Her Voice

So many of the paths that I have traveled during my lifetime can be traced to Josephine Anderson Kennedy, my mother’s dear friend who became my Godmother. She grew up and was educated through the collegiate level in Daytona Beach, Florida. Early on, my Godmother’s parents recognized that she had a God given musical talent. They encouraged her to develop and use this talent. And that she did! At nine, she began sharing her gift by serving as pianist for the Sunday School at her church.  Once I was able to read, she told my mother “It’s time for Patricia to learn how to play the piano.” While music was not my gift, under her tutelage I learned how to play the piano. Like her, I faithfully played for my Sunday School and Sunbeam Choir.

Josephine Kennedy was driven by the urge for excellence to earn her Master of Arts degree in Music Education and Music Supervision from Columbia University, New York.  She returned home to teach in the schools and become the County Music Supervisor. My Godmother was committed to exposing youth to music. peabodyaudiotoriumIn 1955, she under-wrote the First Youth Concert for Blacks in Volusia County, thereby enabling more than 2,500 children to witness their first symphonic presentation. I can remember when I was in elementary school, boarding the bus to hear the Florida Symphony orchestra. Every child was dressed for the occasion because she had sent a letter home with instructions about “what to wear.” On the way to the concert, we were reminded of the expected decorum-how to behave appropriately, how to recognize when the concert was about to begin, when to clap, when to exit, etc. Today when I am at a concert with my husband, he looks to me for the cues because he knows I was trained by my Godmother. I really didn’t understand the significance of her commitment to our learning to appreciate the arts until much later, when I found a tribute to her.

       “At the Peabody Auditorium I saw an audience composed of 2,500 or more Negro children, youth, and young adults sit in breathless attention listening to an hour’s program of the finest production a Symphony orchestra could offer. They participated in that cultural hour with an appreciation equaled to that of any group of music lovers… I bring my gratitude to our marvelous Florida Symphony, and to our efficient Music Supervisor in Volusia County, Mrs. Kennedy whose persistence in promoting this program, demonstrated to our entire county that little Negro boys and girls  who have so long been denied the better things, do have great appreciation for the music of the ages.”  Mary McLeod Bethune (February, 1955, Daytona Beach News-Journal)

My Godmother was an effective leader in the community as well, serving as Past President of the Daytona Beach Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Daytona Beach Chapter National Council of Negro Women, and Daytona Beach Chapter, The Links Incorporated, to name a few. She exposed me to two of these groups in hopes that I would follow in her footsteps. Upon arrival at Hampton, I knew there was only one sorority for me to join and that was Delta Sigma Theta.Deltacharm I would have been disappointed if I did not make the line and was elated to inform her when invited to pledge that I was following her footsteps. My Godmother passed before our Sorority’s Centennial Celebration. But I was able to carry her with me as she had given me the charm she purchased at the Golden Anniversary Celebration which she attended. Similarly, I was delighted when invited into The Links, Incorporated. Unfortunately, she was unable to know that milestone. On a trip, when serving on the National Executive Council, I found in our new national headquarters a plaque that bore her name. She had served as a National Officer during her tenure as a member. I smiled knowing she would be happy to know that I was following in her footsteps.

When it was time for me to think about a career, my Godmother was right their telling me about the opportunities that were available to speech-language pathologists.book Needless to say, this was not a traditional career for minorities, but the exposure to it peaked my interest, resulting in me heading to Hampton in pursuit of my degree. Of course, my Godmother was right there reminding me that I must continue on and get my master’s degree like she did. Many years later, when I authored my first book, Opportunities in Speech-Language Pathology Careers, I reflected on the path that her suggestion in the 10th grade had taken me.


Now there was one area in my life that she remained concerned about and that was my love life. She constantly reminded me that I needed to balance my professional career and personal life. Every time she would see me as the years passed, she wanted to know “who” the boyfriend was and “when” I was going to get married.Mrs.Kennedyatwedding At Last, in 1994, my Godmother was by my side, coordinating my wedding. She smiled and whispered to me that I had completed all of her wishes for me on that day. She reminded me that “love is the greatest gift.” As I look at the both of us on that day, I see something I hadn’t realized before- we have a similar smile. Perhaps, that too is something I emulated.

I am grateful for HER VOICE!  Today, I honor Josephine Anderson Kennedy as we celebrate Women’s History Month. Take time this month to reflect and honor those women whose voices have made a difference in your life!

“You give but little when you give of your possessions; it is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” – Gelbran


Pass It On!

Over the holidays, I had the opportunity to visit with two teachers who made a positive impact upon my personal growth and development.


One was my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Donald Scarlett and the other was my seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Nettie Ryan. Seeing them brought back fond memories, joy to my heart, and reminded me of the blessing to have them in my life.  During our time together, I was reminded of what made them such special teachers.

