Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Patricia James, the Associate Director for Student Programs and Training in the Lang Center, has announced that she will resign from the College at the end of the month. She directed the Lang Opportunity Scholars program and the Swarthmore Foundation, in addition to other work with student groups involved in social action.
Although she said that she “can’t really discuss why [she’s] leaving,” James mentioned plans to work on a novel, the first draft of which she finished in December.
James’s involvement in civic engagement missions at Swat predates the Lang Center. Before her involvement with the College’s social justice programs, she worked in various regional organizations dealing with issues of “racial justice and nonviolence, violence against women, homelessness, and HIV/AIDS.”
She was also a martial arts instructor in the Swarthmore PE department in the eighties: this experience with Swarthmore students told her that she wanted to take the opportunity of building “Swat’s programming in civic engagement” when it was offered to her ten years ago.
By all measures, James has had a successful tenure at Swarthmore. Deb Kardon-Brown, the Lang Center’s Assistant Director for Student Programs, called her “the most skilled social change activist it has ever been my honor to know….she excels as an educator, embodies the spirit and intent of collaboration, and is a wonderful and trusted friend as well as colleague. To say that she will be missed would be like calling Niagara Falls a dripping faucet.”
Omer Corluhan ’08, a Lang Opportunity Scholar who has worked with Pat James throughout his Swarthmore career, agreed: “Pat is devoted to make her community and the world a better place by planting seeds of goodness: as many as she can.” When he first arrived at Swarthmore and wanted to get involved in community work, James helped him join a Chester project. Later on, she mentioned the Lang Opportunity Scholarship to him, a program that he said “changed my Swarthmore experience and enlightened me in many ways.” Overall, he said, James “has been a great leader and a patient supporter” for him and all the Lang Scholars.
James said that she is mainly glad to have been involved in so many student programs, some of them very large, like the Genocide Intervention Network or the one she initially said was “way too complicated for college students to accomplish” but grew into a “major small business incubator” in Philadelphia. She stressed, however, that “the people who truly move me are the ones who show up week after week to work with kids in Chester.” The big worldwide projects may be more dazzling, she said, but the students who serve as a consistent mentor for kids who need that play at least as important a part.
Looking back on her time, James said, “I have loved working here, and I deeply value my friendships with students as well as my colleagues at the Lang Center and at the College. I’ve had the opportunity to do work that is congruent with my values, with young people who have enormous potential to fix the broken places in this world. I can’t imagine anything better.”