Gregory Patrick: Okay.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): I'm sorry.
Gregory Patrick: All right, let's see, got it.
Gregory Patrick: All right now you aren’t frozen. Okay, good to see you.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): That's great and I will begin a live transcript as well. Okay. So today is August 5, 2021. My name is Rhea Chandran in the class of 2023, conducting an interview as part of the Documenting Student Life Alumni Oral History project. Could you begin by introducing yourself with your name and your class year?
Gregory Patrick: I am Dr. Gregory Patrick, class of 1972 coming up on my 50th reunion.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): Wow. I know you've recently retired, but what did you do for work?
Gregory Patrick: Okay, I retired after 40 years of practicing pulmonary medicine, lung disease, this is, I- in fact I have been looking at retirement before, but when COVID hit, I decided that I could not step away at that time, and so I went back into the ICU. I've gotten out of doing ICU work, but I went through two waves of COVID and I really was not up for a third wave and that's what finally pushed me to retire.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): And at Haverford, what did you major in?
Gregory Patrick: At Haverford I was a political science major. Originally I was going to go to law school, I was very active politically at that time I kind of got sidetracked into medicine.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): And how was the transition from your political science major to med school like?
Gregory Patrick: Okay… Surprisingly, it wasn't as hard as you might imagine. The one thing Haverford taught me to do was to study, to work hard, and to read. The advantage… again, I was a political science major. My guidance counselor at Haverford told me that I couldn't go to medical school because at that time to go to medical school you weren't supposed to major in political science, you were supposed to have decided early on that medicine was the goal of your life and you should have spent your summers working in hospitals. I, of course... I wasn't bad at science, but it was not my first love, so that, you know, I said okay but then I found out during my junior year at Haverford that they... I was the- there was working with, actually sharing a dorm with some of the post-baccs. The post baccalaureate program at Haverford were bringing African American students who are graduated from historically Black schools to Haverford’s campus. They would study, they would take the same courses, I was taking, with the goal of going to the… going to Medical School, and so I saw them and thought wait a minute now they're taking the same courses at Haverford that are available to me. And I said well, and they talked about medicine and I found myself thinking so much about it that I had decided to give medicine a try. So what I would do is I would take the MCAT- medical college admissions test, at that time was relatively simple... there were four components to it, one was general knowledge, number two is verbal, number three was science, and number four was math. You know, Political Science at Haverford, if I can't do general knowledge and verbal I mean shame on me.
Gregory Patrick: But I needed science, and so I had to... I had one year of biology and one year of chemistry. So what I did was I got the old Barnes and Noble college outline series in biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus. And then the six weeks before the MCAT, I just went to classes and did the bare minimum, to keep up with my classes, but otherwise spent the evening going through each one of those texts, and so I took the MCAT and did not, you know, expected to fail. Okay, and then I would say all right go on to medical- on to law school because I knew I could take the LSAT at anytime. The medically- MCAT was only given one particular time, the spring. And, by the time I decided to take it, it was too late to take it at Haverford, I had to take it at the University of Pennsylvania. And the only thing I remember from the exam was my man Langston met me after the test with a bottle of sloe gin, and we went to go see the movie “Gimme Shelter” with Rolling Stones at, you know... so that was I remembered. To my surprise, I did well. I got a high score and because I got a high score I thought, maybe God is telling me to look at medicine more closely. Well, to apply to medical school, I only- you know, my father was a minister, so we had no money. So only had four years at Haverford, which meant I needed to take either a year of Physics, or a year of Organic Chemistry over the summer and what I ended up doing was taking Physics 101, 102, and 103 the same... the summer of my rising senior year, summer between junior and senior year and I can tell you, you know you're not supposed to do that. I had to register, this was before computers, and so I registered on three different days, knowing that it being a summer program it would take some four weeks before they found out.
And indeed, they have a call me in, and I would say well you’ve cashed my check, if I have, if I can get a “B”, or better in each course I would… give me credit otherwise, just give me credit for one, which is indeed what happened. And I can tell you, it was one of the worst years of my life because you know you really should take Physics 101 before you take 102. And Physics 103 kind of presupposes knowledge of 101 and 102, and I was taking them all in the same eight week period. Fortunately, Physics 101 was at 10am, Physics 102 was at 11:30, and Physics 103 was at three o'clock, and so I could literally study ahead, you know and… You know I've got… it was good, and I was able to get a “B” and each of the courses, so I could then apply to Medical School and you know, take organic chemistry my senior year, at the same time finishing my requirements for my degree in political science. My degree is in political science. And then I applied to medical school and to my surprise, I got in. In fact I was actually the departmental assistant for the political science department, so I organized the yearly trip for the Poli-Sci department to Washington DC where you meet all the attorneys and so forth, because Haverford was very big in the middle management in Washington DC. So I organized all that and the first time people knew I was applying to medical school was when I ran into one of my classmates at an interview. Okay, which is, he said, what are you doing here and I said, well, I thought I could give medicine a try and then I got in so I got into several schools actually. But I went to the University of Pittsburgh, because I could live at home and commute, as I said I had no money. And so I talked to my parents, and if I went to Pitt, I could stay there, live at home, otherwise they could help out, otherwise be straight debt. And so that's how I ended up going becoming a physician at the universi- from graduating from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School in 1976. So what else can I tell you?
Rhea Chandran (she/her): Thank you so much for sharing all that- that is such a fascinating story to hear about your time in the political science department and getting credits to apply to med school, so you are from Pittsburgh, that area?
Gregory Patrick: That is correct.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): Okay, and how did you find out about Haverford, how did you end up applying?
Gregory Patrick: Well, basically Haverford came looking for me. Again, I did well on the SAT, and the one of the chief issues of where I would go to college was where I had money. So they offered me- otherwise we would have gotten probably to Lincoln University or the University of Pittsburgh, because it was money but Haverford offered me a scholarship. Candidly, I really knew nothing about Haverford. Again, this was the days before outreach, before you got all the brochures in the mail, before, recruitment and anything like that. Someone from Haverford came to Peabody High School and the guidance counselor recommended I go and talk to the man, and so I went and talked to the man and then he looked at my transcript and you know, I applied and I applied and they offered me a scholarship to Haverford, and that's how I happened to come, I again, this is before the time Internet before the time you could look up things easily, alright. I knew nothing about Haverford except it was a Quaker school and it was near Philadelphia. Okay. The first time I saw Haverford’s campus was when my father dropped me off. For freshman you know the week before- freshman week and you know, I had… you got... understand I come from, East Liberty in Pittsburgh, which is inner city, which was all concrete, the only time we saw grass space we can walk on was the grass, you know, between the highway and stuff like that there, there was no parks. We had a little backyard, but it certainly wasn't anything you would walk barefoot in and such. So Haverford was quite a shock, you know, to drive in and you see, you know, the long campus and you see the duck pond, and you drive up to Barclay Hall and it's like wow all right, because I was totally outside my realm of experience.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): I can imagine that must have been pretty overwhelming in all senses that word, so you entered Haverford in Fall 1968, what was that experience like coming to Haverford, during a very tumultuous time?
Gregory Patrick: Oh, it was tumultuous. Remember I had again, my father was very heavily involved in civil rights in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a part of Pennsylvania, but it's closer to Ohio in mentality than Philadelphia, so that… my father worshiped at the altar of education, some of my earliest memories were picketing the school, the school board, because again, I was coming up in the 50s when there were no Black teachers, there were no Black administrators, in fact, my father was later appointed to the Pittsburgh school board and found out that when you were hired if you were African American they put an “A” on your folder for African and if you were Jewish they put an “O”, on your folder for Old Testament so that whoever wanted- pulled your folder was looking for… things would be... have a ready access to… have, to decide who would be hired and where and how. I came up again, segregation, I- Lincoln Elementary School was segregated, we used to get used textbooks. My father was big in the NAACP- I remember when I was in the third grade I got my first new textbook, one that actually cracked when you opened it, as opposed to having writing and names from other schools and something on it. The… you know, the start, my start actually comes because of the Carnegie Foundation. Yes, Carnegie Foundation was going to have a program for gifted students in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Board of Education said there were no gifted negro students in Pittsburgh,
and therefore none were eligible for the program. My father said, there has to be a gifted child and I had skipped the fourth grade and so he said, test me, and it turned out that I was tested. And I was tested, and I was gifted. I always remember going to Carnegie Institute, now Carnegie Mellon University, and you know, getting dropped off and going into a room, I was being stopped- I remembered being stopped by an adult. I'd be what 9, 10, something like that, but in fifth grade and being asked what I was doing there. And I told him I was here for the gifted program and he looked at me and said oh, you've got white blood in you, and I remember going to the auditorium and I was in a room with 200 white students. I had never been in a room with that many white people before. And nobody spoke to me, nobody talked to me, I was invisible. At the end of the day, morning or yeah I guess it was a morning program, I remember going and taking the streetcar back home and telling mom and dad that I wasn't going to go back, because it was just too isolating and I remember my mother and my father both said, you have to go back, someone has to be first. And so that put me on the track then, because I was not part of the gifted program when the University- when Pittsburgh had a creative arts program. And again they said there were no eligible negro students for the creative arts program, I was