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Emily Walters: Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with us. We're really excited about this one. If we could start with maybe some basic demographic information, so where you're born, where you grew up, anything else you would like to share from your childhood or things like that.

Pat Hyer: Okay. So I grew up in Cleveland in a white ethnic neighborhood, a working-class neighborhood in Cleveland itself, built right after World War II. All houses were about 3-feet apart, everybody Catholic except us. It was quite a neighborhood. No contraceptives at the time so there were children galore. We had teams for everything. I had three sisters, so four girls in the family, a very loving family. We traveled a lot even though we had no money and I had wonderful parents.

Emily: When did you start thinking about college and pursuing that?

Pat: I think I always was thinking about college. So education was part of my 1:00mother's family. Maybe I should say a little bit about them. My mother's mother was a Canadian missionary in the early 1900s, and she went to Turkey on a mule, and ended up working at an American mission, home missions, an orphanage. And she was working with a displaced Greek population living in Turkey, because you may remember that obviously that part of the world was very mixed up in terms of where the boundaries were at one time. And there was a translator there. His family was very well-educated and he was a translator. His name is Youvan Savides, Greek origin. She worked with that mission society for several years. I'm talking about the 1915-18 period timeframe. He was selected by that home mission society to come and be a minister, to be trained as a minister, of all places, in Ohio at Oberlin University, so he was sent from that country by the 2:00mission society to become a minister, and they corresponded back and forth, but this was [00:02:10 forbidden] in those days. She was a protected woman and wasn't supposed to be cavorting with the natives, and she was thrown out and returned home.

They eventually became a couple and lived in Oberlin and finished school there. He was an educated person from this part of the world. We're talking about the early 1900s. And he encouraged her as well, so education was part of my mother's family, not my father's, but my mother's. So it was always a big piece of my life. We were all going to go to college and we all had equal amounts of money to do so, and so it was always part of what the framework was going to be.

The big and bad decision for me was because my father believed in equality down to the last ten-cents, you know he didn't differentiate about whether all of the 3:00four of us actually wanted to go to college and who was most likely to do anything at college, which would have been me. I was the one who was the most academically inclined. But I got a scholarship to go to a place called Hillsdale College. I don't know if you ever heard of that, but Hillsdale is the one that determined very early on that they would not comply with Title IX. This was after I had finished, but I got a large scholarship to go there. I didn't know anything about Hillsdale's conservative political ideology. It's a very small liberal arts college. It was completely the wrong choice for me and it was not a good experience. But I sent myself off to Paris. I was a French major and I sent myself off to Paris for my junior year abroad and that's when I discovered other people were having a good time in college. They had other friends who did things with them, so that's when I really learned that that experience could have been 4:00a richer, better one. I was really at the wrong place, but I finished.

To finish up that story, the one good thing that happened at Hillsdale was that I got a scholarship to the University of Michigan as a valedictorian of that college. They [Michigan] had a program for small college graduates to go to graduate school and that's what got me to the University of Michigan.

Emily: And so then you went to the University of Michigan and you came here for your PhD?

Pat: Yeah, but it wasn't quite that simple. So in between I got a master's degree in French and then I met my husband at the graduate residence hall and we married, and so I stayed in Ann Arbor looking for a teaching job, which is what women did in those days. This is 1971 we're talking about. But that was an era in which all of the colleges had dropped their foreign language requirements, and there were no teaching jobs because the high schools then dropped their 5:00foreign language courses because the students didn't sign up for them because they didn't need them to go to college. So I ended up typing. I typed for a couple of years in French and decided that that was not the way I wanted to spend my life, and so I went back and got another degree. I can tell more stories. I would call this the awakening period, right. So Mike was doing a PhD. He had another year to go and so I decided to try to pursue another master's degree to see if I could get a job in another field when we were going to leave, which I did. I got a degree in community college and adult education at the University of Michigan, so I had two master's degrees. I followed him to Old Dominion University. I was unemployed for about six months, profoundly unhappy, but I did eventually find a job at Old Dominion and a wonderful cohort of 6:00activist women.

I can tell more stories about this if you want to hear them, but I had already been involved with Women's Centers. There was one at the University of Michigan where I went to get some counseling and then I did an internship there. That was one of the very first women centers in the country. There were only two. In that era it was all about creating opportunities for women to return to college. This is an era in which greater access to contraception, greater access to divorce, the feminine mystique. Lots of women were divorcing and terrified because they had no preparation to do work on their own. There was a whole national movement. There were even bills passed to help women go back to college in order to be able to support themselves. So this Women's Center was focused on returning women. That was the movement at the time in the early 70s. When I got to Old 7:00Dominion, within a matter of weeks, the activist women's caucus, faculty women's caucus, was hosting a meeting about trying to set up a Women's Center there. I found out about it. They found out about me. They were thrilled. I was in continuing education. That's where I was employed. It was actually my area of expertise. I was working for a crazy but wild sort of guy who was the dean of continuing education and he thought anything we do would be great. [Chuckles]

And so instantly we were involved in trying to set up a Women's Center at Old Dominion. That was 1974-5, somewhere in there, about 1974 or 5. We wrote a grant. It was supported by the institution, which was a growing... Every time the doors opened up each fall at Old Dominion there were another 1,000 students. 8:00There was a moment of great change. You know, at one time Old Dominion was actually a branch of William & Mary. But you may not have known that, but they were, and it was a vastly growing urban institution at the time, built on a housing redevelopment project.

Anyway, a moment of great change there and everything was possible. Let me just put it that way, everything was possible. So we started a Women's Center but not because we got the grant. We did not get the grant, but the administration agreed to go ahead and start that in one of the old houses that the University had acquired adjacent to campus.

Emily: I didn't know that women centers really didn't start popping up until around that time.

Pat: The 70s.

Emily: Was that the time when women centers across the nation started popping up around that time?

Pat: Not quite that fast Emily. They happened but not quite that fast. Of course 9:00everything was quite a movement at that time. They started in some placs and not others, and of course they didn't start at Virginia Tech. There were lots of places more ripe for them than other places were, but they did start growing. There [wasn't] an unknown quantity at the time.

