Commencement speaker, Prof. Patricia Terry, noted for ‘Iron-man worthy’ efforts on behalf of the University
“If you’re going to run, run a marathon. Go to college? Get a Ph.D. Work at a university? Achieve the rank of full professor.”
She will bring her experience and wisdom to the stage on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 when she serves as the University’s commencement speaker.
Terry has done marathons one better by competing in Ironman triathlons—one of the world’s most difficult events—swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and then run a full marathon. “They fire the starting gun at 7 a.m. and you have until midnight to finish.” She’s completed three. (Also managing to squeeze in two Boston Marathons, two fifty-mile races, and more than 30 other marathons or ultra-marathons along the way).
Her career in academia began even sooner, when her father once offered his “exalted” (her description) advice to his eight-year-old daughter.
“I asked him, ‘who teaches college?’ He said ‘college professors.’ Then he added ‘If you became a college professor, you’d be one of the most honored, revered and respected members of society.’”
“I bring that up to him every chance I get.”
And while her CV is a testament to her scholarly work-ethic with dozens of peer-reviewed published papers, research grants and co-authorship of Principles of Chemical Separations with Environmental Applications, published by Cambridge University Press, it’s her collaboration with faculty and students that has brought her the greatest pleasure.
“What I’m most passionate about was starting the engineering program and leading my faculty, facilitating student success.”
Terry also discovered she had a knack for growing things—from wildflowers to academic flowers. In 2009, one of her students suggested, as a thesis project, replacing the under-performing grass roof over the Instructional Services building with native plants. The student never finished, but true to her pinnacle person personality, Terry persisted. Today, she solely supports a fund to hire students for maintenance and to purchase plants. Over the past seven years, she has gifted the fund approximately $15,000.
Ultimately, Terry’s most sustainable contribution to the University is her Ironman-worthy efforts to the success of students, faculty and the university. She was instrumental in helping launch the new bachelor of science programs in Electrical, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering Technology, becoming director of the programs in 2012.
As far as a “pinnacle” to her academic career to this point, it may be her appointment as the inaugural Chair of the Resch School of Engineering. As the administrator overseeing the program, Terry helped set the curriculum and was in charge of faculty recruitment and mentoring, along with ensuring program accreditation.
Still, she remains a teacher of environmental engineering at heart. Or as she puts it—“Everything’s a chemical. We’re moving chemicals.” And as far as staying on the move goes, Terry confesses a general-education offering remains her favorite class to teach.
“I like teaching Energy and Society. I have to keep up with the news, that class changes every semester. It’s a moving content target.”
Story by Michael Shaw, Marketing and University Communication