Bonnie M. Patterson Receives 2016 David C. Smith Award in Recognition of her Many Contributions to Higher Education

The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) is pleased to present Bonnie M. Patterson with the prestigious David C. Smith Award; for her longstanding commitment to Ontario’s universities, passionate advocacy on behalf of students and outstanding contributions to innovative policy in teaching and research in higher education.

“In four decades of service to Canada’s universities, Bonnie Patterson has been a passionate advocate for students and a dedicated champion of higher education,” says Patrick Deane, Chair of the Council of Ontario Universities and President of McMaster University.

“Throughout her career, she has demonstrated immeasurable dedication to helping our students reach their full potential and to fostering a new generation equipped to succeed in the changing workplace of the future.”

2016 David C. Smith Award

Patterson served as President and CEO of COU from 1995 to 1998 before being appointed the first female President and Vice-Chancellor of Trent University. Then, after 11 years as the longest-serving President and Vice-Chancellor of Trent, she returned to COU as President and CEO for six more years. She is currently a Professor of Business Administration at Trent University and a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Academic Leadership at Ryerson University.

During the award ceremony, Patterson delivered a thought-provoking address on the future of university policy, leadership and alumni engagement. “This is a wonderful honour this evening that is particularly meaningful to me having known David Smith for many years,” she says.

(As leaders in the sector) we need to create a variety of channels for innovative thinking, experimentation, and take advantage of our opportunities for cross disciplinary thinking about big issues of the future…We all want to “enable the extraordinary” for our students and are committed to a continuous effort to advance common high quality standards in Ontario.”

“Bonnie firmly believes a postsecondary education is a critical component of the social and economic success of both our students and our province,” says COU President and CEO David Lindsay. “As Ontario’s universities continue to engage Ontarians in a conversation about their expectations for the future, we are inspired by her tremendous contributions to the sector and our leaders of tomorrow. It is an honour to present her with this award.”

Previous award recipients include the Hon. Dalton McGuinty, former Premier of Ontario; the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien, former Prime Minister of Canada; Dr. Martha Piper, former President of the University of British Columbia; Don Drummond, former Chief Economist with TD Bank; Roberta L. Jamieson, President and CEO, Indspire; Alastair Summerlee, former President of the University of Guelph; Peter George, former President and Vice-Chancellor of McMaster University; and Rob Prichard, President Emeritus of the University of Toronto. .

This award was established in 2000 and named to celebrate the late Dr. David C. Smith, who made enormous contributions to both scholarship and public policy in higher education as Principal of Queen’s University and in advisory work on behalf of the sector.

Read more about the David C. Smith Award.

Quick Facts:

  • David C. Smith was the Principal of Queen’s University from 1984 to 1994 and head of the Department of Economics from 1968 to 1981. He was Interim President of Trent University from 1997 to 1998.
  • Bonnie M. Patterson began her academic career at Western University. At Ryerson, she was the President’s Special Adviser during th eir transformation to full university status and later became the first woman Dean of Business in Canada. She served as President and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities from 1995 to 1998 before being appointed the first female President and Vice-Chancellor of Trent University. Then, after 11 years as the longest-serving President and Vice-Chancellor of Trent, she served an additional six years as President and CEO of COU.
  • Patterson has been appointed to the Order of Canada, Order of Ontario, received the Queen’s Diamond and Jubilee medals and was recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada as a trailblazer and trendsetter. Currently, she is the Chair of the Board of the Roberta Bondar Foundation, a Trustee of the Canadian Associates of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and a member of the Board of Directors of Metrolinx and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.


COU is the voice of Ontario’s universities, promoting the value of education, research and innovation that leads to social, cultural and economic success.

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For further information, please contact:

Wendy McCann
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