Emily: What brought you to Virginia Tech?

Pat: Actually there were two things that came together. One is Mike, we're not four years into Old Dominion. Mike was a faculty member in engineering there. And he had worked at NASA on some projects with some students, some women and minority students. He was trying to do some research training for them, and he met somebody from Virginia Tech who also had some NASA grants. Parallel track 1: he was being recruited to come to Virginia Tech. The other track was, it was clear to me that if I was going to advance I needed a Ph.D., and so the question 10:00was where should I go. I really wanted to go back to the University of Michigan. I thought it was a wonderful institution. I had a great experience there. I wanted to be there. But by then we were out of state tuition and they promised no graduate assistantships and the only thing Mike could get was a post-doc, which would have paid $14,000 and my tuition was 6. Obviously, that wasn't going to work. So then I had to figure out whether I wanted to go off alone and let him pursue whatever he was going to do, or come to Virginia Tech with him and figure out whether I could make it work here, and I ended up choosing the latter. So I followed him here because he was recruited to be part of a very growing and very strong program in composite materials.

So, I figured at the time that I could maybe continue to work. The field I was in, continuing education, is a field that respects a doctorate, but really 11:00respects experience first and foremost. So the notion that I could work part-time and pursue the Ph.D. seemed like not a bad idea and they were okay with that. So I came kind of as a following spouse.

Emily: What were your first impressions of Virginia Tech, the first memories that you have?

Pat: Well, my own program at the time, community college education was a much bigger deal in the 70s than it is now. It had only been started in the 1970-71 timeframe, and they had an enormous community college administration program which they ran all over the state to try to help community colleges have Ph.D.-level trained administrators. And there were probably eight or ten faculty members doing that work. That's a big group. The higher ed group however was two people or three people, neither of whom were very strong.

There was a strong group of young people recruited by a guy named Gary 12:00Fenstermacher, a philosopher of education who was over in something we used to call Foundations, not in the same department I was in. And he and some others, he recruited some young people and I want to talk about them for a minute, were trying to create a Ph.D. option in educational policy that would give the Foundations people, who were sociology, philosophy, and anthropology of education, they had no direct Ph.D. line, to be able to work with Ph.D. students themselves. And remember, the College of Education is a graduate program. There's no undergraduate program associated with it. And so those young faculty members were eager to get something started and they got involved in a brand-new policy option, which I signed up for, and they expected students to be full-time, residential, serious -- that was me, full-time, residential. So it 13:00wasn't like many of the other education programs which were all over the state enrolled in by people who were employed, that kind of stuff.

So, my impressions of Virginia Tech, well, I need to go back just a little bit. So, when Mike and I drove our U-Haul across the Mason Dixon line we thought we had moved back to the 1950s. I mean culturally it was a shock. It was not a comfortable shock. And I have to say that Blacksburg was less of a shock than Norfolk was. Norfolk was at that time controlled by a lot of retired military, by a very southern flavor religious-right. This is the time of Pat Robertson who ran the 700 Club, a very conservative environment. Women weren't working very much. It was a very alien environment to me, and I often say that's what made me 14:00a radical. I really wasn't a radical before then, but the mere fact of wanting to work was a radical move at that time.

Well Blacksburg was only a little better than that in some ways. It was a little more cosmopolitan because it had hired faculty in the late 60s or early 70s from everywhere. Now I want to go back to the story about those younger women faculty members. Virginia Tech was growing vastly, and much of that growth was related to women. Remember women weren't admitted on the same basis as men until the mid to late 60s. We are talking about mid 1960, there were about 500 women. In 1967 there were 1,000 women. They were growing as fast as the dormitories could be shifted to women, so it had this legacy, a moment of vast change for Virginia Tech.

Hahn was an extraordinary president, extraordinary president with a vision for 15:00what Virginia Tech could be, and that included admitting women and transforming what disciplines we taught. I mean that was the era in which we added the "...State University" in [our name], added humanities and added sociology and added education, added a whole bunch of subjects at the full major level that never existed before. So early 70s were a moment of tremendous transition for Virginia Tech and you felt that in the air, so I felt that as well.

Back to my story about the young women faculty members, because I know on your list is "who might have been influencing you". In general I felt my graduate program was a five-year independent study. Honestly, I really didn't have faculty members who did me much good, so I didn't really bond with many of them. I bonded with one, and that was Sheila Slaughter. So she was one of those core 16:00of junior faculty members who had been hired by this more senior guy, Gary Fenstermacher, who created a group. And Sheila was and is a Marxist. She was a feminist. She had been educated in the [northeast]. Now this is typical of a lot of the brand-new junior women faculty, of which there were very few by the way, even in the late 70s. Because when you hired new faculty at a huge rate they weren't coming out of the south in that era, because the southern institutions were not strong in the 70s, not strong Ph.D. producers. Ph.D.s were coming out of the northeast, the Midwest, and that's where new faculty were coming from. So you ended up with creating this environment in which people like Sheila, coming from the northeast, and [they] are aghast at what they have done [by] moving to the south at an institution with such a powerful cultural legacy of race and 17:00gender discrimination and military [requirement]. So, I mean these are legacies that were just beginning to stretch a little bit.

Sheila, as I described to you, was a fairly radical person actually, and she taught a couple of classes that several of us signed up for. She wanted [00:17:28 it run] very independently. We met at her apartment up at Jefferson Apartments. She had no furniture, we sat on the floor. There were six of us or seven of us in that class. Most of us older, nobody young. We had an incredible experience. She had us read Emma Goldman's autobiography. Do you know about Emma Goldman? A radical free love labor movement person. This is what we read. What it had to do with higher education is not at all clear.


