Generous Bequest Continues Col. Melissa Patrick’s Thoughtful Support of MBU

Col. Melissa Patrick with students

In 1975, Colonel Melissa Patrick ’78 spent the months between her first and second years at Mary Baldwin taking courses at Virginia Military Institute’s (VMI) summer session. She had been fascinated by military history since childhood, and took advantage of a tuition exchange program with VMI to get ahead on college credits.

That summer stint was her first time away from home, after being a day student at Mary Baldwin where her father — the beloved late chemistry professor James Patrick — taught. From a rented room in Lexington, she went to her first class with all male VMI cadets, feeling quite  intimidated.

“But as I walked across that campus, I remember having a moment of confidence where I said to myself ‘wait, you are a Mary Baldwin student and you are as well prepared as any of these cadets.’” 

Pride in her college buoyed her spirits, and became a wellspring far into the future.

“Mary Baldwin gave me a strong sense of self-confidence, and a belief that I could compete with anybody. That feeling has never left me.” 

“Mary Baldwin gave me a strong sense of self-confidence, and a belief that I could compete with anybody.”

Patrick went on to a decorated 28-year career in the U.S. Army, including deployments in Germany, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Korea, and Afghanistan. As a master parachutist, she jumped out of 65 airplanes. She was selected for the Army War College Advanced Strategic Arts Program, and received the Legion of Merit for her service. Often, she stood out as the only woman among her many career achievements.

Through those rigorous years of active duty, Patrick didn’t forget Mary Baldwin. Upon joining the military, she immediately set up a recurring donation through a monthly allotment. 

With a strong sense of practicality, she understands that the university’s bills have to be paid, but she also wants to provide direct support to students as they too build that vital sense of self-confidence at Mary Baldwin. With them in mind, she has also given to an endowed scholarship named for her father ever since graduating.  

“At the time I started giving, I didn’t fully understand how much scholarship support goes to Mary Baldwin students, that practically every single student has part of their bill paid by donor support. That’s so important to know and to contribute to after you graduate.”

Many Mary Baldwin students have benefitted from Patrick’s longstanding support, both financially and in planning their futures. She returned to Staunton in 2006 and starting in 2012 served for two years as deputy commandant for the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership. She remains close to the corps and helps mentor cadets on their career goals in both the public and private sectors.  

Col. Melissa Patrick with Mary Harvey and President Jeff Stein

As MBU begins a new chapter in its history, supported by the All In for Mary Baldwin Campaign, Patrick has made a generous bequest to her alma mater that will ensure generations of students can develop the skills and leadership traits needed to chart their own path to success. 

“My approach to this donation is that there’s a need for balance between unrestricted giving and growing the endowment. I understand that both those things need to be done, and I’ve tried to support both aspects. I’m hoping that others will follow, and look at their investments.” 

Though Patrick is — as she puts it — “retired from income-producing activities,” she continues to find meaning and energy through service. She’s active in her church, many veterans’ organizations, volunteerism, and the local community. For example, she worked for many years on a project that recently resulted in redesignating Staunton’s Green Street to honor two African American residents and war heroes.

“I can’t imagine living a life that’s not devoted to service of some sort. It’s not that I get up each morning and say I have to be of service, but if you’re going to do something meaningful, it’s not going to be about yourself.” 

For this philosophy and her purposeful, dedicated support, the Mary Baldwin community is profoundly grateful.

“My approach to this donation is that there’s a need for balance between unrestricted giving and growing the endowment.”