Lakehead University Alumni Magazine

Pat Maher Lives an Outdoor Life

Ashliegh Gehl
Published July 21, 2014
Above: Pat Maher, Emily Root, and Fraser Root-Maher enjoying the Prince George Iceman – a unique winter multi-sport event
(Photo courtesy of Tim Swanky/UNBC)

It takes a special kind of synergy to raise a family, fortify a marriage, and foster a successful career – it's an admirable balancing act Pat Maher has figured out.

"I've learned that you can have it all," he says. "Be true to your family, teach because you love it, and continue to do research, but you need to figure out the system and maximize things where you can."

As an associate professor at Cape Breton University, Pat teaches in the Department of Community Studies. He has a reputation for making remarkable teaching moments happen inside and outside of the classroom. It's a way of learning he's been exposed to his entire life.

Pat grew up in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, but this East Coast native has lived in England, California, Indonesia, and Guelph, Ontario. He finished high school in Peterborough where he participated in an integrated semester revolving around leadership and outdoor skills. In Grade 12, he was part of a Rotary Youth Exchange that landed him in Denmark.

Pat kayaking in ice flow waters
Pat Maher looking suitably rugged towards the end of a month-long field course on the Stikine River in northwest British Columbia.

Pat arrived at Lakehead University's School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism (ORPT) with a boundless interest in geography and a sustained curiosity about the world. In 2000, he graduated with an honours degree in Outdoor Recreation, picked up a BA in Geography, and a minor in Northern Studies. During the thick of it, he developed close relationships with his fellow classmates and professors.

"The cohort of students in the ORPT program was fantastic – so many lifelong connections made – so many folks I still touch base regularly with, both personally and professionally," he says.

The summer after graduation, Pat and fellow ORPT students journeyed through the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Alaska as members of the Northern Currents canoe expedition. The following year Pat was off to Lincoln University in New Zealand, funded by a Commonwealth Scholarship, to complete his PhD research on the impact of tourism on the Antarctic.

When he returned to Canada, Pat spent nine years teaching as an assistant and an associate professor in Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Management at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. It was in Prince George that Pat was nominated for Canada's most prestigious teaching award – the 3M National Teaching Fellow. In 2014, he became one of ten people to receive this honour.

Outside of academia, he's an active volunteer. In Prince George, Pat was involved with the local alpine club and backcountry recreation society. For six years, he was the race director for Iceman – a local winter multi-sport event. In his spare time, he goes on canoeing expeditions and enjoys nature with his children.

When it comes to the future, Pat is putting his family first.

"I plan to spend more time with my sons Fraser and Logan," he says, "and take a step back so my wife, Emily Root, can complete her PhD and grow her career."

Pat is currently enjoying the move back to the East Coast and being a part of the Community Studies department at Cape Breton University.

"It's a new adventure," he says.

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