But we conducted original research. I remember these powerful experiences we had, and we broke up into teams and we actually conducted original research on women at Virginia Tech, so we conducted a study and we wrote it up in 1981. The team I was working with was on women administrators, so we surveyed the women administrators and that was not a big survey. Tried to interview some of them. A few of them refused to interview us because they were afraid. They were embattled. Most of the women who had any kind of administrative role were associated with home economics. There were very few women administrators at all at Virginia Tech. The most significant one was a vice president for Student Affairs who was the one who was very difficult to talk to and didn't want to talk to us and was afraid of being misquoted and an atmosphere of fear.

So anyway, that was a really powerful experience with Sheila and then she left, 19:00as did almost all the young women faculty women who had been hired. It was a mismatch. It was an era in which anybody who did feminist scholarship was denied tenure. It was an era of hostile climates. It was an era in which women were not appreciated in any way and those who had options to leave did or were forced out. I'm really the only one who is kind of left from that era really, and that's only because I think I was protected because I was a student.

We started a women's caucus in 1978. I didn't start it, but I was there along with one other graduate student in education, Mary Rojas, a person who became very important to women's issues on campus. Mary and I were both non-traditional 20:00students. I had been president of the women's caucus at Old Dominion before I had left to come back to do my Ph.D. I was a spouse. I really didn't feel like an ordinary graduate student in many ways. I felt more like a colleague to these junior women who were only a few years older than I was. And we created this caucus. Again, I wasn't the president of it, but I was deeply engaged in that work, deeply engaged to the point that's why it took me five years to finish my Ph.D. I was so busy doing activism work, writing reports, trying to meet with the administration. And I can tell you more stories about that if you want to know about them, but I was always going to finish. I don't mean that, but I mean I had some major delays along the way. [Laughs] Major delays along the way. Anyway, the young women who were trying to meet with the administration at that time and do things, that whole group ended up leaving and some of them had great 21:00careers after they left Virginia Tech, but they didn't stay. They didn't stay.

A few were forced out because they were trying to do a women's studies scholarship and we didn't do a women's studies scholarship at Virginia Tech at that time. And others left just because it was a battle too hard to be fought.

Emily: And so with that research that you did in Sheila's class and the administrators, that atmosphere of fear, was there any pushback from that once it was completed?

Pat: I don't want to say there was pushback there, but I could describe some of the meetings from doing our little study. But it just demonstrated where the climate was at that time. This was not a climate that nurtured women and it didn't nurture people of color either. Let's just be honest about that. There was one African American couple at the time, Johnny Miles, who was part of the women's caucus, that was a woman, and Leroy Miles, her husband. They had been 22:00hired in the late 1970s. They eventually went up to the Northern Virginia campus, but that's it. You're talking about nobody really, and everybody kind of imperiled in some way.

Okay, so what happened, so these reports, it was more kind of opposition going on with the administration relationship to those faculty women's caucus reports that we wrote, some of which I still have here and I put in the archives. So the meeting I remember the most was the one where we presented -- we did more than one meeting with the administrators, but we did one in about 1983, which is about the time I was supposed to be finishing my dissertation but was actually writing this report instead. We had this meeting in the president's board room. I don't know if you've ever been in that board room Emily, but at the time and for all the decades I worked at Virginia Tech, the board room is a paneled room, wood paneled room with these portraits of all of the past white male presidents 23:00that we've had before, most of them with the most severe looking expressions on their faces that you can imagine. All the meetings that I had after I later was employed by Virginia Tech were still in this room, right. So we were in this room with five or six male administrators. I won't name them except John Perry, who I will talk about later. Oh, I will name them, it was Minnis Ridenour, you know, some of these names that are so indelible to Virginia Tech's history. I mean Minnis Ridenour, Ray Smoot, these are names where people were in positions of authority and leadership for decades. We're talking 30 years or more, really shaped Virginia Tech over many years. Anyway, our meeting was then to talk about the need for affirmative action, the fact that we had vastly male-dominated 24:00departments, even in English, foreign languages, all the fields that had had more than the majority of women doctorates back in the 70s.

So it's not as if there weren't a pool of women to hire. You had to be doing systematic discrimination to end up with 75% male faculty in English. I mean let's be honest about it. The same with foreign languages. So we were having that conversation about the need to hire. We had also done some salary studies and we were talking about discrimination in salary. We were talking about the need to do women's studies, and I describe that meeting in every talk I've ever given as meeting with a group of clueless, completely clueless, not angry, but clueless white men. There wasn't a single man in the room who had a working wife, and we're talking about the 1980s here. This is not the beginning of the women's movement, this is well into it, and they did not appreciate or buy into 25:00the vision that we had for that growth and change.

So, I had felt that the years that I was working on this that very little happened between 78 and 83, very little happened at Virginia Tech. We kept bringing out the issues. We weren't shooed away when we set up an appointment, but nothing happened as a result of those appointments. Really virtually nothing happened.

Emily: And so when did you start seeing any change at all? If not by 1983, did it start picking up any time soon after that?

Pat: Well, my personal story is that when I finished my doctorate there was no job. By the way, I did my doctorate on affirmative action for women faculty, so obviously this was a topic near and dear to my heart. So I left and went to the University of Maryland and Mike and I commuted for a couple of years, and then he got a job up at the University of Maryland and hated it. Mike was someone who 26:00loved the intense, complete immersion in the faculty experience. I mean he worked seven days a week. He called his students on Saturday and Sunday. All of them remember being called on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. He loved the academic life in an intense way, and at University of Maryland people lived very far from the campus. They didn't come onto campus because you had to park a mile away. You know people were living in Baltimore and there was no campus life and he really didn't like it very much. So we tried to find a third place for us to go. You know he would have gladly come back to Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech was very strong in his field. There was a huge core of people doing the kind of work that he did and great students. So we tried to go at a third place. That didn't materialize.

And at that very moment in time, this is 1987 now, the person who recruited Mike 27:00to Virginia Tech in the first place left Virginia Tech and went to University of Virginia. He was running a very large-scale grant program with NASA Langley. Mike had been part of it. So Paul Torgerson, who was dean of engineering at the time, got on the phone and tried to bring Mike back to Virginia Tech. I did not want to come. I did not want to come. It wasn't a place that had any future for me as far as I could tell. I had not heard of anything. I still had friends here. I had no reason to believe that it was going to be any better of a location for me to be employed. Paul Torgersen then became the one who was trying to find a job for Pat. This was hilarious actually. This was sort of the dual career program before it existed.