eligible, because I’d been in this program. Similarly creative writing and so forth. So that I grew up with civil rights, I grew up protesting when there... since my dad was active in and recruited our family, so that when there was a senior high subcommittee of the Pittsburgh Presbytery starting a high school group, okay, I was in it. If you'd say Gregory this is... you’re in this, and because somebody has to be the first, somebody has to break ground. So that... coming to Haverford in that regard, was not a shock, and terms of dealing with white people, because I’d been the first in being the only and so forth, and seventh in 1968. There was a big deal at Haverford, because they had the largest enrollment of African American students, they had 10 alright. There was one in the class before us, I don't think there were... there was one, maybe in the class before him. You know again, to have double digits was a big deal, and so we were there. It was a tumultuous time, there were riots in Pittsburgh and 68th, there were riots in Peabody High School. I recall the riots, my father went out and walked the streets that night to try to limit damage in Homewood where they were... were rioting and so forth, so I came to Haverford, with that background, with that tumultuous time and met a whole different type of people. Because again you don't realize how sheltered you are, you think your life experience is universal until you come meet people from other places, who come with different life experiences and different attitudes and such. So I came to Haverford, and I, I read the literature now, it was there, and indeed Haverford ideals, the Honor Code and so forth, I really… wow that sounds so nice, that sounds so... exotic, sounded so ideal, okay all right, you know you can't be a proponent of civil rights, unless you're an idealist because you have to believe in the goodness of people and redemption because otherwise it just doesn't work. So I came to Haverford, and I don’t know, I prepared to be part of the milieu and again no surprise. We had a race relations day which one... they were the 11 Haverford students maybe it was 12, I think yeah there's one guy, who was a senior... Okay, we were all farmed out in groups to the student class and we're supposed to lead a discussion on race relations. What you think about it, is very unfair to expect students who are the same age as the white students to do, you know, to lead a discussion. Again, having come from that experience, having come from the background, having come with some verbal facility to begin with, it was no big deal for me, but a number of students struggled. Haverford did not have a particular orientation for the Black students, we were kind of tossed in there and expected to meet the standards of Haverford. There was no particular guidance, there was no particular mentoring. I remember I... until I came to Haverford, I had never written a three to five page paper. That just not... was not part of my high school experience and I had a manual typewriter and thank goodness for erasable bond.
Gregory Patrick: Because my… I remember my first paper at Haverford had to be three pages, and I was able to work the margins and put it to that the last word was on and was on page three so that I could make the you know, make that... again nobody taught to… taught me, I knew that I would have to work hard and Haverford promotes working hard. One advantage was I already loved to read and Haverford encouraged reading and I already loved words, and Haverford certainly encouraged words. And that was a strength, and that was a real joy. Meanwhile you know, but my parents were very clear, I had 4 years at Haverford so any kind of college experience I had to get was had to be within that framework so consequently, I threw myself and everything... everything new. I was- I joined the senior choir, I went out for the swim team, up till then I never played a sport. I am nearsighted, so that... I didn't know I was nearsighted until I was about 10 years old, again, you didn't… actually till I skipped the fourth grade, the numbers were out the back of the room, again segregated. Public schools meant that your eyes weren't particularly tested well, so that I did not know you were supposed to see across the street until I was in the fifth grade. I didn't you know, never new glasses... now again, these are back in the days, we had the thick, heavy glasses, you know, which nobody wanted to wear because they were all thinking everyone called the four eyes and that was bad. But in any event, I had no hand eye coordination, but I wanted to do a sport, and so I went for out for swimming and by God, the advantage of Haverford being small, I could actually make the team. I undoubtedly was the worst swimmer on the team, but I was able to swim you know, for a couple of years at Haverford, and so, for the rest of my days, I can say- “I you know, I was a... I swam at the collegiate level”. I enjoyed… I went out for theater, I went to the collections, I went to the… they had, I even went to Quaker meeting. I'd never been to Quaker meeting, but again to explore the Haverford experience, this was something new, I threw myself into it, so I could learn and see as much as I could.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): And were you part of the BSL?
Gregory Patrick: Yes! We started the BSL during my tenure at Haverford. The one constant of Haverford was the loneliness, because there was no support. You’re would constantly- you would try to have relationships, you constantly run into white people who will be talking to you and then step back and you could literally see them congratulate themselves on dialoguing with a Black person. Oh my. The... again, when you're Black, it doesn't... you don't have to go far to break ground. And I knew coming in that I... many, many times I would be the first African American person they had ever had a conversation with, and so, you know, when you're Black you're… it always puts you in a bind, because if they ask you something stupid like, you know Gregory... you’re... I don't really know very many Black people and you know, you're... I think we can relate, and there's something I've always wondered about… do you tan? You get asked a stupid question like that, and you have to decide how you'll respond on the one hand, it is stupid and because you are a... you know you're not… say of the idea, you, you want to shut them down. At the same time, though, you have to be conscious that this may be your only shot. White people cutting us slack, there is the one recollection if you shoot them down, if you're too hard on them, “you well you know I tried to have a conversation with the Black people and, like I just can't I just don't know about it”. And since, especially then, it was an optimistic time and we were trying to open doors, open eyes, and so forth, you would try to engage the conversation and remind them that, yes, we are people, we do tan, we, you know, we all come in all kinds of colors and shapes and so forth. But you know, that was... the one of the burdens, so that it was... The majority of... white students I interacted with, just could not be authentic, just could not relate to me, without that weight of race, without that way too- oh my, we are breaking ground without the self congratulation of I'm... I am talking to you. Not you are talking to me. In fact I always remember there was one student who lived across the hall from me, whose father was an engineer, for Westinghouse, and so he was told at one point he was an aristocrat and he... you know, and I were out, and you know talking and so he asked me how did I, as a Black man relate to him as an aristocrat. And so I told him that I thought my father had his doctorate, my mother had her masters in social work, so I was as much, if not more, an... aristocrat as he. He became offended, and I don't think we exchanged maybe 10 words the rest of the four years at Haverford. So, that was a constant, because we needed support, we had to support each other and because- and to support each other that's where the BSL came from. And there was a lot of hostility, because, you know, Haverford has this ideal, particularly at that time that they were… all together, we know, we were... we were standing apart of the Quaker village, and we were trying to separate ourselves. So we're all supposed to come together. The problem is, of course, that we were all to come together, not on our terms, but on their terms. In fact, what really angered me my freshman year, was that you know, I went around, I was at a alumni meeting, with I think it’s Dean Anderson, I think he was the dean of students at that time, you know, impressed[?] student there, and I’m in this meeting, and he says that they talked about how Haverford made this effort to recruit students and he said yes, the board of trustees decided that exposure to Black people was part of a good... but... was part of a good white students liberal education. And I was so mad. Here I’d been reading the Haverford ideal and Haverford... thought they wanted me because of the Haverford ideal, but no. I was here, because some white people had decided that my presence would be part of educating their people. So that was one of the reasons I took over the dean's office senior year. Because of the hurt and because of the anger. You know, again, when we come to the B- to the BSL, we can talk about that at length further if you wish, but we come to the protest, I knew what to do. Before I got politically active, I went to the library and looked up the bylaws of Haverford College to see what could they put you out for. And when you look in the bylaws, you could see there... as long as you pay- tuition was paid, okay, and as long as you kept your grades up, the only thing you could be put out for was moral turpitude. Which meant, you know selling coke or something like that... which meant that, as long as I kept my grades up I could do anything I wanted. I could be as active as I wanted, and indeed that's what happened with the protest. That unfortunately, there were students who were so committed to the cause... that let their grades slide, they were put out in a moment. There were students who found their scholarship money was cut. My scholarship money was cut. Fortunately, I was a senior, my parents were able to make up the difference, again purely punitive. So. The establishment, the Haverford establishment okay, it's constant, has not changed, does not change.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): Yes, and I was wondering we've started talking a little bit about the 1972 boycott... Before that started, did you hear about the Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr sit-ins in 1969, during your sophomore year, I believe.
Gregory Patrick: Yes, we did it. It was hard then remember this was before Internet, so that the only reason you would know something about that, was if someone from Swarthmore called you, or told somebody, okay. Because you’re not reading the papers, if you read the papers you're reading the New York Times right, because you're at Haverford. You're, you know, you're not… you're not reading about local news. We heard about that- Swarthmore was further along than Haverford. Swarthmore’s Black Student League was much more organized, okay, and much more together. And gave actually better parties than the BSL at Haverford did so that... Yes. We were aware of those, but only peripherally. Again, the protest really started accelerating with Cornell, and then the Vietnam War. My first two years at Haverford, I was in... as a member of the New Mobilization Against the War in Vietnam. That- that’s how I got interested in political science as a major. Again, the difference in background- I went to Haverford… I went with a couple Haverford students to one of the protest marches, and we were stopped by the police. And I always remember one of my… one of the white students, he was saying, “you pig, you pig, you can’t touch me.” And I’m going, yes sir, no sir, and okay, and afterward, the student said Greg why didn't you say something why, why are you so quiet, I said. I don't have a... I don't have anyone to bail me out of jail, if I get arrested. He could not imagine. One thing when you talk about structural racism… there is just in systemic racism, there was an expectation, he had the expectation that no matter what he said to the police, there would be no retaliation. I did not have that expectation, I did not have that history. I would walk the students from Bryn- after we'd have a party or something like that oftentimes I would walk the women from Bryn Mawr back to their campus because I’m old school, and I did not feel that women should go unescorted, you know, between the campuses, you know by themselves, especially at night. And coming back, I was stopped by the police and I always carried my Haverford ID, don't leave home without it, because yeah so I recall being stopped there were three policemen, one on the side, one in the front, and asked me what I was doing there, and so forth. But you know such ideas for.. the students at Haverford, the white students didn't… the other students at Haverford had no clue. They had no clue about their money. I always remember I had never been with so many people with money before. I remember what it was... one student had a Pontiac Firebird. He parked on campus and he came out and all four tires and carpet, put up a box and all four tires were gone. He went inside, he made a phone call, and a guy came out and put on four tires on his car and he just drove away. I was astounded. I had never seen such resources, I had never seen such choice. No, and he, totally oblivious to what he had, and how he thought he and I were the same. You know we've come from the same background, etc. totally oblivious.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): So you ended up on a campus with all of these students of different levels of privilege and it kind of came to a head, when you talked earlier about losing scholarship money and students being… Black students specifically being removed by the Committee on Student Standing and Programs... Do you remember other events that led up to the 1972 boycott?
Oh. There, there were a lot of events leading up to that, I mean. I remember going out for a play, I think we were doing, we were doing something with Shakespeare, I think, maybe Richard the Third, and Bob Buttman, the head of drama said, well, I could I could be on stage if I put on white face. Okay he thought was a little too dark for the production, all right. Okay, I refused, and went on this… went on onstage anyway. There were all kinds of slights, where you know, again, I can only speak from personal experience okay, I can’t... I can talk, you know that the students were invited to, you know, interview with the faculty and I was not. One issue was I came there mad, because I've been protesting for so much and I stayed, and so I had my- you know I had young testosterone and- okay that's the phone we're at my grandmother's house and that's the phone there... She can't hear and that's why the phone is so loud. But anyway, oh, you know, where did you find the Blacks in jobs, you found them in the cafeteria. You found them in security, you found them in maintenance. I made it a point to work indoors so that- I made it a point, I was the assistant editorial assistant for the Review of Metaphysics, one of the philosophy journals. So I worked with the professor of philosophy and typing up stuff, and me doing stuff with that because I wanted to work indoors. I was a- by the way, I had to work three jobs. Because again my... had enough money to get to Haverford, but any living money, that I had to get on my own. Which is why the summer of my junior year was so hard because, since I was taking physics 101, 102, and 103, I could not hold a summer job okay. Again, I was coming from a different spot. When people are talking about how they're going to take time off how they were going, you know it… casually talking about yes I’m going to hitchhike across country okay. No one thinking about safety, not thinking about... and like as if anybody could do it.
One student was surprised that I did not... wasn't going to go skiing with a bunch of students who were on the floor. Oh, you know, you're not going to go, okay, well alright. Again, much of what I recall are microaggressions rather than macroaggressions. Right, we had to justify- I remember, I had to petition the school to put Ebony Magazine in the library, and to get Afro combs in, as part... being… to be sold in the store because, and again, why would you need a- what do you mean you need a special kind of comb? Okay, I mean again. Since I had come from working the systems, and since I had come from protesting in Pittsburgh, in high school, and so forth, I knew how to do that, but… Why would, I have to justify Ebony Magazine as not being scholastic enough, and again, you'd have Phylon, which was… at that time was the quarterly magazine for negro literature and research. But, you want to see pictures of other Black people and Ebony Magazine was it! I knew I couldn’t get Jet in… a subscription to that but why? Because I went to channels, they put the magazine in and again, small things microaggressions, little things that you weren't here. I remember telling one student that I, you know I never, never walked barefoot up until Haverford, I did not go barefoot right, you went to barefoot on the beach. But where I came from, there was no grass and you don't have grass, the grasses you can walk on, that you know so for that the idea of barefoot... So that was a new experience. He was astounded, no, no. There was a continual- similarly, the another microaggression, was that if you were Black, the assumption was you were poor, you're from the ghetto, you were incoherent, you are not literate, you were, by your bootstraps, trying to work your way up. I of course, I consider myself fairly middle class I had two parents who are professionals, and taught me well, even if the school did not- taught me well, and taught me how to fight so that I saw myself on equal footing. And got into arguments with some of my classmates as to indeed the only thing separating us was that they had more choice because they had more money.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): And that's… thank you for sharing all your experiences with microaggressions at Haverford, I know that must be very difficult to recount you know, regardless of the time span. But were you at the plenary, where Ghebre Mehreteab announced the boycott?
Gregory Patrick: Yes, I was in the audience, I was there. We walked out together, we did our (raises fist, palm out, into the air). And, yes, again, we were all egos, all young men and so forth, I- you know, there were others who felt more of a need to be at the head of the table okay. I had... I had been doing this for years, and you know there's a lot- and that's the thing is, what you can… if the goal is to accomplish, there's an awful lot you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit, so that it was easy to be part of the, you know, part of the… I don’t know what to call it… Steering Committee and be part of that, then to say part of that, you know, and go along with that and put my opinions in. Sometimes you're accepted, sometimes we weren't, there was conflict within the BSL, just like you'd expect any other group. But yes, I was there at the plenary session, I was there I remember, we talked about, we had the big- I remember the meetings at the BSL at this Black House before oh, and you should have heard the conflict over that. There are people who wrote letters to the student paper about how they thought having a Black League was divisive. They talked about the fact that you know, the Black- they could see the Black students sitting together at a table... was disruptive and then not the “Haverford way” and therefore should not be encouraged. Now, how dare they do that, how can they not be forced to the Haverford ideal right. The idea of coming together for protection, self support was just not considered, it was just not… an attitude. But yes, I remember when we talked about, we were going to boycott, aside from classes and from student jobs we weren't going to do, sports, we weren’t going to do- I always had a part in the senior play that year okay, and we were… We were doing you know, where they used to have class night, I don't know if they still have class night, where every year does... every year- at that time, every year, put on a skit. And the seniors always got first dibs and all the props and everything, and so we always put on the best.. put on the best skits and I had a part in it and such, and I had to withdraw okay. Because to be consistent with everyone else. The students who played sports, to play basketball, and so forth, had to withdraw, a sacrifice for them. Now, we had to do classes and we would have tutorials and teaching sessions for each other, talking about Black history, talking about Black culture, all the things in the evenings. But we were doing it from solid- for solidarity, which was not so- not only solidarity for us, but with Swarthmore, with Cornell, with university of Pennsylvania, with the other schools where the students were, you know, coming together to say enough. Okay, we will be heard, we do exist, we are not all the same. Which again was very radical for that time.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): And, did you ask white students or other students on campus to join, I know the Puerto Rican students at Haverford joined the boycott, but did any other groups join?
Gregory Patrick: No, they did not join okay. The one issue was that- one thing we decided because Haverford was all about dialogue, they would talk you to death. They would- you'd have a meeting and you’d talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and nothing would be decided, nothing would change. So that the one way to get the attention would be to not talk to anybody. And so we only issued things through the Steering Committee. No white student volunteered okay, no white student even asked me about it. I was again, I was a political science major, all the white students in the political science department wrote their senior thesis about their reaction to the Black Students League and what it meant. Which meant that, of course, I couldn’t, so I wrote my senior thesis on the legal rights of the mentally ill. You know, straight research, straight, you know, a paper like that. But there were all these opinion pieces from white students with none of whom, none of them talked to me. I don't know if they talked to any of the other African American students there, but they talked among themselves, you'd come by and you'd see them (urgent whispering noises). Again, I have lived with this my whole life, I mean this is just part of the struggle, part of the constant I mean... So no, an answer to your question, no, we did not... at least no, I am not aware of any white allies who came forward among my student class.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): That's quite unfortunate to hear, but I know you had a lot of stand-ins outside Collection or sit-ins at President Coleman’s office. What were those like?
Gregory Patrick: *laughs* Oh right. Again, we're... at night, we would strategize because you know it's like anything else. For example, the one I will speak on is standing, I remember standing outside Collection to say, and it’s Haverford so we said “think”. You know carrying a placard saying “think”. I mean, what was that? Come on… But anyway, we were young and didn't know better. For President Coleman, who were talking because they had taken Cornell had they taken over offices… the problem is, so we wanted to do something, but again, you… there aren't that many of us, okay, and you can’t... we have classes and things to do so, you want to make a statement. Again Haverford, this is coming up before Easter break and we wanted a gentle reminder so that you didn't lose momentum, because what would happen, the Haverford way, was to talk about and have a meeting and have a meeting, all of a sudden, you know, it's spring break and everybody's gone okay. And there's no more money, and nothing has changed. Similarly, they have another meeting, we're going to talk about… we’re going to coalesce, we’re going to have a position paper, and then nothing happens and nothing has changed, so we decided on, there are two different things we… I directly recall… to take President Coleman, we want to take over Jack Coleman's office and I remember, part of the group, who went in there, and so I sat in his chair. And, of course, if you're going to do it, you do it right. So you need to do... I mean you go bigger or you don’t at all... So he started talking so we're gonna… We didn't speak to him, just sat in the chair and so he says, okay, and then he leaves the office. So if you're going to do it right, you go in there, and have one of his cigars and he did smoke a good cigar. And called the Secretary and asked for her to bring in coffee and donuts, because you never get never get if you never try. And she did. And I remember doing my chemistry homework, organic chemistry, mind you, I’m taking organic chemistry, at the same time while the, you know, and it started to rain. I remember looking out the window watching the rain, but, again at a set time, I think we would have got there when you... when he got there at 10, and then I think at 1 o'clock, we all just got up and left. Again, we made the statement, but we weren't going to be caught by holding ground, getting trapped so we had gentle reminder. Similarly, the other thing was to put up the… take down the American flag, and to put up the red, green, black flag, you know African Liberation Flag so because it is illegal, I will not say who was actually involved with it. But under the cover of darkness, some people went and took down the American flag and hung up the Black Liberation flag and cut the rope so that you could not bring the flag down again. At that point, the flagpole at Haverford College was the highest point on the Philadelphia main line, and so the switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree, because I know this, because one of my tasks… the indoor jobs I had that time included delivering the letters to different departments and so forth, and I remember taking a letter in. And the secretary of administration is crying because they took down my flag, sob, sob, sob, people are calling in what's going on, what has happened to Haverford? These radicals have taken over. You know the police are available to help, if needed, you know I mean... Again, you would not think it was a big- but it was a really big deal. And that's when, it was- we were informed that this was illegal and the parties- if they ever caught the parties responsible, they could be prosecuted, which is why I don't know who did it. I just know that it was done.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): Wow that is very interesting to hear that was one of the events that took place. I wanted to ask- the Philadelphia New actually wrote an article during the time talking about how the administration and the Black Students League were on the same side. And I know there's a lot of discourse between the administration and Black Students League surrounding the demands or the symbolic gestures of good faith, as titled in the letters of the time. Did you feel like you both were on the same side?
