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John Klein: Ann Patton's 62-year dream of a college degree

John Klein: Ann Patton's 62-year dream of a college degree

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Ann Patton never gave up on her dream to graduate from college.

Now, 62 years after she completed high school, her perseverance is about to pay off. Patton will receive a degree from Oklahoma State University-Tulsa on Monday night at a graduation ceremony in The Pavilion at Expo Square.

“I wanted to finish to show my grandchildren you should never give up on your dreams,” said Patton, who is just a few weeks away from her 80th birthday.

Patton spent years becoming a well-known journalist, author and activist in Tulsa.

But she didn’t really have the option of attending college when she graduated from high school in 1955. The choices of going the University of Tulsa or traveling out of town for school were simply too expensive.

“The next thing you know we have four children and Bob (her husband) and I both were working two or three jobs,” Patton said. “So it wasn’t possible.”

But she never gave up on her dream to graduate from college.

“I took college courses over the years that interested me,” she said. “There’s an inherent value to education.

“I believe in lifelong education. I believe you should always be learning. So I never quit education. If something interested me, I took a class about it.”

Patton took her first college course in 1971.

“I can still remember it,” she said. “It was called The City and it was in Urban Studies at TU. At the time I was covering City Hall for the Tulsa World, and I wanted to know more about the thing I covered.

“I had some time during my lunch hour at work, so I took the course and loved it. I decided I would take courses that interested me.”

Over the years, she became interested in a lot of subjects.

Patton also is a book author and a member of the team that developed Tulsa’s award-winning flood control system.

“So I have accumulated a lot of different classes over the years,” she said. “I have a real quilt of classes.”

And that got her to thinking a few years ago that she should talk to someone at OSU-Tulsa. She went in and presented her college transcript, with classes from several colleges.

She found out that all she needed to earn a degree was one more class.

“I was surprised and very happy,” Patton said. “That’s when I decided I was definitely going to finish.”

That was a year ago. One problem: She was retired and living in Florida.

“The class I needed was available online, so problem solved,” Patton said.

She completed the class and will walk across the stage to receive her degree two days before her grandson, Braden, a star football player at Booker T. Washington, graduates from high school.

“That’s very exciting,” she said.

Patton started out at the Tulsa World covering “Urban Affairs” because “I don’t think anyone else wanted to cover it.”

Despite having no journalism background, she was trained by Tulsa World legendary religion editor Beth Macklin and hired by Executive Editor Sid Steen.

Thus began a career that eventually took her to City Hall as a reporter.

“Back then flooding was a huge issue in our city,” she said. “I’ll never forget the housewives who would haul their soaked mattresses or a jar full of muddy floodwater to show the city officials.

“So that got me interested in the issue, because it was important to my job to know as much as possible about flooding.”

That eventually led to a career helping to develop Tulsa’s award-winning flood management system.

“I’m proud to say we haven’t had a major flood since 1986,” Patton said. “That’s not saying it can’t ever happen, but it was worked pretty well.”

Patton has written books on a variety of subjects. Still, at age 79, she was eager to add to her resume.

“It is so wonderful that we had people in this community willing to work hard and bring more higher education opportunities to Tulsa,” Patton said. “Now, kids have affordable opportunities for higher education, and that’s fantastic.

“A lot of people talk about college education in terms of dollars. Yes, it’s important to understand the financial benefits of a college education. However, I don’t think anyone should underestimate how much education helps you live a fuller life.”

In recent weeks, she has talked to a lot of people about her lifelong quest to finish college.

“I understand that people have to ask why,” she said. “ ‘Why does this old lady need to graduate from college?’ It’s for me. It’s something I’ve wanted to do. I enjoyed all of the classes I took over all of the years.

“I wanted all of my grandchildren to understand the inherent worth of education. Learning should be a lifelong pursuit for all of us. It certainly has been for me.”

John Klein 918-581-8368

Twitter: @JohnKleinTW

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