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Making a difference across decades

Newsroom authorby Jill ScarrowJun 13, 2023

When Wendy Ritchie wanted to honour her husband’s memory, she looked for a way that would celebrate his strong work ethic, integrity and honour. Around the same time, she was winding down a 27-year career at Sheridan – part of which she spent working in financial aid – so she could think of no better way to celebrate Brian’s memory than to honour students who shared his values.

In 2003, she created the Brian Ritchie Memorial Award for students graduating from the Police Foundations program who have demonstrated the greatest level of improvement throughout their academic studies. Ritchie says that aspect of the award criteria is important to her. Her late husband was a captain in the Brampton Fire Department who was a hard worker who valued continuous improvement, and, through her work at Sheridan, Ritchie realized that some students begin to flourish in a postsecondary environment only after they discover their passion for a subject.

“I think it’s more important to honour a most-improved student,” she says. “I’m just so proud of them.”

This year marked Ritchie’s 21st year of giving, and she made the five-hour drive from her home on the shores of the St. Lawrence River to make sure she was there to celebrate this year’s winner. She’s never missed a ceremony, and she relishes the chance to meet the recipients and occasionally, their parents, who tell her how much it means to see their child’s hard work honoured. “All of them are absolutely wonderful,” she says.

Ritchie is one of the many long-term donors who have supported Academic Awards across the college for years, even decades. The annual events, held in all faculties, are possible thanks to the support of donors who help us celebrate student success and inspire and motivate them to continue to do their very best.

For April Patterson, creating an award immediately after she graduated from the Court and Tribunal Agent program in 2005 was a perfect way to support those who are now studying in Sheridan’s Paralegal program.

“I was helped through scholarships and bursaries at Sheridan,” she recalls. “After I graduated, I was lucky enough to find employment within three or four months in the field that I absolutely wanted. I was in a position where I could give back and it meant so much to me to be able to give rather than receive.”

In addition to academic success, the April Patterson Award also recognizes a student who is a role model for others, something that was important to her because she has long been an active volunteer, both in her professional work and personal life. She says giving is more important to her than ever, since she’s noticed many winners are learners who are pursuing a second career.April Patterson

“If you are fortunate enough to be able to give your time or your money to another person who is struggling more than you are, you can make an impact. Every dollar counts when you're a student, and if you can make room within your own budget to help support someone else, you will help our community grow.”

Ruth Taylor also often saw students coming to Sheridan to begin a new career, in her case in nursing. As a nursing professor for 36 years, Taylor knows that students incur many extra expenses like scrubs and medical equipment. Now retired, she has supported the Ruth D. Taylor Anatomy and Physiology Awards for 13 years. They are given to students in the Practical Nursing program with the highest marks in first-year Anatomy & Physiology.

“If I can lessen worry over finances for a student or two, that is my legacy.  Human anatomy is the background for intelligent nursing and achieving a good mark is a major accomplishment,” she says.

Wayne Edwards agrees that students need to be rewarded when they excel. As the Vice President of Human Resources at PLASP Child Care Services, Edwards hopes celebrating and encouraging students early on in their careers will motivate them to build a career in early childhood education. For 15 years, PLASP has supported the Barbara Kleschnitzki Early Childhood Education Award.

“If you are fortunate enough to be able to give to another person who is struggling, you can make an impact and help our community grow.” – April Patterson

“This award is unique and special in focusing on students who have overcome unique challenges. It acknowledges that overcoming challenges doesn’t just come about by happenstance, it takes effort. These students have been able to excel from an academic perspective, and they are also managing the real world and the real challenges that exist there,” Edwards says.

Edwards says supporting Sheridan students also strengthens the important relationship that exists between the school and PLASP. Edwards sits on the ECE program advisory committee, and he counts many Sheridan alumni among his staff.

“Organizations like ours, we need to do our part and make sure that future students can find a rewarding career and know about organizations like us, especially at the academic stage, because that's where you really capture the interest of people.”

Photo caption:

April Patterson presents her award to Franco Mirenzi at the 2023 Academic Awards celebration for the Faculty of Applied Health and Community Studies.

For information on supporting an Academic Award, or supporting students in other ways through scholarships, bursaries or work integrated learning opportunities, visit our website or email giving@sheridancollege.ca.

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