had reached out to serve in communities like Haliburton. This endowment will enrich the work at Abbey Gardens and provide excellent experiential learning opportunities for Trent graduate students,” said Mr. and Mrs. Patterson.

Trent University has established itself as one of Canada’s top post-secondary environmental institutions with a deeply embedded focus on social justice, community development, environmental stewardship, and giving back. Trent faculty, staff and students are socially conscious, politically active, and committed to the betterment of the world around them. Programs such as International Development Studies, Environmental Resource Science, Masters of Arts in Sustainability Studies, and the Business Administration specialization in Ethics and Sustainability, allow students to explore the academic dimensions of social change. Through community-based education, study abroad programs, student clubs and research projects, Trent students have the opportunity to engage in purposeful extra-curricular learning that develops their capacity and passion for transformational change within local and international communities.

With a long-standing reputation as a pioneer and innovator in the field of environmental science and sustainability studies. Trent is known for its partnerships and accreditations and ability to respond to emerging opportunities in the environmental sector. Trent has collaborated with organizations and citizens of the Haliburton Highlands since 1989. More recently, Abbey Gardens has become a central focus for student research and engagement through the SSHRC-funded “Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement” (CFICE) grant. This grant has provided Abbey Gardens with a Trent graduate student research assistant and has been extremely beneficial for both the student and Abbey Gardens.

About John and Thea Patterson

John and Thea Patterson have devoted their lives to making the world a better place. Through thoughtful discussion, and concrete action they tackle global challenges. They have spent decades incorporating education, technology, business and faith into their work both here in Canada, and abroad. The Pattersons have respectively been involved with several organizations including, Canada World Youth and the Canadian Federation of University Women. Alarmed by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa, they visited Rwanda and reconnected with ICA Canada to work in Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. In 2008, they founded Abbey Gardens, a not-for-profit charity comprised of a reclaimed open pit quarry that provides economic and recreational opportunities for the community as well as programs for learning about sustainable living. Both of their children attended Trent University, as have a number of other family members. John and Thea Patterson will receive Honorary Doctor of Laws degree at this year’s convocation for the commitment both Mr. and Mrs. Patterson exemplify as global citizens with a concern for the well-being of the planet.

About Abbey Gardens

Abbey Gardens is a not-for-profit charity that is transforming a spent gravel pit (300 acres) into a green space that provides economic and recreational opportunities for the community. With gardens, hiking trails, Food Hub, educational displays and local business partners (including a craft brewery) all located on site in the beautiful Haliburton Highlands, Ontario overlooking Grass Lake. Every element of Abbey Gardens helps further their mission to create opportunities to learn about living more sustainably. Visitors to Abbey Gardens can tour the gardens, visit the heritage breed ponies and chickens, shop for local food at the Food Hub, enjoy lunch at their new restaurant patio or participate in one of their excellent programming options throughout the year.

About Trent University

One of Canada's top universities, Trent University was founded on the ideal of interactive learning that's personal, purposeful and transformative. Consistently recognized nationally for leadership in teaching, research and student satisfaction, Trent attracts excellent students from across the country and around the world. Here, undergraduate and graduate students connect and collaborate with faculty, staff and their peers through diverse communities that span residential colleges, classrooms, disciplines, hands-on research, co-curricular and community-based activities. Across all disciplines, Trent brings critical, integrative thinking to life every day. Today, Trent's unique approach to personal development through supportive, collaborative community engagement is in more demand than ever. Students lead the way by co-creating experiences rooted in dialogue, diverse perspectives and collaboration. In a learning environment that builds life-long passion for inclusion, leadership and social change, Trent's students, alumni, faculty and staff are engaged global citizens who are catalysts in developing sustainable solutions to complex issues. Trent's Peterborough campus boasts award-winning architecture in a breathtaking natural setting on the banks of the Otonabee River, just 90 minutes from downtown Toronto, while Trent University Durham – Greater Toronto Area, delivers a distinct mix of programming in the east GTA.

For more information contact:

Kate Weersink, media relations & strategic communications officer, Trent University, (705) 748-1011 x6180 or

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