  • They possessed a caring and kind spirit. You always knew you were more than just a student. They cared about you personally.
  • They asked questions to challenge your thinking. Getting you to stretch beyond the norm was important to them.
  • They wanted you to “be your best.” To them, teaching went beyond the academic work; it was also about developing your character and values.
  • They engaged with your parents. They were committed to ensuring that what you learned in their classroom transferred into your life.
  • They encouraged. You could count on them to be your biggest cheerleader!

Our time together was engaging, fun, and enlightening. Indeed, as I left them, I marveled at how they both were continuing to teach me. newlessons

My new lessons…

  • Regardless of age or circumstance, retain a zest for life.
  • Do things with passion!
  • Listening to understand shows others that you care.
  • Making a difference in another person’s life is far reaching.
  • There is always something new to learn.

I am certain that you have teachers who have impacted your life as well.  Give them a call or send them a card and wish them a Happy New Year!  Honor your teachers by passing on to someone else what they passed on to you.


Pros and Cons

The time seemed to have flown by in one sense and yet in another, it seemed like forever. It was hard to believe that after three long years, I was about to return to the world of work. Now with my doctoral degree in hand, the possibilities were unlimited. But where should my marker be placed?decision

This was indeed an important decision.  Relocating to a new community and starting my academic career was going to impact all aspects of my life: personal, professional, social, financial, spiritual. In fact, my decision about where to relocate was going to shape the next phase of my life.

My mentor, Dr. B., was good at challenging me to stretch and examine ideas and information from different perspectives. So I scheduled some time with him to prepare for my interviews. Prior to meeting, he directed me to complete a comprehensive search about each University, to include the Departments that I was applying, colleagues, students, teaching, research, publishing, and tenure requirements.  He then suggested that I make a list of potential questions that might be asked of me during my interview. After completing the assigned tasks, I scheduled our meeting.

Dr. B. loved asking questions. Almost as soon as I sat down, he began probing to see what I had learned about my potential academic institutions. Once he was satisfied that I had an accurate grasp about each, Dr. B. began drilling me for the interview itself.interview

After an hour of intense questioning, he casually asked “What questions are you going to ask?”  I looked at him with a blank stare. I hadn’t spent any time thinking about questions that I might need answers.“Well, young lady, you had better get busy making your list.”  Dr. B. reminded me that the interview was not just about me demonstrating that I was the person for the position; but rather, it was also about me listening, observing, and probing to ensure that the position was best for me. I assured him that when I got home I would spend time reflecting on our discussions about the Universities and generating my questions. And before he could remind me, I quickly interjected and “I will make sure that my questions affirm and clarify any assumptions that I have made.”  He smiled and gave me the look of approval. It was something about his look that made me realize there was another important aspect of the process that I needed his feedback. How should I organize the information that I gathered so that a prudent decision could be made?


Dr. B. didn’t hesitate to tell me that as  soon as each interview was completed,  I should take a sheet of paper and label two columns, one the  pros (things that would be beneficial to me- contribute to my success professionally and other aspects of my life) and the other cons (things that could get in the way of my success and adversely affect my professional performance and other aspects of my life). Then re-examine both, making sure everything was included. Compare the pros and cons.

 “So what do you think is most important to your decision making?”  I was uncertain. Dr. B. proceeded to enlighten me. “You can live with the pros- because those are all the things you think are beneficial. The crucial question is “can you live with the cons?”  Choose the University that you can best live with the cons.

After completing my interviews, identifying,  and comparing the pros and cons, it became clear that the “cons” did matter the most.

B.E.S.T. Thoughts

  1. How do you know you can live with the cons?
  2. What can you do to make sure you know the ramifications of the cons?
  3. Have you ever made a decision focused solely on the pros that turned out not to be a good decision?



Jets & Limos: Are They Really Perks?

As I pulled up and parked in a space reserved for my company, it was my first time in a private airport.

Airhostess and pilot greeting business people before boarding private jet
Air hostess and pilot greeting business people before boarding private jet

Before I could try and figure out what to do next, there was someone at my car door asking for my bags, whisking them and me away at the same time. No lines nor delays as we moved swiftly to the jet. Now that was service at its best.  Soon everyone was settled on the company’s private jet. All the key players together, sipping coffee, and strategizing about the big meeting ahead. It was clear to us that the Chairman expected this meeting to yield a partnership, integral to our company’s next growth phase. This ride provided an opportunity to make sure everyone was on the same page and everything was buttoned up. It seemed like only minutes instead of hours when the pilot could be heard announcing the landing and at the same time our limo was pulling up on the tarmac. perks While stepping off the jet into the limo, bags secured, we were on our way. Within minutes, the chairman was on the speaker phone giving us an update that was necessary to prevent being blindsided at the upcoming meeting. Just as the chairman answered our last question, the limo pulled up at the meeting location, the driver was helping us out, and gathering the materials needed.

