It was a mystery to me why Patsy Couper would get in touch with my parents before Family Weekend of my sophomore year and invite us out to dinner at La Petite Maison in Waterville. My parents were just as confused by the offer as I was. But who could turn down a sweet lady who was married to a former acting president of the College?
Over dinner, Patsy answered the question we had all been scared to ask: Why us? Well, it turns out that my grandfather, an Episcopal minister, had married Dick and Patsy Couper in 1946 in Cincinnati. We were all astonished by this coincidence. A native of Seattle myself, I had ended up at Hamilton with no prior knowledge of the connection.
Since that revelation, I have been privileged to spend time with Patsy on a number of occasions, both on and off campus. But I am just one of many such students. She regularly takes students out for meals, attends every concert in Wellin Hall (sitting in the same seat each time) and cheers on Hamilton teams. Today she’s attending an English class taught by John O’Neill, the Edmund A. LeFevre Professor of English emeritus; she tries to audit one course every semester. At 88, her presence and her generosity to the College are felt by everyone on campus, and even those who don’t know her certainly recognize her.
At Commencement this spring, Patsy will receive the recognition she has long deserved for her six decades of dedication to Hamilton: an honorary degree from her adopted college (she is a Smith graduate), along with former Vice President and speaker Al Gore. Like Gore, and to no one’s surprise — although the recognition is far more public than she is comfortable with — she’ll get a standing ovation.