All of us have been praised for something great we’ve done in our careers with notes of thanks, certificates, recognition at a companywide meeting, perhaps even a year-end cash bonus.
Dr. Diane Porter Patrick ‘66 got a school named after her.
Diane Patrick Elementary opened this past fall in the Arlington (Texas) School District, and the school’s namesake feels inspired by the 800 “amazing kids” who attend the school – 95% of whom are economically disadvantaged.
“I get goosebumps every time I drive by or walk in,” says Patrick, who seemed to be fighting emotion a number of times during a phone interview last week. “I’ve devoted my entire adult life to education. This is such an honor to experience and the best part is I’m not dead.”
So what does it take to get a school named for you? In the case of Dr. Patrick, who received her master’s and Ph.D from the University of North Texas (in 1969 and 1999, respectively), it’s a 25-year career focused on education and elected public service that includes 12 years on the Arlington Board of Education (four as president); four years on the Texas State Board of Education; and eight in the Texas Legislature. As an Arlington State Representative, she served on the Appropriations, Higher and Public Educations committees, authored the state’s comprehensive anti-bullying bill in 2011, and earned more than her share of constituent recognition.
Since retiring from the Legislature in January 2015, she’s returned to teaching at UT-Arlington and Dallas Baptist University, traveling, and playing with her “seven beautiful and sweet grandchildren.” She and her husband Dr. Ned Patrick, ’67, DDS ’71 celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past Sunday. The couple has two children, son Craig ’92, JD ’95 and daughter Claire, who raised a few parental concerns when she decided to go to Texas A&M.
“I remember having lunch with (former Baylor President) Abner McCall when I was on the State Board of Education, and I told him that Craig was at Baylor but Claire had ‘rebelled’ and gone to A&M. Abner said if she was going to go anywhere but Baylor, then A&M was probably the best choice,” she says with a laugh.
Patrick says she stops by the school every couple of weeks (“I don’t want to wear out my welcome.”). Diane Patrick Elementary has the kind of challenges that many Texas public schools face – the mobility of students among schools that make it challenging to provide consistency and districts where the vast majority live in poverty (60% statewide and 70% in her school district).
“When a family’s biggest concerns are food, shelter, and other basic needs, it’s hard to focus on reading books and encouraging an academically rich learning environment.”
Patrick remembers standing in the hall with her husband as children filed in for the school’s first day. Most of them were escorted by parents, siblings, and other relatives – like any first day of school, it was a big deal — but then she felt something tugging at her skirt.
“It was this little, bitty boy who said ‘I’m here by myself and I need help’ so we got him to his first-grade teacher,” she says, adding that she believes the “personal touch” that the administrators and teachers provide not only at her school but at schools across the state make a huge difference in the students’ lives.
With classes ranging from Pre-K to 6th, Diane Patrick Elementary is focused on the so-called STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) with two science labs, a robotics lab, a 3-D printer, and broadcast facilities. But she was really impressed last week when she came to the school for a combined Christmas Program and Science Night.
“Every classroom was making musical instruments and then interacting in the auditorium with the students who were performing,” she recalls. “At one point during the performance, they introduced me and afterward a young lady came up and shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you for being here. It means a lot to us.’
As Patrick reflected on her path to this point, she says she “always wanted to be a teacher. I even made my two little sisters play school and library all the time.”
- Which Baylor professor had the greatest impact on you and why? Robert Packard, because he convinced me that I could do well in physics, which I found to be a very challenging course.
- The most memorable thing that happened to me at Baylor was…My second year at Baylor I fell in love with Ned, my husband of now 50 years.
- What’s your superpower? Empowering others.
- You obviously get lots of requests for your time. How do you decide which ones to do and what’s your approach to saying no? That’s a difficult question for me because I haven’t learned the art of saying no. I love to help people with whatever requests they have.
- My creative process begins with…Why Not?
- What one word or phrase would you use to describe yourself? Energetic!
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? You can have anything you want if you’re willing to work hard to make it happen.
- Who’s your role model and why? Laura Bush, because she chooses to make a difference in her community and the world by compassionately giving of her time and talents.
- My favorite app is…Google
- One cool thing that’s on my bucket list is…Go on a photography safari in Africa.
- Do you have a prized possession? Hundreds of saved letters from family and friends that date back to my early childhood and include love letters between my then future husband Ned and me.
- Do you have a go-to karaoke song? Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond
- One place I find overrated is…Disney World
- One of the great satisfactions of my life has been: Seeing others I’ve mentored become successful.