Dr. Patricia Graham did not think she would stay with UTSA for four decades. The hundreds of framed memories, wooden plaques on her dustless shelves and symbolic quilt of prints and quotes from former Ambassadors all speak otherwise.
“You don’t think that you would do anything for 40 years,” said Graham. “But I am stimulated by the university environment. There is just so much going on.”
Before UTSA, Graham taught at St. Mary’s University, where her relationship with the dean of students was crucial for her career at UTSA.
“We were very good friends — it was just us two with another woman teaching,” said Graham. “When UTSA opened, they asked her to be in charge of student activities. She asked me to come too, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Graham started at UTSA in October 1974, a time when the university was located at the Koger Center on 410 and Babcock, then she transitioned to the Main Campus in 1975. Having earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction through the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin, Graham worked as the director of testing.
“Back then, we had only graduate students, no undergraduates,” recalled Graham. “Only the MH building and a PE building were built. We had a bookstore but no books. That’s how we started, but we have grown and grown.”
In 1988, the Registrar’s Office formed an organization that would later be called UTSA Ambassadors.
“The registrar needed some people to give tours,” recalled Graham. “They got 10 or 12, but these students didn’t do as much touring as they did filing documents in the office.”
Following the entrance of Samuel Kirkpatrick as the new UTSA President in 1990, the UTSA Ambassadors grew.
“Along with the president, we also got a new VP of student affairs, who had worked in other schools where the concept of ambassadors existed,” remembered Graham. “She went to the president and said ‘I want to take over the (UTSA) Ambassadors,’ and he said, ‘OK.’ She called me and asked if I wanted to be the adviser – here I am today.”
Graham has served for 25 years as the adviser of the UTSA Ambassadors. As the current executive director for student activities, Graham claimed she has “much contact with many students.”
UTSA Ambassadors consist of over 60 student leaders who host campus events, university-sponsored conferences and community and alumni functions. They provide more than 7,000 service hours to the university annually.
“I’ve got the best job in the world, and I revel in the diversity here,” said Graham. “My passion is to work with students who are excited about something — getting accepted to medical school, for example. When they are excited, I am excited and feel part of their success.”
On Oct. 25, Graham welcomed the UTSA Ambassadors to their 25th Reunion Luncheon. Current ambassadors offered tours of the campus to their predecessors while Graham proudly held the youngest member, a 4-week-old baby boy who attended the event with his parents.
“I absolutely loved the reunion,” said Graham. “ I enjoy seeing how much the ambassadors have succeeded, yet they are still really nice people.”
Graham’s dedication to the university has been recognized multiple times. She has been a recipient of Amber awards, University Life Awards and the Roadrunner Award. Her biggest recognition, however, comes from her students.
“Dr. Graham is someone you can always talk to – someone who will remember your successes and comfort you during hardships,” said UTSA Ambassador Coordinator Tracy De Leon. “My family respects her kindness and passion for helping students, and she will always remain in our hearts.”
Graham does not want to retire from her job. She claims that she would never get the experience she has with students if she relaxed at home.