Every so often we meet a person whose dynamic presence compels greater attention to essential issues. Barbara Patterson was such a compelling leader. One of the early pioneers in Trinity’s degree completion program, she earned her bachelor’s degree in 1984 and then her master’s degree in Education in 1993. Barbara died in late January after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.
I first met Barbara when she was president of the Black Student Fund, a legendary DC organization devoted to advocacy and academic support for black children in school, and in particular to providing scholarships and access for low income black students to attend private K-12 schools. Barbara led BSF for 25 years, and during her tenure the organization became a powerful presence on the educational scene in DC.
Barbara helped me to understand the racial dynamics that were changing Trinity in the early 1990s, and she readily accepted an invitation to join our Board of Trustees. Having her wise counsel during the critical change years of the mid-1990’s was essential for me and the board as Trinity experienced a radical transformation in our student population. Barbara was a clear and unequivocal voice for equity and justice; she was firm in her expectation that Trinity must provide access with quality and academic rigor. She insisted on holding our students to high standards. Those principles guided her daily work at BSF.
Barbara earned many awards including recognition as a Washingtonian of the Year. Her legacy will last for generations in the great educational opportunities she made possible for so many black children in the Washington region.
Our condolences go out to Barbara’s husband, daughters and family, along with great gratitude for the many gifts she shared with Trinity. We are so much better today for having known her and reaped the benefits of her leadership as a loyal alumna and trustee.