Retired Army Colonel Melissa E. Patrick ’78 is a trailblazer with an impressive resume. And now she’s back on the Mary Baldwin campus, joining the administrative ranks at the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) as deputy commandant.
“She’s a breath of fresh air, an answer to a prayer,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Bissell, commandant of cadets.
Patrick is Bissell’s second-in-command, assisting with the regimental side of the corps. She now supervises academic affairs of the cadets, serving as academic advisor for all first-and second-year students. Patrick’s responsibilities also include overseeing the corps’ peer-advisor system.
“[VWIL] is a great program. I’m excited to be here and I’m impressed by the quality of students and cadets we have,” Patrick said.
With a biography that includes several “firsts” as a woman in the military as well as a wealth of leadership in the civilian world, Patrick will be an impressive role model for VWIL cadets.
She was the first woman selected to participate in the U.S. Army War College Advanced Strategic Arts Program. She was the first female Military Intelligence officer assigned to a combat arms unit and was among the first women to earn Master Parachutist wings. After graduating with a master’s degree from Duke University, she became the first female instructor/assistant professor of military history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. While serving in Boznia-Herzogovina she became the first woman in her position to deploy a contingency operation.
After deployments in Germany, Boznia-Herzogovina, Korea, and Afghanistan and service in the states, Patrick retired from active military service in 2006. She most recently worked for a private contractor at the National Ground Intelligence Center in Charlottesville where she managed the Anti-armor Analysis Program. Under her watch, program personnel increased from 10 to 31 and included data collectors deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
For her service, Patrick has received several awards and honors including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and Meritorious Service Medal.
Patrick was commissioned through Army ROTC in 1978 upon earning her degree in history from Mary Baldwin. She earned a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College and a master’s degree in history from Duke University. Her father, James Patrick, taught chemistry at Mary Baldwin from the late 1960s until the early 1990s.
“It’s a thrill to be back,” Patrick said. “I grew up here with my father on the faculty. It’s like coming home, like coming full circle.”