WOOSTER, Ohio – One of the merits of a liberal arts-based education is that it prepares one for a “second act,” said Judith E. Patterson ’63, who gave the keynote address at Thursday morning’s Convocation, the official marking of The College of Wooster’s 148th academic year.
“What you think might be your life’s work when you leave here, might not be,” Patterson, a middle school teacher-turned-lawyer, cautioned the students seated in McGaw Chapel. “You need to keep your minds open. You need to follow your bliss. Find a passion that you love and can follow and really make a life worth living.”
A 1963 Wooster alumna, it took Patterson nearly 20 years to reach her own “second act.” After being a teacher and then a volunteer with a legal services firm, she embarked on a law career, inspired in part by knowing she got through Independent Study. “When I contemplated going to law school and had to take the LSAT, I thought ‘this isn’t going to be easy, but I did do I.S.,’” she quipped.
Patterson became a tireless advocate for children in western Pennsylvania, providing legal counsel to thousands in the child-welfare system in Allegheny County’s Juvenile Court. For her, dealing with drug-addicted parents and rampant sexual abuse “was gritty, nasty, incredibly satisfying.”
Her hope is that each Wooster student can find the same “passion … in your work,” and she also stressed “the job that you eventually wind up in may not exist by the time you graduate,” so “see what the world has to offer.”
President Sarah Bolton preceded by inviting the college community to reflect on “who you are … what are the strengths and wisdoms that you hold … (and) what are the truths that you navigate,” in looking ahead to a new school year.
Calling it a “gathering at a critical time,” Bolton stressed that “upholding the freedoms within our communities for every single person is more crucial now than ever,” and Wooster will do its part to “move forward together to make these freedoms hold.”
Student leaders who helped inaugurate the 2017-18 academic year were seniors Maggie Sestito, president of the Student Government Association, and Aaron Roberson, president of the Black Student Association. Sestito spoke about the appreciation she has gained for Wooster during her academic career as an environment of “respectful and encouraged discourse.” She is hopeful “that the practices and customs that we foster here will carry through our work after college” and that future classes will continue to “value tolerant, open expression.”
Roberson connected the proverb “never get caught up in life, so that you forget to live” to the seniors’ final year together. Instead of “focusing so much on the far future,” which “diminishes the importance of everyday interactions,” he pledged to his classmates “to leave this place with no regrets and to live here … day by day.”