David Patchell-Evans, BA’77, LLD’12, discovered the healing power of exercise while recovering from a debilitating motorcycle accident when he was a student. A global advocate for fitness, notable author, generous philanthropist and founder of GoodLife Fitness, he motivates millions of people to lead active and healthy lives. And his lifelong commitment to fitness started at Western.
Two weeks into his first year at Western University, David Patchell-Evans (Patch) was in a serious motorcycle accident resulting in muscle damage, broken bones and serious shoulder and chest injuries. Eight arduous months of rehabilitation set in motion a chain of events, which ignited and fueled a lifelong passion for fitness.
During his recovery, Patch observed elite athletes who were working out to recover from various injuries. He was motivated by their pursuit to become faster, stronger and healthier. Patch followed their lead, starting to work out half an hour each day, three times a week, then gradually increasing to the point where he was exercising four to five hours a day. He became fascinated by exercise’s healing abilities and the incredible resilience of the human body.
It was the allure of personal fitness that inspired Patch to switch from business studies to physical education. At the same time, Patch reached a new level of commitment to his own personal fitness. To help strengthen his shoulder, Patch took up rowing and found that he had quite an interest in the sport. He began training at London’s first fitness club as part of his pursuit with Canada’s National Rowing team, a career that would lead to five Canadian National Rowing Championships.
In 1979, using money he made from his own snowplowing business, Patchell purchased the fitness club where he’d been working out. That facility would later become branded the first GoodLife Fitness club. Today, GoodLife Fitness has become the largest fitness company in Canada and the fourth largest in the world. The company has grown to over 350 clubs from coast-to-coast with 14,500 employees and over 1.2 million members.
In 2009, Patch became chairman of IHRSA (International Health, Racquet, and Sports Club Association), the largest health and fitness organization in the world, representing 71 countries. His first book, Living The Good Life (revised 2015), has exceeded 2 million print copies and has been adapted for New Zealand and Russia. His second book, The Real Sexy, Smart and Strong, achieved international best seller status.
Patch’s exceptional abilities as an entrepreneur have led to a host of awards. These include Canadian Business Magazine’s Most Innovative CEO of the Year; CVCA Entrepreneur of the Year; Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Special Citation for Customer Driven Focus; Platinum Status with Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies and Platinum Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures.
Patch is a notable philanthropist working tirelessly to give back to Canadians. In 1998, he founded the GoodLife Kids Foundation to support national, provincial and local programs that provide sustainable physical activity opportunities for kids ages 4-14. The GoodLife4Kids School Program partners with local teachers to teach fitness skills in grade 4 classes at no cost to schools and their Grant Program provides funding support for physical activity programs for children with special needs. In 2003, he co-founded the Kilee Patchell-Evans Autism Research Group – in his daughter’s name – with Dr. Derrick MacFabe to which he has donated more than $5 million to help find the cause and cure for autism. Most recently Patch pledged a gift of $5 million to help build the GoodLife Fitness Family Autism Hub in Richmond, B.C.
In 2007, Patchell-Evans received the Canadian Medical Association’s Medal of Honour for his contribution to autism research and education.
In 2012, Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.), upon Patchell-Evans in recognition of his longstanding and passionate commitment to health and fitness and his contributions to autism research.
In 2014, Patch-Evans was awarded the Upper Canada Medal in recognition of the GoodLife Fitness Chair in Cardiovascular Rehabilitation and Prevention established with the University Health Network group of hospitals. This collaboration is devoted to achieving internationally-recognized excellence in heart health and exercise.
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