Related: Academics, Civil & Human Rights, Education, Social Justice Issues, Trinity, Trinity Alumnae, Women, Women's Leadership

Remembering Barbara Patterson ’84 ’93


Barbara Patterson(Barbara Patterson ’84 ’93, President of the Black Student Fund)

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.

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One Response to Remembering Barbara Patterson ’84 ’93

  1. Vivian Y. Wilds says:

    After reading your reflection on the life of Barbara Patterson, I had flashbacks to my personal experience of meeting her at one of the Black Student Fund school fairs. At the time my daughter was finishing Bunker Hill Elementary School and my husband and I wanted to give our daughter the opportunity to attend a private school in DC. We were able to get our daughter enrolled at Edmond Burke School with the assistance of Mrs. Patterson.
    It was such an exciting time for us that our daughter had gotten accepted and would go for a half day visit at the school on Connecticut Avenue, NW. Well, I’ll never forget her reaction when I picked her up at noon that day and asked how did it go? My child had “crocodile tears” falling from her eyes, and pleaded that we not send her to that school because she wanted to attend Alice Deal Middle School with friends.
    Today, I can say that I don’t regret the decision we made and gave into her wish to attend Alice Deal. Nicole excelled at Deal and had her first visit abroad over an Easter Break to Italy with her seventh grade Latin classmates. After graduating from Deal, she went onto Wilson High and after graduation enrolled at Temple University, where she majored in Business Administration and International Studies. During the summer of her junior year at Temple, Nicole did an internship in Tokyo. She and five other students were housed at Temple University in Tokyo.
    I know this became a long comment in re hashing things about my daughter, but I’m very proud of her maturity and professional progress in life.
    It was sad to hear that Barbara Patterson, who had such a brilliant mind, had succumbed to the terrible illness of Alzheimer. I pray there’s a cure on the near horizon for this disabling disease.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: