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Pat Clary – A Lifelong Learner

Patricia A. Clary ’22 (PhD) retired in 2018. But that wasn’t the end of her professional and educational journey—God made a way for her to begin her doctorate at the age of 68. 

The opportunity to start her doctoral program came at a time of deep personal tragedy: Pat had just lost her son due to complications with a heart surgery. She and her husband were also experiencing financial hardships. But the truth of Pat’s life verse, Proverbs 3:5–6, became evident when God used her doctorate to minister to her in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

“I believe the pursuit of a PhD was a gift from God to me, personally,” said Pat. “I had been praying for two years asking God what He would have for me next and as the program was introduced to me, there was no doubt in my mind, applying for the program was God’s plan for me.”

Pat felt that this was what God wanted her to do, but there were obstacles. She was concerned that she wouldn’t get accepted into the program since it had been nearly 20 years since she graduated with her master’s degree. Pat also needed a way to pay for her doctorate, but neither she nor her husband were sure where to begin looking for work.

God provided both of these answers on the same day. Pat was accepted into SEU’s PhD in Organizational Leadership program, and her husband was called out of the blue, interviewed and accepted for a consulting position at Clemson University.

“God paid for my PhD through employing my husband through a great company and amazing colleagues,” said Pat. “Only God and my husband knew that the final item on my bucket list of life was to earn individual status as a PhD.”

Over the span of her 40-year career, Pat had many different positions working with both nonprofits and in ministry. Pat served as the president and CEO of United Way of Fresno County, California, an organization that focuses on helping the community through education, health and income. She also spent many years doing women’s ministry and community outreach.

Joining the doctoral program opened additional doors for Pat to continue serving people, namely through the International Leadership Association (ILA), a community of professionals dedicated to researching and presenting leadership theories and practices. Encouraged to join the program by doctoral professor Dr. Ric Rohm, Pat joined the organization in 2019.

Pat and five other women in her cohort submitted two project proposals: “Leading Authentically: A Journey of Self-Discovery” and “Making Sound Decisions with the EDM Code: An Ethical Framework for Decision-Making.” 

Their proposals were accepted, and they presented their findings at the fifth ILA Women and Leadership Conference.

In early 2021, Pat was invited to volunteer with the ILA Women and Leadership Member Community (W&L MC). She has since had opportunities to participate in several ILA conferences as a reviewer and convener.

Pat has been able to use her experience in leadership and heart for ministering to women to hold numerous positions. She has been on the ILA Women and Leadership Member Community’s executive leadership team and is the chair of ILA’s Public Leadership Member Community. 

Pat was also given the opportunity to write a chapter in ILA’s Building Leadership Bridges series, “Convening leadership on the commons: Initiating stakeholder networks to solve complex global issues.”

In completing her doctorate and being involved with ILA, Pat has found healing and new ways to further her passion for leadership and helping others.

“Through the Ph.D. journey, God has brought healing to my heart over the loss of our son,” said Pat, “And He has let me see how all the years of my professional experience coupled with a PhD can be used to further serve the common good and humanity.”

Pat received her PhD in Organizational Leadership at 72 in April of 2022. She has since presented at three conferences in 2022, both nationally and internationally. Pat continues to live out her faith in teaching, researching, editing and publishing new projects.

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PhD in Organizational Leadership
Doctorate in Strategic Leadership
Jannetides College of Business, Communication, & Leadership
International Leadership Association (ILA)
SEU Alumni
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