Photos by Anna Millerman
On April 24, St. Clair College made a decades-old dream come true by playing a part in the creation of a new public park in Windsor.
A dozen years ago, long-time donors to the college’s scholarship fund, local doctor Bruce White and wife Kathryn, donated their family home and property on Lauzon Road to the college.
The heavily forested property was subsequently used as an off-campus learning lab by the school’s Landscape Horticulture students.
It had always, however, been the Whites’ wish to see the land designated and used as a public park.
College President Patti France’s speech at the park unveiling ceremony on the 24th picks up the story ...
(The late) Bruce and Katheryn White, for decades, have been one of the most significant donors to St. Clair’s scholarship fund, providing thousands of dollars to dozens of students annually. It was their hope that students receiving scholarships would remember the help they have received on their journey and, in turn, will strive to help others.
From the college’s perspective, that support, alone, would have been more than enough. Again, it has been provided to us for years; and, thanks to its endowed nature, it will continue to assist students in perpetuity.
But, in the Whites’ opinion, that example of generosity apparently wasn’t enough. In 2011, Bruce – who had lost his dear Kitty three years before – also took the step of donating the family home and property here, on Lauzon Road, to the college.
In discussion with him, his long-term hope was that it might, eventually, become a municipal park. But the city wasn’t quite ready to get involved in such a development at that time.
So, Bruce turned to the college as a recipient. Why? Because, once upon a time, the site had been a tree farm, and that environment was added to substantially by Bruce and Kathryn’s planting of 10,000 saplings. Bruce concluded that this forest – plus all of the other plants and wild flowers – would make the property a wonderful learning lab for St. Clair’s Landscape Horticulture students.
Our Landscape faculty agreed, the college agreed; and, in September of 2011, the donated property – valued then at over $1.8 million – came into St. Clair’s hands.
It has provided unique and invaluable educational value to our students in the dozen years since – and will continue to do so, as our Landscape program will retain access to the site even now.
But in the back of my mind, I always knew the Whites’ full-fledged wish was that the land could be enjoyed by all citizens.
A few years ago, we and the municipal government decided that the time was ripe for this transition. In part, I think, the fact that this corner of the city will soon see a major development was part of the rationale for the timing of this parkland project. I’m not sure how much residential and commercial growth might occur in this area of the city when the new hospital is established; but, look, here we’ve already got a wonderful new natural park in place in southeastern Windsor.
This is just the latest of many property transactions which St. Clair and the city’s government have executed over the years. Downtown, for nominal lease and purchase prices, the college has taken possession of such city-owned properties as the Cleary Convention Centre – now our Centre for the Arts campus, the former Salvation Army building – now our MediaPlex, and a former Toronto Dominion Bank building – now our downtown Student Centre. We also swapped properties with the city many years ago to allow it to construct the new Huron Lodge seniors home on what had been college land on Cabana; and, right next-door to that, we acquired a former city fire station to house our Firefighter Training program.
It has been – it is, and I hope always will be – a wonderful symbiotic relationship, which sees the college constantly asking itself what it can do to assist the municipal government and, through it, the citizens of our community; while the city, when opportunities arise, asks itself if it might be able to do something to help St. Clair and its students.
And drawn into this latest transaction – which benefits both the college and the community-at-large – is the White family, as yet another legacy of Bruce and Kathryn.
I’ll conclude with the most colourful sentence I’ve ever spoken: It may be unusual that individuals named White have given all of us the gift of greenery, and we’re rather blue that Bruce and Kathryn couldn’t be with us to see this dream come true, but we are tickled pink that their community-minded generosity is being celebrated in such a fitting and permanent fashion with the establishment of this park.