This spring Pat Ryan, one of our writers, received her bachelor of science degree from Columbia University, an achievement worthy of a good deal of applause and a certain amount of explanation. When Pat graduated from the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Noroton, Conn. some years ago she had no particular interest in going on to college. She is the granddaughter and the daughter of two fine Irish horsemen, so it was not surprising that she first went to work for The Jockey Club in New York. From The Jockey Club she came to SI as a secretary, but her knowledge of horses soon made her more important to us as a reporter. In that role she demonstrated an extraordinary flair for language, and before long she was promoted to writer. Then, five and a half years ago, Pat suddenly decided that she did want a college degree, and her stated reason caused no little consternation around here. "I don't want to write," she explained, "and with a college degree you can do anything." Well, we couldn't stop her. We could only take comfort from the consideration that acquiring one's college degree by going to classes at odd hours after working for long stretches in an office was obviously going to be a long, hard haul and maybe she wouldn't make it. But the years passed. And Pat passed—courses in astronomy, music and fine arts. Courses in Mandarin Chinese, Chinese poetry and psychology. Courses in anthropology, religion, Shakespeare, American literature and, particularly, in history, which was her major.
This is an article from the July 8, 1968 issue
Finally, this June, she received her degree, but her last month on the old campus did not involve much in the way of proms, ceremony or nostalgic guff. Her final days at Columbia were spent amidst the riots of Morningside Heights. And her first assignment for us after graduation was to hop over to Paris (page 46). Owing to the strikes and rioting there, she was stalled in London, where she did a piece for us. Then she made a detour to Ireland, just in time for a relatively small but nonetheless astonishing student demonstration at somnolent Trinity College in Dublin.
When Pat finally got to Paris her interpreter was concerned with explaining the problems of the Sorbonne. The city itself, Pat says, "was just like Columbia. The day I left Morningside Heights there were all these broken windows, and the campus looked as though it had a hangover."
Perhaps it is fitting that a new history graduate should spend the month of her graduation wading through so much new history, but it was not the festive time we would have wished for Pat. Because now we feel fairly safe in congratulating her. She did last through the long years of study, but if she did not quit Columbia she did not quit us, either, and whatever she may say about writing, we are hopeful that she is hooked. So our fondest congratulations, Pat. You are a lady and a scholar. And a writer.