By: Jenna Hobin

Photos by: Harrison Boyd

Dinosaurs. Rocketry. Outer space. Patrick Lyons’ passions are prominently displayed on the oak shelves in his office, which overlooks the scenic Rideau Canal from the fourth floor of Dunton Tower. A replica of a triceratops wears a blank stare, as a rocketship prepares for takeoff in the vibrant poster that welcomes visitors.

Among the distinctive array of collectibles is a piece that Patrick is arguably the most proud of – a black and white book cover that reads ‘Courage, Curiosity, Teapots and Snakes’. The title hints at the unique works contained within its pages – a collection of stories of teaching here at Carleton University.

Submitted by faculty, contract instructors and teaching staff of Carleton, the anecdotes range from quirky to transformational. From a snake on the loose in Loeb Building, to moments when students inspired their Professors, the book sparks moments of both humour and compassion. Patrick Lyons, Director of Teaching and Learning Services started collecting the stories in 2016, and along with lots of help with colleagues in TLS published it in 2019 as a way of giving back to our community.

The book is sold online, at the Carleton University Bookstore and at Teaching and Learning Services with all proceeds going directly towards the Campus Community Campaign Bursary. Awarded annually to deserving undergraduate students who require financial assistance, Patrick felt compelled to give back as an alumni turned staff of Carleton.

“I’ve had this sense that I want to give back because I am a graduate, and I now feel incredibly fortunate to work at Carleton. We are here for students, and we exist because of our students. Anything that I can do to help support our students in whatever shape or form, whether it be working with a faculty member or supporting initiatives for student success through FutureFunder. Giving back is a tangible way for me to feel like I am making a difference, no matter how big or small that may be.”

In addition to supporting the Campus Community Campaign Bursary through the book sales, Patrick has an extensive history of supporting our community in other ways. Each Giving Tuesday he encourages staff to take part in the annual day of giving by personally matching all donations made by those within Teaching and Learning Services.

He also established Carleton’s first-ever squash team, providing opportunities for staff to play through Healthy Workplace, and to support high performance student-athletes who have a shared passion for the sport. Patrick helped fund the programming to ensure that students may participate in events at other universities, and he beamed as he shared the news that there are now 19 students who are part of the competitive squash team.

Patrick emphasized the power of giving through Carleton, as he believes that we belong to a community where we have the opportunity to give back in a way that is meaningful on a personal level. “Carleton is an amazing community – it is immensely diverse and exciting. We are a place of higher education, but we are also so much more,” says Patrick.

“One of the reasons I started giving is that I wanted to find a way that I could do more. Looking at the interests of our students was a way that I could contribute. Providing others with opportunities to support their passions is something that really excites me. There are so many amazing FutureFunder initiatives that you can support, and that’s something that I want to be a part of.”

Behind the Donor Curtain:

Do you have a personal motto or saying?

“If you’re going to do something, do it passionately and do it well.”

Who inspires you?

The absolute first thing that comes to my mind is my family. It starts with my parents and goes back to my grandmothers. Both of my grandmothers were immensely strong women, and they were like the linchpins that held our family together.

As for my parents-my mother had a passion for Earth Sciences and I became passionate about dinosaurs, while my father gave me an immense desire to learn. His passion to want to expand knowledge is something that has been instilled in me.

Outside of my family, I am inspired by Roberta Bondar. She is an amazing woman who has accomplished amazing things, and has such a wide variety of interests from photography and medicine, to outer space. I love the idea that you don’t have to specialize in just one thing and it is okay to have interests in a breadth of areas.

There are also two Professors I had at Carleton that I was inspired by. They are Dr. Claudia Schröder-Adams and Dr. Tim Patterson who both guided me, mentored me and gave me opportunities. They weren’t afraid to challenge me either!

What profession other your own would you like to attempt?

My dream as a child was to be an astronaut or a vertebrate paleontologist. I was on a pathway to become a vertebrae paleontologist, hence the dinosaurs in my office. I was actually able to teach Carleton’s second-year course on dinosaurs. I love this concept that 65 million years ago the species just disappeared. It’s amazing that these animals were of all shapes and sizes, and now all we have left is their fossil record.

I realized I get claustrophobic, so an astronaut is out of the question.

Where is your favourite spot on campus?

The squash courts!