Paul was just running his first capital campaign. Virginia Tech didn't do fundraising very much until the 80s. He had very little respect for professional 28:00fundraisers. He thought anybody could do it. He was going to hire me as his fundraiser, a fundraiser for him. He did not know that I abhor making cold calls on the telephone, just not my strength, but he was going to hire me in order to get Mike.

Then at that moment a lot of things broke Emily. It was just a transformational moment at Virginia Tech. There was the famous land swap. You may not have heard about that. Virginia Tech had an apple orchard farm right where OfficeMax is. You know where OfficeMax is, right?

Emily: Hmm.

Pat: So we owned all of that property on 460 and there was a land swap made with the Whitethorn property down in McCoy. It was meant to be better property. It was farmland. It was not along an urban, what was a growing corridor. At that time it was still not what it is now, but it was going to be developed, and trying to grow apples in a developed area is not a great idea. There was a guy 29:00who was on both sides of the transaction, so that became a complete ethical issue, a huge state issue and a lot of people had to resign over it.

Then there was a basketball scandal and we were under NCAA violations, no, we weren't in the NCAA -- well, violations for basketball scandal stuff. Don't even ask me what it was. Then there was a lot of stuff going on, so their whole top administration ended up resigning. President Lavery resigned under a threat of a vote of no-confidence from the Faculty Senate and over these two other issues. The provost left, not because he was involved in any of this stuff, but because he was offered a presidency. This was David Roselle. Everybody was interim. I mean the whole Burruss Hall was interim.

Back to my story about John Perry. John Perry was the vice provost at the time. 30:00I believe that was his title. He had come with Provost Wilson from Wells College, which was a women's college in the 80s, an enormously good human being, John Perry was. He had no interest in being provost. He was a mathematician by training, but he took over the provostship at that time to hold it together until they could stop the provost search and start a presidential search, and then they would return to a provost search after a new president had been hired. So really the game completely changed in 1987, completely changed.

So Perry was looking for a hire behind. We call them hire behinds, to do some of the work that he used to do. He used to do budget work and administrative work in the office, and I got hired in a temporary position to do that work. And I 31:00agreed to do that work because it was a moment of transformation for Virginia Tech, and that's when we hired -- I always say in the story that's when we hired McComas. He was the first one who knew how to spell the word 'diversity', and that was true. And then he hired a feminist, Fred Carlisle, and it began a moment of possibility for Virginia Tech, real possibility for Virginia Tech. So that's how I got back to Virginia Tech and how I think things changed. And I think it broke open because of the land swaps scandal, the resignation of Lavery. I mean otherwise the status quo would have gone on for a very long time.

Emily: Is this when you started making steps on your own for women's history in advancement of women at the University?

Pat: Yeah, and I think that has to be because John Perry let it happen. [Laughs] And there was a lot of activism. Even when I was gone, back to my story, Mary 32:00Rojas finished her Ph.D. and stayed at Virginia Tech. Mary Rojas was always very interested in international women's issues, and she talked the administration into having an international women's component. This is at a time when the College of Agriculture was interested in this. So she was part of an international development initiative in the College of Agriculture. She was a wonderful person, brought people together. They had a very slight burgeoning of kind of a women's week activity where people would give talks. There were a few women trying to teach a women's studies course on an ad hoc basis. There were things happening despite a non-conducive environment, so those things were happening, and with the change in administration it allowed those to come out in the open.

There was a real women in development program funded. There was eventually a 33:00real women's studies program allowed to occur and a director hired. There was eventually a real black studies program funded and a [director] [00:33:12] to be hired. So things went from underground to above ground, and you know the administration funded those things. We also had Carol Burger at the center of this. We created a Women's Research Institute [funded by] the Research Division which was run by Gary Hooper at the time. So there was a meeting with Gary Hooper and John Perry who was the interim provost. I was at the meeting and they wanted to do something. I mean people wanted to do something at this point to try to change, and they funded this women's research institute, or WRI, so that got started. And then we wrote grants and we did lots of stuff that was either 34:00allowed to happen or encouraged to happen, let me put it that way.

Emily: That's I guess around the time when the Women's Center here was created or founded?

Pat: That was just another step. I think that was 94ish. I'm sure you can find that date somewhere, about 1994, but it was in the middle of a budget reduction. So how did that story happen? Well, there was a coordinating council -- oh, this is a funny story I forgot to tell. So President McComas, as sympathetic as he was, in some way was confused, because he didn't know what women wanted, you know, as if there was sort of one voice, and that we should be able to come up with a plan, we should all agree on a plan. There were lots of things to be done, but we did create a women's coordinating council of those positions that now existed. The state required a sexual assault counselor in those days, so 35:00there was a person doing that. There was the EO office. There was me. People were actually paid to do some of this work, which was new, you know. We didn't have people paid to do some of this work [before].

So we got together and created a coordinating council, and we wrote a proposal for a Women's Center, and it came to the administration at a moment of budget reduction. We had severe budget reductions multiple times while I was in the provost office. Not fun. And one of those reductions that Fred Carlisle insisted was a 25% reduction in the College of Education, massive cuts, massive cuts. And we allowed some things to happen, so I was part of enforcing that, helping people to retire early, doing all kinds of stuff to try to make a 25% budget reduction in one college happen.

And one of the deals that got suggested by a colleague of mine in the office, was why didn't we let a woman who was doing sex equity and education work named 36:00Penny Burge, count as a budget reduction and make her the director of a new Women's Center? It was a quid pro quo kind of deal that, if we could talk Penny into doing that, it would allow the college to count her salary as a budget reduction, and it would give us a way to start in the middle of a massive university budget reduction, a Women's Center where there's no time or space to do that. So it was actually that guy who had that idea. And I'm pretty sure it was Fred Carlisle at the time, we came up with a way to get it launched at that time, so that's how it got started.

