BY JOE MARVILLI
The First Lady of Massachusetts returned to her alma mater last week to speak about her life, career and experiences.
First Lady Diane Patrick, class of 1972, stopped by Queens College on March 7 and spoke to students and participants in the college’s Women and Work program in the President’s Lounge.
One of the most in-depth discussions was on Patrick’s experiences with domestic abuse in a seven-year marriage. She had met and married a man in New York and they went to Los Angeles together, where she went to law school. Over time, a steady stream of mental abuse had built up from him towards her.
“He began to make me feel like I was nothing. I was not attractive, I was not smart, I was incapable of making decisions,” Patrick said. “Over time, I began to feel like I was worthless and I could do no right.”
While Patrick tried, and failed, to leave the marriage a couple of times, it took the help of a close friend and her future husband, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, to give her the strength to leave the abusive marriage for good.
“Slowly, but surely, [Deval] made me feel like I had a voice I could use, a voice that I should use. I didn’t deserve what I was going through,” she said. “He helped me feel strong enough to say ‘enough.’”
In an effort to help others in similar situations, Patrick fights to end domestic violence, working with families and law enforcement to find the root causes of abuse.
In terms of her career, Patrick said that she learned to cope with being a practicing lawyer, a mother and the First Lady of the state by separating the various aspects of her life.
“There’s my personal life. There’s my work life. There’s my First Lady life. And never the twain meets. I don’t want to be treated any differently in any aspect of my life,” she said. “If you don’t compartmentalize, it becomes overwhelming.”
Patrick also talked about how her time at Queens College helped shape her into the successful woman she is today. When she was at the college, she focused on becoming a teacher, a path that she would follow for five years in the NYC public school system before layoffs led her to go to law school.
Despite missing the community factor found in a college with dormitories, Patrick said she had the best professors, people who would not only teach, but were willing to listen to good ideas. In one of her classes, she told the professor that the school visits they were doing only went to white schools. Her professor asked her to find another school and she did, opting for the place her mom taught at, in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“That became the first stop on that professor’s classroom trip visits for the next decade or so. Not only did I receive a lot but the faculty that taught me were willing to receive as well,” Patrick said.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.