The meeting started on time and everyone was on one accord. The potential partners were impressed that all members of our team were able to answer their questions. Print materials were provided that contained the additional level of detail needed to help them feel comfortable that our company was the right partner.  As we stood up and shook hands, everyone was relieved when the leader of the partnership said he was looking forward to our collaborative relationship and knew that working together there would be a significant impact on the industry. Our driver was right there as we walked out the door and once in the limo, everyone cheered. Immediately the phone rang, and we all smiled knowing it was the chairman wanting to hear the outcome. Responding to the call, our CEO said, “Mr. Chairman we have a new partnership.” “Just what I expected,” the chairman replied.

Everyone was staying to work out the details except me. I was off to another meeting with the chairman that was to begin at 8 am the next morning several states away. Luckily the jet was going to get me there early evening. While waiting on room service, I would have just enough time to unpack and check my messages.


The next morning, the car service picked me up at 6:30 am so that I could meet with the chairman prior to the meeting. Over breakfast, we talked about the previous meeting and he reminded me that all of the company perks had made it possible for us to close the deal.  I considered the chairman, my personal coach. He liked providing me with tips about the corporate world since this was my first private sector experience and senior leadership position. This morning’s tip- “You see the jet, limo, and car service are all tools I use to make sure we are prepared, use our time efficiently, increase our productivity, and can be responsive to our customers and partners.” And then the chairman seized the last few minutes in the car to review the outline of my remarks.  When the driver opened the door, we both knew we were prepared for the next meeting. And I knew it was in part due to our access to a cadre of tools- jets, limos, and car service.

Your BEST Thoughts

What are some tools that you use to facilitate using your time efficiently?

What tools have you used to increase your productivity?

What perks do you have that facilitates your ability to “be prepared?”

Put Downs Can Lift You Up

 There was something exciting about being on a college campus- observing students chatting as they headed to their classes; listening to professors sharing their expertise; engaging in a faculty meeting.  This felt like the next best move for me. I could take what I had gained from my practical experience coupled with my subject matter expertise and now help create a pipeline of future professionals. Satisfaction and excitement filled the air as I got in my car and headed home. The next day, on the other end of my phone was the Department Chair extending an offer to me to join the faculty of the Education Department at this college. My Instructor position would require me to teach, supervise students in their external clinical practicums, and establish a college clinic that would provide internal practicum opportunities.reachingfordream This was a dream position and I couldn’t wait to get started. 

At the first campus-wide faculty meeting, it was evident that I was among the youngest to join the faculty and among a few faculty members that had been trained out of state, much less a graduate of a “Big 10” institution. I saw myself as an asset to the college. There was so much to be shared and value that I could add to the college and my specific department. It didn’t take long before community partnerships were identified and external student practicum sites established. Next was the grand opening of the on-campus clinic, much like the one I had utilized at my undergraduate program. Students loved having access to me to problem solve, and brainstorm innovative interventions. Things were going great, at least that was what I thought until I was called into my Chair’s office. I could tell by the look on the Chair’s face this wasn’t going to be the positive meeting that I thought.

“Miss Patricia, ‘Dr.’ Jones has brought it to my attention that the students say you are in your office every day. I thought we had discussed during your orientation that you only need to be in your office during established office hours. Maintaining daily hours is creating problems for the other faculty with their students.  Now don’t make it necessary for me to remind you again “Miss” Patricia to just keep your office hours.”  I couldn’t believe that I was being reprimanded for caring about my students and once again being “put down” by being called repeatedly ‘Miss’ Patricia. This had occurred in our faculty meetings as well. Everyone referred to me as ‘Miss’ Patricia with an emphasis on ‘Miss’ as they addressed each other as ‘Dr.’  The faculty committee assignments were disseminated and the Dept. Chair announced that I was unable to chair a committee because that position was reserved for faculty with a doctoral degree.

Regardless of “what” the chair and faculty members called me, I remained confident that I was adding value to the department, contributing to the intellectual growth of the students, and developing a pipeline of quality professionals. But I had come to a point of frustration. I reached out to my Advisor from my graduate program with whom I had maintained contact after graduation.

mentorHe was now my professional Mentor. Dr. B. informed me that growth in any academic institution would require that I obtain my doctoral degree. I could always count on my mentor to be straight forward. Before getting off the phone he asked, “So what are you going to do?” My mentor was good at challenging me to think and take personal responsibility.After our conversation, I began conducting research on doctoral programs then selected the one that met my requirements, applied, got accepted, and earned a fellowship.

At the end of the academic year, I handed in my resignation. The Dept. Chair looked surprised as he asked “What are you going to do ‘Miss’ Patricia?”  My reply was simple, “I am going back to graduate school to earn my Ph.D. degree.”  Within record time, three years later, I had earned my doctor of philosophy degree. I was now “Dr. Patricia.”doctoral

Upon graduation, I was hired to teach at a University in the Nation’s capital.  My new position required teaching in both the undergraduate and graduate programs, directing master’s thesis, doctoral dissertations, and conducting research.

I sent a note of thanks to my former department. Their “put down” had “lifted me up!” 



Your B.E.S.T. thoughts

What are some put downs that you have encountered?

When did you turn a put down into a lift up?

How have you let others influence you “being your b.e.s.t.”?

How has your mentor helped you navigate a “put down?”