Doris Patterson

My Dad quoted a lot of good old sayings. I have two brothers and three sisters, and we all grew up hearing them. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” “If you don’t need it, it’s expensive at half the price.” “A stitch in time saves nine.” “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” I tell people that I am one of the few at Luther who has her ducks in a row! I have used a few others to help describe my journey to Luther College.

Other people influence your life, if you let them.
The first thing you need to know is that four of my siblings and countless other nieces, nephews, and other relatives graduated from Luther College. My original life plan was to become an elementary school teacher. Even though I had never even been away to a summer camp before, immediately after high school I enrolled in my first summer session at the University of Northern Iowa. The experience of being away from everything familiar was scary, and one night our RA got out this big book. It was basically a big book of odds, like, ‘What were the odds that I would make it to graduate from UNI?’ I was from a small school, going to a big school, a good GPA—but not valedictorian, and then there were other criteria that I don’t remember anymore. However, I do remember that Big Book predicting that, odds were, I would not make it though the four years and I would not graduate. I believed the book, and I believed my RA. After that summer session I quit, so as not to become the failure they predicted. As an alternative, I completed a cosmetology program and went to work, got married (to the love of my life!) and stayed at home with my husband to raise our two daughters and help on the farm.

Expect the unexpected.
Years later I attended NICC and completed a one-year accounting program and started working at a local law firm. One day as I was reading the help-wanted ads in the Decorah newspaper I spotted one for the Luther College Music Department. My lunch date had cancelled for that day, and I thought, “What have I got to lose?” It was the last day to apply, so I filled out the application and took the appropriate tests on my lunch hour. The next day while I was at work, the Luther Human Resources Office called to see if I could come for an interview that afternoon. By 5:00 p.m. I was sitting in an office with John Strauss, Weston Noble, and Maury Monhardt. The next day they offered me the job. It all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to get nervous. About two weeks later, on November 16, 1988, I started as the Music Department academic secretary.

Treat others as you want to be treated.
I sometimes joke that if I had just enrolled at Luther, instead of working here, I could have graduated four times by now. Thinking about that makes me realize just how many students (and faculty) I have met in the last 18 years. Each year a new group comes into Jenson-Noble, into my office, and into my life. Some will bring me their problems; some their smiles, and some will even bring me their tears. In all these situations I draw on the teachings of my parents and my church to treat them as I want to be treated; to be fair, honest and direct; to be the kind of person I would like to have for a friend. My parents were religious, kind, and generous people, and we learned by their example.

Things happen for a reason.
If I hadn’t listened to the RA (and her Big Book) at UNI, if I hadn’t gone back to school to learn new skills, if I hadn’t worked at the law firm, if I hadn’t read the newspaper on that certain day in November 1988, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Was there a wrong turn, a false start? We all make decisions that end up shaping our lives. What might appear to be a bad decision is maybe just a good decision that needs a little more work. You see, I think things happen for a reason; I believe there is a greater plan; I believe that God knows us and works through us. All of these events brought me to where I am now, and I think here is a pretty good place to be. At the end of the day, if I have done the best I can, if I made someone else’s day a little brighter, and if I have helped to make my little corner of the world a better place, I consider that success.

Doris Patterson