Emily: Can you speak to some of the work that you've done with the Women's Center or with VT advance, here how you got involved with all of this?

Pat: Sure. There's kind of an arc here. The arc has ups and downs to it. It was not all easy. It was not all easy, and I can talk about some of those moments 37:00that were not easy later, but in general the arc for women was easier than the arc for African Americans, which had more ups and downs of dramatic character. But there was a momentum building and we ended up hiring more people with women's studies background and we ended up hiring more people to serve the Women's Center. So there was a collection of people who had expertise and commitment and passion around these issues, so I wasn't the only one any more doing this kind of work, and it was being done legitimately. I mean that's important for you to understand that all of the work that was done in the 80s was underground, you know. People did it despite, not because of, that sort of thing.

So I didn't want to run the Women's Center myself; it reported to me. But even in the case of the one at Old Dominion that I started in 1976, it reported to 38:00me, but I did not want to do the work myself. I didn't feel that was my strength. Individual one-on-one counseling was not my strength. My strength was programmatic, policy, that sort of stuff, and the same was true here with the Women's Center. Penny, and a woman named Penny Cook who became the administrative assistant, launched that, and of course I was deeply involved in the life of the Women's Center work, but I wasn't running the Women's Center. Other people were running it and developing its programs. Under another leader, Ellen Plummer, who is of course still here, grew grant programs around sexual assault and grew that effort enormously. That was Ellen's achievement, but we did lots of stuff under Penny in those early years.

So now I'm talking about the mid-90s when that got launched, right. Advance 39:00doesn't come to play until the 2000s, and it was really an idea of two women engineers named Karen Thole and Nancy Love. Karen was a mechanical engineer and Nancy Love was a civil engineer, relatively young faculty members, not brand new but relatively young and eager. And of course almost all engineers even in those days had to get grants, and so they were always watching for things, and they had seen a grant from the National Science Foundation for this thing called Advance. And they met with me. I mean I was the logical person to meet with because I was probably the most senior person involved in university-level work around women's issues. And they met with me and showed me this grant [00:39:52 call], and what NSF had decided was that they had invested for several decades 40:00programs for individual women. Let us fix you. You will be more competitive if you have this experience. So let us give you an intensive laboratory research experience and maybe you can be competitive for a faculty position. So I call that the era of "fixing the women". And the Advance grant was siphoned off as some money off the top of all of the NSF directorates to try to "fix the institutions". That was the modus operandi of Advance. It was institutional grants to fix institutions, not to fix the women. I mean you could fix the women as part of institutional grants, but it was a commitment by those institutions who got the grant to transform the institution, and that sounded pretty good to us at the time.

This is now the era where Mark McNamee is provost, someone who got it profoundly 41:00at his core, a genuine, authentic sort of man around these issues. That's very important to know. So he was enthusiastic about us writing this grant, and we wrote the grant. It was a $3.5-million NSF grant when we got the money. This is a very big deal. We wrote this grant in about 2002 I believed we turned it in, and we were awarded the grant in 2003. And we started doing a lot of [background work], even without the money. The dual career issues were already on the table. We didn't have a real mechanism for handling them, but they were on the table. We were worried about stop-the-clock issues. I mean there were issues that were on the table but not really systematically focused, and that's what we worked on most effectively for the Advance grant.

There were many streams in the Advance grant though. There was the family 42:00friendly policies, which is that combination of things around stop the clock, around allowing someone to buyout for a term if they needed to buyout for a term because of a family-related issue, the dual career office, all kinds of guidelines about departments. We did a lot of work on department climate. We did training endlessly for department heads and for search committees trying to increase the probability that a woman be selected in a search for an engineering or science-based faculty member, so the grant was, of course, focused on the College of Science and the College of Engineering. We should be clear about that, because that's what NSF funds. But it spilled over to everywhere, and we made it applicable to all colleges, so it was really an institution-wide sort of effort.

We also had a stream of the grant that worked with doctoral students, women 43:00doctoral students in the sciences and engineering, [we] tried to increase their flexibility, availability, preparation, notions of what it means to be a woman in science. We tried to have conversations about changing the nature of laboratory science, which is alien to many things that women need to accomplish. The whole job of being a faculty member in engineering and science was a hostile environment for women. And I don't mean because of the way you were treated, it's the work itself, which is so intense, and you are expected to be on the job 24/7. And there are no gaps. You're not allowed to have any gaps. You're not allowed to be going to your child's soccer game. You're not allowed to be breast-feeding, the whole notion of what it meant to be a successful scientist was what was at stake and that's what we were trying to work on. And we worked on that. The grant had several no-cost extensions and we closed that down in 2010, so it went from 2003 to 2010. And I think we made a big difference, 44:00particularly on the family friendly policies, but in other ways too. After trying to select more women leaders the College of Engineering was much more involved in trying to find women faculty members. Let me pause there though and see if you want to redirect some things before we go on with that.

Emily: Did you have any questions?

Katie: Yes. I was interested in you talking about there being a general arc about some of the advancements that happened, but that there were some ups and downs. Can you talk a little bit about experiencing that downtime and how did it come back from that downtime and keep pushing forward to keep doing work even if you were experiencing pushback or resistance to the work that you wanted to get done?


Pat: Well, I'll make one story short and then I'll tell a longer story. There were some really terrible times at times. So one of the shorter terrible times was under Paul Torgersen as president. This was 1996 I'm pretty sure. We had a women's week or women's month at that time, and the brochure was advertising a program called "Thank God I'm a Lesbian". And the description of the film that they were going to show created havoc, let us describe it that way. And someone on the faculty, we have some of these folks who are much more conservative and not happy about the changes that were occurring, particularly around lesbians and gays, and they sent that program to the Richmond Times Dispatch. An editorial was written saying that, of course, Virginia Tech didn't need any of the budget money that was being negotiated right at that very moment in the 46:00General Assembly. If they had enough money to show a film like this and that it was being funded by university expenses, then clearly we didn't need any money.

