Monday, September 7, 2015

Odessa Patrick: First African American Academic Staff Member

Today's Spartan Stories post was written by Lucy Mason, a senior majoring in Economics and African American and African Diaspora Studies. Lucy worked as a researcher in University Archives during Summer 2015. Much of her research focused on the history of African American students and faculty/staff at UNCG.

Odessa Patrick received her B.S. in Biology from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (North Carolina A&T) in 1956. She was recommended to Dr. V.M. Cutter, head of the Biology Department at the Woman’s College (now UNCG), when he reached out to Dr. Artis P. Graves, head of Biology at North Carolina A&T, about hiring a laboratory preparator in January 1958.

Ms. Patrick became the first African American academic staff member at UNCG when she started work on February 1, 1958. Her duties included ordering materials, culturing live specimens, collecting materials in the field, setting up experiments and demonstrations for classrooms and supplying each lab with materials needed for specific exercises. In her third year at UNCG, Dr. Cutter recommended Ms. Patrick for promotion to faculty status. Dr. Cutter’s death and the search for a new department head however, ended the push for faculty status.

Understanding that in order to advance in her field she must complete an advanced degree, Ms. Patrick began working towards her M.A. taking classes at UNC Chapel Hill and UNCG while still working as a lab preparator. In 1969, she received her M.A. in Biology from UNCG and in the same year Dr. Bruce Eberhart made a recommendation to the dean that was accepted on the basis of merit and Ms. Patrick became a faculty member.

During her time as a teaching faculty, she taught principles of biology, vertebrate physiology lab, invertebrate zoology lab and mammalian anatomy. Ms. Patrick was also actively involved on campus serving as an academic advisor, faculty advisor, laboratory coordinator, graduate advisor for the Omicron Eta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., and treasurer of the Black Faculty/Staff Association. She also received UNCG’s Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award (1991). In addition, she was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Ms. Patrick retired on June 30, 1996 after 38 years of dedicated service to the UNCG community. She was also named an emerita faculty member in the Biology Department in 1996.