Gregory Patrick: Yes, because we were believers. We loved Haverford. We were not doing this because we wanted to make Haverford better, we wanted to make Haverford fulfill the ideals that it talked about and mission statements and such. So that yes, we were on the same page, but the problem is, is that… in medicine, they call it the anatomic blind spot, there is a spot in the eye where the optic nerve comes into the brain where the eye cannot see. And the anatomic blind spot of the administration was that 1) our thoughts were legitimate, and not simply a question of “well we just have to appoint somebody, or rewrite something”. We want systemic change opposed to just an appointment, we want actual policy, as opposed to just a position paper, okay. We want accountability and benchmarks and things that we had been instructed at Haverford constitutes progress, especially in political science, we had metrics, you think you're supposed to do, this is how you hold people accountable, and this is how you do things. So they did not see the need for that. And that's where a lot of the conflict came, because we weren't just protesting to protest. We were actually... wanted to change Haverford for the better, and we had a legitimate idea how that might look, and that was not the institutional image, and as a consequence was devalued.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): And the boycott lasted around two months, I believe, at the end of the boycott, did you feel- how did you feel as a graduating senior, did you feel like you made progress?
Gregory Patrick: Yes, because okay… yes, we made progress, because we were the first. We showed it was different, we showed a way, we gave a template, for how protests could be. We gave... we, for the first time, we were persistent enough to have a protest the same way that other schools were having protests but, having it uniquely Haverford, and then indeed... so that there was progress being made. At least we were recognized, at the least we were noted, at least they had to respond, you know, I mean. You know loved Haverford, my- you know Haverford taught me well. You know, I have to tell you the racism is systemic. When I was in University of Pittsburgh Medical School, the... after again, they brought in 10 Black students, with much fanfare but where... there was a problem with the class of Physiology... class of Physiology was essay, instead of strictly, you know, you check check boxes or numerical and so forth. And so as a consequence, the physiology course was notorious for flunking out Black students. And as part of the Student National Medical Association at the University of Pittsburgh, I led a group that met with the Dean of the Medical School and Ernst Mobile, who was the Richard King Mellon Professor of Physiology. And I asked him, how did he account for us, so many Black students failing his course? And he looked me in the eye and told me that he considered himself the last bastion, last wall, to keep unqualified medical students from becoming doctors. He’s looking right at me and I'm saying okay, you think I’m Black and so I’m unqualified, all right. Well as a consequence of my training from Haverford, I did a tutorial, where at night I would meet in one of the classrooms, because it was essay, the brothers had the knowledge but couldn't write. But people... one problem with a focus on STEM, people don't realize the importance of words, the importance of communication, the importance of writing. So that I could tutor my colleagues who are all... I was the only political science, I was the only non-science major in my class at the University of Pittsburgh. Okay, because, again in those days, you... there was a single track to medical school, you majored in a science right yeah, but because of my training from Haverford, I could tutor them and everybody, all of us, passed Physiology that year.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): That is so amazing to hear. Um, as a young alumni, did you hear about any of the continuing protests at Haverford in ‘75 and ‘77?
Gregory Patrick: No, I was in medical school, in medical school you used- you are struggling to swim. I mean it is ‘74 and ‘75 actually, there's one thing at Haverford. I remember, they had a- Haverford announced- the only sidebar- Haverford announced- sent out a thing for alumni that they were having a Luce Scholars Program.
