When Marcella (Chela) Mendoza Patterson M.A. ’79 lost her husband of 43 years in January 2021, among those who reached out to comfort her were three friends the couple had met at the University of Maryland in 1977. Although the friends had always kept in touch, the loss of Patterson’s husband, Aldrich (Pat) Patterson, Jr., Ph.D. ’85, marked a new phase in their four-decade-long friendship as they began to meet by Zoom every month.
Patterson, Jean Joyce-Brady Ph.D. ’83, Lydia Minatoya Ph.D. ’81 and Mary O’Leary Wiley Ph.D. ’82 met as graduate students in the Counseling and Personnel Services program, now the Counseling Psychology, School Psychology and Counselor Education program. Over the years, the friends supported each other as they navigated the challenges of raising families and building fulfilling, successful careers in counseling, psychology and student affairs at a time when these paths were relatively new for women.
Patterson, who earned her Ed.D. from the University of Southern California, worked for 37 years at California State University, Chico, before retiring as associate vice president for student life and interim chief diversity officer. Joyce-Brady spent a 40-year career at eight higher education institutions, serving in senior roles in student affairs departments and counseling centers and as an active member of NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Minatoya, an award-winning literary author, taught counseling and multicultural psychology at universities in the United States and Japan, including spending more than 30 years at North Seattle College. Wiley is a private practice psychologist and has served as president of the Society of Counseling Psychology, Division 17 of the American Psychological Association. All four have received numerous professional honors.
The College of Education joined the four friends on one of their monthly Zoom get-togethers. Their conversation has been edited for flow, length and clarity.
Lydia Minatoya Ph.D. ’81: The four of us took a core course together, and we worked as graduate assistants in the UMD Counseling Center, along with Chela’s husband, Pat, who was a graduate student in counseling psychology. I was one of just a few single people in the graduate program, so Chela and Pat, Mary and her husband Frank, and Jean and her husband Marty provided me with a family.
Jean Joyce-Brady Ph.D. ’83: I have warm memories of sitting in each others’ graduate assistantship offices, talking about our research and our personal and professional hopes and dreams.
Mary O’Leary Wiley Ph.D. ’82: We’d go to the Rossborough Inn most Friday afternoons.
Marcella (Chela) Mendoza Patterson M.A. ’79: We had potlucks on Friday nights where everyone brought leftovers from their own homes. Because we were broke, we pooled our resources. Pat would deejay, and we’d just hang out and relax. One time, we had pies with whipped cream. We got to the point where we were just squirting whipped cream on our plates. When you have no money …
Wiley: Everybody was in the same boat.
Minatoya: We were an early generation of traditionally underrepresented women to earn graduate degrees. The four of us were marginalized in some way–as people of color, as first-generation students. Growing up, I was the only person of color in my school. At UMD, all my friends had experienced being different and were empathic. It felt like the society I wanted to live in.
Joyce-Brady: We were a group with diverse identities and backgrounds, so our different perspectives about what we were studying were always a big part of our conversations.
Minatoya: At UMD, our core values of human justice and social change were nurtured. We have spent our careers working with at-risk college students, survivors of trafficking, refugees and veterans, and developing anti-racism programs.
Wiley: We have so much commonality throughout our careers because of the experiences and the values that we learned at the College of Education. We were trained to view the person in the context of the environment, for example, to see how white supremacy or sexism provide context for depression, PTSD and so on.
Joyce-Brady: I learned the value of data-informed practice and the importance of including questions about diversity, equity and inclusion in my work from Dr. Tom Magoon. I was his graduate assistant, and I had the opportunity to watch him in action as the director of the Counseling Center. I learned important lessons about listening, finding consensus, making decisions and using humor.
Patterson: When I took an intro to college student personnel class with Dr. Lee Knefelkamp, I literally started having heart palpitations. I had found what I was meant to do. And when we were taking our comprehensive exams, Dr. Knefelkamp showed up to give everybody a pep talk and Hershey bars because she was invested in our success.
Joyce-Brady: Dr. Bill Sedlacek was a pioneer in research on college admissions criteria for underrepresented student populations. My discussions with him and his graduate students (including Lydia) shaped how I consider higher ed programs and research.
Minatoya: Dr. Vivian Boyd, who became director of the Counseling Center, showed me you can be a woman of color, have a family and be amazing.
Wiley: We had this sense of connectedness at UMD at a time in our lives and in a time in history when women were just emerging as professionals, when integrating family and career was pretty darn new.
Minatoya: Mary, Jean and Chela have been with me throughout all the major changes in my life. We’ve enjoyed watching our children grow and nurturing our next generation.
Patterson: Our kids have all gone into higher education or community service because they’re following in our footsteps. We’ve lived lives of service and helping others. And we’re the best of friends.
Joyce-Brady: I treasure our friendship. I’m so grateful for the warmth, support and knowledge Lydia, Chela and Mary shared with me as we all grew together in the early years of our careers. They have been role models for me over the years.
Patterson: It's a special blessing that UMD gave us. As a new widow, to have these women reach out and be there for me–it was phenomenal.
Minatoya: Pat was beloved to us all. One of the wonderful things about reconnecting with Chela is I feel connected with his spirit. Every time we are having fun with Chela, I know Pat is happy that she is being loved by people he knows.
Patterson: Losing my husband was a devastating blow. But so many blessings have come my way since then. I really believe Pat knew I needed this community and that he brought us together, because if he were alive, I don’t know that we would have started meeting by Zoom every month. It came together out of love for him. With this group, I can authentically be me. It's invigorating. We talk about issues that are important to our professions, personal lives and society. We never run out of things to talk about.