As I say in the story that I shipped to you, it was a terrible moment in time. Virginia Tech was about to do a major fundraiser in Richmond itself and the people who were hosting that fundraiser were beside themselves with what that might mean, because many of our older donors are not gay-friendly. What can I say? And then the General Assembly itself was voting on the budget in the next two days. I mean it was just an awful moment. And Paul Torgersen's office was inundated, inundated with people who were either mad about us funding such a film, or anxious about what the impact would be. Paul ended up writing an 47:00editorial back about academic freedom, which was courageous at the time. It was an opinion op-ed piece that was published in the paper, and he supported the right for that to happen. But it was a moment when all of us on the other side of the receiving end of this were worried that in fact the Women's Center would be killed, that all the funding would [be withdrawn]. Well what does it take to offer a film? Like 10-cents, right? So there was really not a lot of university [money] going into this film. But Paul was embarrassed. He didn't want this to happen again. It was attracting attention at the highest level of the presidency. This kind of stuff happens over and over again now, but back then in '96, this kind of disruption was not the president's daily fodder.

So Paul Torgersen had a wonderful, wonderful chief assistant and that was Carol Nickerson. Carol was very supportive of the Women's Center and she was kind of 48:00managing this event for the president's office. She called me in and, I don't remember whether I met with the president or just Carol, but she urged us to find a way not to let this happen again because it was distracting, big-time distracting. And we survived that. The women's community survived that. I'll go back and describe what we tried to do at the time. She asked us to do a little bit more monitoring of the calendar and try to not invite this kind of stuff. So I mean one is [that] we are completely clear that somebody on the faculty shipped that off to Richmond in order to attract attention to this. This is a theme that happens again and again by the way. In the women's community we didn't know what to do. We really thought we were going to lose funding for the Women's Center. We wanted to be supportive of lesbian issues, we just didn't know how to play it, and we decided we would go ahead with them, but there was 49:00some real risk to all of us who were speaking about this. I mean this [was] a different era than it is now. We survived that. We didn't end up giving up on lesbian issues. I mean they were part of women's month and our activities at the Women's Center for a long time, and obviously that whole environment has changed. But there is an arc to gay lesbian issues at Virginia Tech as well.

Another more trying era, longer lasting was the election of John Rocovich as Rector of the Board in probably 2002 if I've got the right era. And this is probably a story I know you already have recorded or somebody has recorded about the appointment of Karen DePauw. So Karen is an out lesbian and we were working to have her partner, Shelli Fowler, appointed by the English Department, and I was managing the visit. That's just one of the roles I had in the provost 50:00office. I did a lot of search committees for top level searches and organized all of their visits and schedules. I did all the visits for Shelli Fowler and saw that the English Department supported her appointment and then, you should probably know this story, Shelli's appointment was not approved. It was devastating. It was devastating. I remember Mark McNamee in tears trying to call Karen DePauw and tell her what had happened. Karen and Shelli already had the moving van planned. They were ready to come. They had to make a big decision about whether to continue to come or not to come. And I think it was partly Mark's sincere response to this crisis that made Karen and Shelli willing to take this on as a personal quest.

I mean who invites themselves to be dissed in this kind of way. I mean diss 51:00doesn't even begin to explain how it felt at the time. But that was only the beginning, so John Rocovich was on a roll and he worked with the Attorney General to write a policy unbeknownst to anybody else eliminating affirmative action at Virginia Tech. And we had at that time written into our policy statement that there would be non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as well. That's what he was really after. John Rocovich was a homophobe and he was about to impose his own personal ideology on the institution.

Now, John Rocovich is a very important person to the life of the university, let me say. His parents worked here. He directed millions of dollars of philanthropy from Marion [00:52:00 Via] to the University. He himself was engaged in the life 52:00of the university in profound ways. I mean there's a reason he's on the board of visitors. But his personal belief system drove what he wanted the agenda to be for the Board while he was the rector. He completely surprised the administration. He never told Charles Steger that he intended to put forward this resolution at the Board and they passed it.

At a subsequent meeting there was a forest guy, a representative of the forest industry, on the board because we are very involved in that sort of stuff, and he was mad about the fact that we had an Eco-First speaker on campus. And the Eco-First at that time took violent protest actions about environmental issues and he was upset about that. So he wrote a little resolution on a piece of paper, pulled it out of his pocket and gave it to the Board to require the 53:00president to review speakers on campus before they came, which is of course unconstitutional. [Laughs] And the Board passed that too, so you ended up with an explosion of anger at the institution because we had become a more welcoming place over the years. And we're talking about having worked on these issues for a decade and a half. We had hired people who were feminists. We had hired people who were African American scholars. We had hired people who were thinking differently. We hired gays and lesbians. I mean the campus was not transformed, but was transforming, and we were open to diversity, we really were. This was not who we were. This is not who we were.

So we had everybody upset about this and the faculty members engaged on multiple 54:00levels. One because of the academic freedom issue, even if they weren't concerned about the gay lesbian issue, and there was a march. I remember Ann Kilkelly walking with a black robe and duck tape on her mouth. You know this is not something that Virginia Tech does much of, but it did then. Letters were written. Petitions were passed. There were conversations constantly going on with the Board. There were alumni who engaged...

This is a moment when a lot of us tried to decide whether to quit, really. I stayed. I was mad. I was angry. I was angry that Charles was not more confrontational with the Board. Charles refused to speak about it. He did not 55:00want to be publicly in opposition to the Board, so all the work was going on behind the scenes and it left the faculty and the students feeling like nobody was there covering their back. I stayed though because Mark McNamee was there, and I believed in his belief that we would make this right somehow. And I also believed, because I had been there a long time and been through many provosts already that I could last longer than John Rocovich. Their appointments are only four years. After all, boards come and go and being persistent is a huge part of institutional change, and I felt like I was part of that you know, so if you leave when the moment comes when you might do something about it you're not there.


