Why I Give: ‘I Give in Memory of My Dad. Establishing the Scholarship in His Name Contributed to Healing and Overcoming the Grief of Losing Him,’ Says Administrative Assistant and Scholarship Manager Patty Fields
Editor’s Note: This is part of a monthly “Why I Give” series in which NC State College of Education alumni, students, faculty and staff share why they support the college.
Patty Fields has been a constant fixture in the NC State College of Education for 15 years. She worked in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development before accepting her current role as administrative assistant to Anona Smith Williams, Ed.D., associate dean for student success and strategic community engagement, and scholarship manager.
As an administrative assistant, she is responsible for maintaining Smith Williams’ calendar, assisting with events, coordinating travel arrangements, some correspondence and other duties. In her role as scholarship manager, Fields coordinates committee meetings, provides training for scholarship reviewers, compiles reports and is responsible for data entry in Pack Assist. She also serves as the liaison for Wake County Public Schools Distance Education classroom reservations and billing, and serves as co-chair on the graduation committee.
Aside from her duties within the college, Fields has a drive for helping others — a passion that was sparked from a car accident where she and her husband were almost killed. It was that experience that inspired them to increase their garden by 2,300 square feet in an effort to feed those in need. Now, they supply food to churches, food banks and various friends and community members. That desire to help carries over to the NC State College of Education, where Fields and her husband established the Robert J. Fenton Memorial Scholarship in memory of her father, who loved learning and had a great respect for educators.
“I hope that the recipient [of the scholarship] goes on to become a loving, caring and committed teacher who engages his or her students in learning. I hope that they are so loved by their students that they want to become teachers,” said Fields. “And I hope that my husband and I are able to expand the scholarship to include more students.”
When Fields isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her best friend and husband Walter Peedin, gardening, fishing, watching movies based on true stories, traveling and cruising. She also has a passion for reading, painting, pottery, photography and designing projects for Peedin to complete around the house. And she loves spending time with her four grandchildren.
Fields also serves as a volunteer and advocate, a passion she inherited from her father. She has an interest in fundraising for nonprofits, writing travel articles, advocating for underserved communities and learning about almost everything.
In the Q&A below, Fields talks about why she gives to the NC State College of Education, the role her father played in her inspiration to give back and why giving back is important to her. The following is edited for length and clarity.
What brought you to the NC State College of Education?
In 2001, I moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina and worked remotely as a contractor for my previous employer, Philips Medical Systems. The contract ended a year later.
Next to the medical field, I decided the best field to work in was education. I accepted a position at NC State in Special Projects, which was part of the Advancement Services Department. I left Special Projects after three years to work in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies within the NC State College of Education, which has since been renamed the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development. In 2015, I moved into my current position within the dean’s office.
Why do you give to the NC State College of Education?
When my dad died, I had no idea what to do. For about a month, I knew I had to do something, but I did not know what. One day in the fall after his passing, I was helping Dr. Smith Williams with re-awarding a scholarship; it was then that I realized what I needed to do. And so, I did it. I started the Robert J. Fenton Memorial Scholarship in memory of my dad. Establishing the scholarship in his name contributed to healing and overcoming the grief of losing him.
I started the scholarship for students in the College of Education because my dad loved to learn. He learned a lot by going to the library each week and looking up words in the dictionary. He valued our teachers’ advice and opinions over ours and the “teacher was always right!” Next to going to the library, he loved meeting with our teachers and learning about our progress.
Another reason I give to the College of Education, besides for the students, is the people. Everyone believes in the students and their potential. Everyone tries to make it the best experience possible and it is not just the educators, it is everyone. Everyone from the housekeepers to the dean, and everyone in between. Some giving donations and others giving time or service. The most important thing is that we all give to the College of Education!
What do you hope to see happen as a result of your gift?
I hope that the recipient goes on to become a loving, caring and committed teacher who engages his or her students in learning. I hope that they are so loved by their students that they want to become teachers. And that some of them do become teachers so that the cycle is ever growing and never ending. I also hope that their experience in the College of Education is so great that they send their children here for their college experience.
I also hope that my husband and I are able to expand the scholarship to include more students. And I want to fill that basket up to my dad’s chin.
Why do you feel it’s important to give back?
For one, I was given a full scholarship to attend Wake Technical Community College.
Secondly, it has been in my heart to do these things. In New Jersey, in 1993, I established a fund for my sister-in-law who was fighting breast cancer. And I initiated many other small fundraisers after that. In 2011, my nephew was killed in a tragic car accident and I went into action. The day after his death, a scholarship was established in his name at North Johnston High School. His parents were totally grief-stricken and ultimately the establishment of the scholarship helped them heal.
And finally, my dad always helped people — not by starting scholarships or raising money, but just by doing. He helped people move, built things, fixed cars and did yard work for them, in between his three jobs. He also brought them food and clothing, read to them, walked their pets and helped the homeless. That was just his nature and it became mine. By helping with the scholarship, the investment will pay off for a very long time, if not indefinitely.
What is the last thing you read, saw, heard, or experienced that inspired you?
The last thing that inspired me was my daughter-in-law marching at a protest in support of Black Lives Matter. It gave me hope for the future of my children, grandchildren and young people of today. And hope that significant progress will be made in changing the future of racism, prejudice, healthcare and even poverty. Our teachers, current and future, can help make these changes and influence their students to do so as well. I am not giving up on doing my part, but it is so important to know that a younger generation is also willing to do the work.