Gregory Patrick: Henry Luce was the head of Time Magazine and he had a program for spending a year in Asia. So I said, what the heck, I applied to spend the, a,... my junior year studying in China, because they just opened up the border with China and then so with all the context right. And again, it caused all kinds of consternation at the medical school, because you know, I went to tell the dean, while I think I might need to take a year off, and he said no, he starts to get all paternal and saying well, I’m sorry you're having all problems with students and I said no, because I’ve applied to spend a year studying in China. And he’s like what? Okay. And they had a, you know, a ton about the front end and that was again, they had to have meetings and so forth, because a student didn't take time off to study, abroad. Is it just for time off from medical school, to alone study in China, I mean what didn't… and so forth. So that's... they initially after several meetings, and they… they didn't think that I can put them in contact with the with the person from the Luce foundation to say yes, this was legit. This wasn't the up and up and indeed they elected to say, well, if I got accepted into the programs, I could you know yeah I could take the junior year and go to China. And indeed I made it through the program, I was an alternate, but then Nixon invaded Cambodia. And the walls went back up, and so I spent my junior year at University of Pittsburgh, instead of in China so. But in terms of your original question, no the original protests that ‘74 and ‘75… I heard about them peripherally, look, they were not covering that in my alumni journal. Okay, so no said that, again, and this is before Internet, this is before social media, who knew. Unless the alumnis talked about the protest, the alumni journal, which I assume I got, I probably did, but I would not know about those protests.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): Wow. And I wanted to ask you, before we wrap up, if there was anything that we missed that about the boycott or anything, about your time at Haverford, that you wanted to share.
Gregory Patrick: Um, no, I think the major thing is… it was… you don't realize... it was a less angry time. As things have evolved, protests have gotten angrier, you know, every... things are are more polarized. At that time, it really grew out of love. We wanted Haverford to meet its ideal. Haverford thought it was meeting it's ideal, and was not. And was really unwilling, to see that it might not be... that they might not be as good as they thought they were. Okay, they might not be as welcoming, as open, as liberal, as you know, as their institutional image was. No… I remember students were indignant that I wasn't grateful to... for them to talk with me okay I don't know... Again, these… you know, I gave... cut them some slack because I was their first. And all right, so okay, you give people first, they're out of it, did they stick with you… You gotta, you gotta put them in place. But if it's their first if I’m the first, you want to release them to talk to the next person and not assume that because you know “we got shot down I can’t talk about Black people” where I kind of talked because white folk will do that in a minute. *laughs*
Rhea Chandran (she/her): And I was wondering if you had any advice for current Haverford Black students, or other students of color that are dealing with some of the same problems that you dealt with in the 70s.
Gregory Patrick: Oh. Oh yes, you will be dealing with them for the rest of your life. Racism is like gravity, it's always there. As my father used to say, it doesn't mean you can't run, you can't jump, you can't fly, but if you forget it's there, it will always pull you down. So, don't be I mean... part of the reason I was so angry was a sense of betrayal. I did not recognize that, again, it took me a long time to recognize that this is gravity- it's just the way it is. You know, I still, you know I had to instruct my sons... how to be... how to talk to the police. And how to be in the car when they’re... when they’ve stopped you. I've been stopped by the police, and indeed I- when, last time when I was stopped by a police, the, you know, the officer wasn’t friendly he asked me for my license number and then he looked at the, you know, he said he wanted my owners- my insurance card. Okay so which was in the glove compartments so I reached over to get to the globe compartments and then I realized his partners there with his gun, ready, to pull it out and so again I knew what to do when the slow motion, went back, turned the overhead light on, showed my hands, put them on the… okay was very, very careful so. That's gravity, you will be dealing with this okay, you will find, because, you know, you know, you’re a non-white woman, you're going to be running into all kinds of protests for rest of your life. Going to be running into to all kinds of prejudice, for the rest of your life okay that that's that's just that's just gravity. That's just part of the way it is. The major thing, though, is to recognize joy. I learned a lot of Haverford, I had a good time at Haverford, you know. I did things- experiences and such I had never enjoyed. That’s what you hold on to, right. The… of... the protest, the bitterness and so forth, that gets sanded away by time. That gets sanded away by other good experiences, you know, I look forward to my 50th reunion. Just to see what’s around, just to see, you know, hey, we made it! Each reunion, hey, we made it! We're still here, because the one thing you will get from Haverford is that you are a part of a group of very interesting people. However, Haverford people are really interesting to talk with, really interesting to be with, they have all kinds of opinions and attitudes and so forth. And the ability to dialogue, the ability to talk to each other is a joy that must be cherished.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): Thank you so much for spending this hour talking about your experiences at Haverford. And I'll stop the recording now if there's nothing else you'd like to share.
Gregory Patrick: Well I mean, you know, you... you know old guys will talk forever, alright, so you know, you're right, so that I can tell... there are all kinds of stories and things like that and, particularly, you know men love talking about themselves. So you know it'd be very easy for me to go on and on and on. But let’s… why don't we stop here, while… before you get tired.
Rhea Chandran (she/her): Thank you.
Gregory Patrick: Okay.
Gregory Patrick (Class of 1972) interviewed by Rhea Chandran (Class of 2023)
Rhea Chandran (Class of 2023) interviews Gregory Patrick (Class of 1972) about his experiences as a BIPOC student at Haverford and the 1972 Black Students League boycott on campus. This interview was conducted as part of the Documenting Student Life Project.
Patrick, Gregory (interviewee)
Chandran, Rhea (interviewer)
Metadata created by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger