A SUNY Canton Distinguished Alumnus who used his education to make his dreams a reality and helped current students pursue their own has passed away.
Dr. R. Peter Heffering, a graduate of the class of 1951, died on Saturday, March 3, 2012 in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 80 years old.
“Peter’s contributions to the agricultural industry made him a true master at his profession,” Kennedy said. “He showed our students and the entire campus community that a SUNY Canton education can help you exceed your dreams and accomplish anything you desire. We thank him for the students he’s helped and the significant advancements he’s made to our College and its rich history.”
Heffering received two of the College’s most prestigious awards. He was named Distinguished Alumnus in 2003 and awarded the first-ever honorary doctorate in Animal Science at SUNY Canton’s 2004 Commencement. He was also a member of both the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and Canadian Agriculture Hall of Fame.
He earned his degree in animal husbandry and worked as a herdsman at the former Beacon Milling Company Research Farm in central New York. He later established his own farm, Hanover Hill. Hanover Hill Holsteins produced 140 proven sires including the legendary Hanover Hill Starbuck, who died in 1998 and left behind 200,000 registered offspring on five continents. His Hanover Hill Holstein herd was one of the most famous in the world for many years.
In 1989, Heffering made his entrance into harness racing and enjoyed great success. His champions won the most coveted races in the sport, including the Little Brown Jug, North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace, Canadian Trotting Classic, Kentucky Futurity, Breeders Crown and numerous Ontario Sires Stakes events.
In 1998, Heffering sold his Hanover Hill herd and focused his attention on a new passion, Standardbred Horses. He and his son, David, opened Tara Hills Stud in Port Perry, Ontario, which has become one of North America’s premier Standardbred breeding operations, and they have made a huge impact in the racing industry. In 2012, 11 stallions stand in their state-of-the art stallion barn. Heffering bred a number of elite Standardbreds, including 2001 U.S. Horse of the Year Bunny Lake.
He returned to campus in 2003 to accept his Distinguished Alumnus award and serve as a Commencement speaker. He used his own success story to illustrate how his SUNY Canton education and his own initiative gave him the tools he needed to follow through on his boyhood dreams. At the end of his speech, the graduates sprung to their feet and gave Heffering a standing ovation.
He provided the financial support to create SUNY Canton’s Bridge to Success scholarships through the College’s Foundation. The scholarships are designed to help students who have no other monetary options attend college and pursue their own dreams. He frequently visited his scholarship recipients and fondly referred to them as “his other children.”
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in his name to the Bridge to Success Scholarship at SUNY Canton or the Hospice by the Sea, 531 West Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton, FL 33486.