And you know I wasn't going to lose my job over this. Mark McNamee was not going to fire me. I was still married to a faculty member. This was not personally threatening to me. It was at the core of my heart threatening to me, at the core of what I meant my professional life to be was threatening to me, but not in terms of my paycheck, so I stayed. Eventually there was a special meeting of the Board called. Enough work had been done behind the scenes and the Board rescinded its action in the spring, and by June the Board had voted Rocovich out of the rector position. And then the Governor began appointing diversity-related people to our Board and then suddenly, whiplash, we're having to report on diversity issues, starting like the next year. So it was a terrible moment that 57:00lasted way too long.

Eventually the president found a way to appoint Shelli Fowler. It was a complicated work-about. It wasn't in the English Department. It wasn't a lot of things that Shelli wanted, but Shelli agreed to that future and a resolution was found and the Board approved that. So it was a terrible several years, just a terrible several years. There's more to it than I've told you, but it was a terrible several years.

Katie: How did principles of community factor into all of that?

Pat: Well it was sort of this [00:57:44 denouement], what do we do to repair this damage? And there were many things that we needed to do. There were things that were happening around African Americans as well where we had lost the confidence that anybody had in the state had about sending their kids to 58:00Blacksburg. I mean there were moments of terrible down incidents that got a lot of national press, got a lot of state press. So there was that, how to maintain the sense that Virginia Tech was really committed to African Americans was a very tenuous, difficult thing. So all the time we were trying to figure out how to move forward with this, Katie. There were a number of things that we had to do. One of them was this thing called Narrow Tailoring. I don't know if you've ever heard that expression. But one of the ways that we had to address some of the concerns of the Board was to go through every single program we had related to race and make sure that it was legally compliant, which meant that it had to be open to more than African Americans.

This was very very upsetting to a lot of people. We had a MAOP program at the 59:00time. We had it in place for a number of years. It was for African American undergraduates to have a research experience during the summer. That program took African Americans. It wasn't open to everybody. That was one of those that was on the chopping block. It either had to be opened or it was going to be closed. Bev Watford was running a number of programs. All of those had to be opened. They couldn't be closed, same on gender. If you ran a women's program through what is called CEED in engineering, you had to allow men to participate if men applied, and so on and so forth. So we went through months, months of editing brochures, trying to figure out what the mission statements could be, trying to figure out we could meet its Narrow Tailoring requirements. And Mark McNamee was unhappy, but deeply involved in trying to make these things go.

A few of them had to be abandoned. We had one African American scholarship 60:00internship, fellowship, whatever you want to call them, in veterinary medicine. They only had money for one. There was no point in opening it up. It didn't accomplish what veterinary medicine wanted to do with one, so if you opened it up you weren't necessarily going to be able to accomplish what the goal was there. So a few things had to be killed altogether and other things had to be opened up.

The Principles of Community was just one more thing that we worked on. So how did we get to the point where civil conversation is part of our culture? And we wrote the Principles of Community and felt that this was not everything. It's one thing. And the fact that it's endured so many years is a good thing. It didn't have teeth, and several times we tried to work through grievances or work 61:00through employee disciplinary background based on the Principles of Community and the lawyer at the university didn't feel it had the teeth to be able to make it something that you could use as a behavioral mandate, but it does help shape the culture. And of course we had signs printed everywhere. And President Sands has been wonderful about keeping that engaged and alive.

Emily: And so there have obviously been a lot of changes happening to this very day. Are there changes that you would still like to see happen on campus?

Pat: Oh yeah, yeah, sure. [Laughs] So, I don't know intimately whether or not there is still the energy around women's issues as there was when I was in the provost office. I feel as if when the grant finished and I left that the energy 62:00that we had poured into that at some very high level for so many years dissipated. And I'm just not sure that Virginia Tech is as committed to that any more as they were. Back to my "what makes change happen" thing, leadership matters. There's just no two ways about it, leadership matters. And it has to be ongoing for years and years and years. You know when the leaders don't speak about this, they don't make this a priority, they don't hold people accountable, it shifts itself right backwards. So some of that is about how many women leaders we have. We have some. Very recently we've been once again hiring women deans. I bet we went through a period even after the Advance grant was over where suddenly where were women at the top? They weren't there. Just relatively few women selected for senior positions.

And women's issues in general wasn't sure. I wasn't sure that the commitment was 63:00there to be hiring women faculty in engineering any more, because it takes a lot of work to change that, a lot of work to change that. And it takes a dean who is absolutely insistent that this is a priority to make that happen, not just nice, but a priority to make that happen. And I'm not sure that's there. As much as I support the dean of engineering, there are good things and they have big agendas, all the deans and all the vice presidents have big agendas, but it takes an ongoing commitment -- verbal, symbolic, and actual you know, putting money behind things, hiring the right people, starting programs and supporting them, speaking about it. All of those things matter to create an environment in which a change can happen over a very long time.


Now it hasn't snapped back completely. We have a lot of women on campus now, many more than we had before, but we are still not at an equitable state and it's still every single senior women appointment is a big deal, you know. So it's not natural. It's not natural. And of course we've only had one woman provost. We hadn't had any woman president seriously considered, and yet there are other women who have run major land grant universities, the University of Michigan. Most of the Ivy League have now tested and found themselves accepting of a woman president, so that hasn't happened here yet either.

Emily: What kind of work are you doing now if any with the University or in your own life?

Pat: Oh I'm very busy. [Laughs] So I've moved from pay to non-pay. With Jerry 65:00Niles who is an extraordinarily wonderful man and former dean of liberal arts. What do we call it? Liberal arts and whatever at the time. I don't know if you remember, Katie, was the name of the first combined college was. Jerry was an education faculty member and then went on to help create this new combined college that we had one of our major restructuring conferences. Jerry was tapped to try and start a lifelong learning institute by the University and I got in on it very early. It's my thing. I absolutely love it, and Jerry and I are perhaps the most involved, but it's a volunteer organization and we brought together all the people we like to work with who are now retired. We created our little snowball network of folks, so its courses and events, educational courses and events for people who are over 50, and this is our third year and I'm in charge of the program, so we develop all of these.


I work on this probably 20-25 hours a week, something like that, so I'm pretty deeply involved in that. We've got 450 members now who are taking courses and we're offering maybe 20-25 courses each of our two terms a year, and then another sort of 20 events. Those are field trips, special lectures. We just had Stefan Duma talk about his helmet research. You know we've been visiting the robotics lab. We've gone to veterinary medicine. We go to the Art Museum in Roanoke. We do all those kinds of things. We're headed to the Volvo Plant to see what the Volvo Plant is like. It's been extremely well received and a really important initiative in the New River Valley I think, so I'm having a great time.

Emily: Is there anything else you would like to add or speak about?

Pat: No, I just want to be grateful for all of the people I've worked with. I met some wonderful women especially, and I worked with a lot of mid-career 67:00mid-level women. I'm going to describe that. I didn't describe that for you. So the provost office except for Peggy Meszaros was always run by men, but there were a group of us mid-level people who did all the work, you know. This is the Kay Heidbreder who was legal counsel, still is legal counsel. This is Linda Woodard who ran human resources. This is a handful of other people. We did a lot of work together and worked well together. Linda Woodard and I for example, we chaired the childcare committee trying to figure out how we could do more childcare, and that led to the decision to try to ask the colleges to ante up some private support to provide a subsidy to Rainbow Riders to create the new program there.

So a lot of good work was done with that kind of collection of people who had 68:00great good will and respect for each other and that's what makes work worth doing. And I worked for some wonderful provosts. You know every one of them was an ethical, good person. I never ever wanted to leave the job because I was working for someone I didn't care for, and the kind of job I had, you're joined at the hip. You know you either work with that person and like them, or you leave. It's not an option to stay there and fight them. So we had some wonderful provosts who made each their own kind of difference in that and that really matters.

Katie: You mentioned early about the young women faculty served as your mentors your first year as graduate student. Did you feel like you continued to get some mentoring throughout your career either from the provosts you worked with or other women who you were working with? Was it a different kind of mentoring than 69:00being a student?

Pat: Yeah. So I've been asked that question a lot and I've been to a million panels on mentoring, but I don't know that I feel like I really had that. So in my graduate program I told you I really didn't have that, because Sheila had left, so she didn't finish me as they say the language. And I stayed in touch with her, but she wasn't a big part of my life after I graduated. So not for my graduate program I didn't have what I would call a mentor other than that good experience with Sheila. I stayed in touch with some of the women at Old Dominion University who I would count as really instrumental in my early career. This is Carolyn Rhodes, an English faculty member in particular. Carolyn was an inspiration to me and so supportive to me many times. Now I didn't talk to her all the time. This is not a close mentor relationship, but a close friendship. 70:00She was older than I was at the time and she's the one who started women's studies at Old Dominion, important to me.

But I worked for a lot of good men. You know I don't know that I am thinking of them as mentors, but they were all models to me in some way in which I could see how they interacted. So John Perry I told you about was the first person who hired me. Many years later John told me a story that I was fascinated about, a self-reflective story. So he said of the few candidates that he had, because it was an internal search for this hire-behind position in 1987, he said he decided to hire me based on that meeting I described to you in the board room when I was an activist. He thought that I was articulate, and I thought "isn't that great", because I was pretty angry at that meeting. Here's a man who could listen to that and admire something in me at the time when I was pretty angry. As a woman 71:00I had several angry years. So John Perry was a wonderful man to work for. And Mark McNamee was a wonderful man. Actually I liked all my provosts. Fred Carlisle was a wonderful person and his wife, Barbara Carlisle, a theater faculty member was more activist than I was, more radical than I was, so there were many good people I worked for. I'm having a hard time calling them mentors, but there were many good people in my life and I admire many of them.

Katie: Do you think at Virginia Tech we could do more, if not like having one on one mentors, but having more mentoring networks?

Pat: Absolutely.

Katie: Because it seems like you were able to cobble together networks of people who then worked together.

Pat: Yeah, right, or it was peer mentoring. Yeah, and I don't mean to say that 72:00all those people that I admired I didn't learn something from, because I certainly did, but when I think of a mentoring relationship I think it's more someone who is invested in me and I'm invested in them and it's more a one on-one relationship. I didn't have one of those. I had lots of other support, but I didn't have one of those. Yes, and you know we did even host a speaker from the University of Massachusetts Boston who came and was trying to work on the issue. In this case it was for associate professors and for junior professors. I think we did a workshop where she came in and taught us about networks, mentoring networks, as opposed to thinking about singular relationships. It's very difficult to have those singular relationships. They actually are more rare than they are common, unless you have one with a dissertation advisor or something of that sort. That's where they happen most of all. But otherwise a lot of people just don't have access to that kind of powerful potent one-on-one constructive relationship. Networks can work better 73:00and so that was the theme of that. Yes of course, I absolutely believe that.

And we also launched several peer mentoring networks among women faculty. These were many of the initiatives that we had going in the years that I was in the provost office, thinking that we don't have a lot of senior women who can mentor other people, so what must we do? We must do peer mentoring. We must do network mentoring. We must look for mentors outside of Virginia Tech. We were encouraging a lot of that. And even the associate professors felt they needed and wanted it. It wasn't simply a junior faculty issue.

I have spent a lot of my life, a lot of my career, there was a moment in time when I suddenly realized people wanted me to be their mentor and I was still craving one of my own. It was a very odd experience, you know, to be thought of as someone who ought to be doing the mentoring when I was still wanting one 74:00myself. But that happened, and I've spent a lot of my time having lunches with junior faculty administrators and wanting to do that kind of work, and I have done a lot of it. I've been especially invested in a statewide women administrators group and I still teach in that every year and participate in that in a way that was profoundly important to me. That was perhaps my peer mentoring effort was this statewide women's network. It was very important to me for 15 or 20 years of my work life.

Emily: Wonderful. Well thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.

Pat: You're welcome.

Emily: We really appreciate it.