Deese retires after long, productive career

Dec 15, 2005

Dr. Patrick Deese, vice president for Student Affairs at Kettering, is retiring from the university to pursue his passion for pottery and maybe dabble in teaching again.

Not many people originally from northern Alabama choose to retire in Michigan, especially when there is a foot of snow on the ground, but Dr. Patrick Deese and his wife, author Helen Deese are doing just that.

The Deeses are leaving Flint for the slightly larger university town of Ann Arbor, Mich., because they like the atmosphere and the access to a large university library system. "One of the things I like best about Ann Arbor is that just about anything goes there," said Deese.

A political scientist by education, Deese said he would like to return to the classroom and return to "in my opinion what I do best (teach)." Some would argue he oversees student life pretty well too. He became involved in administration as the director of Student Organizations at Tennessee Tech University where he also taught History and Political Science. From there he went to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland before arriving at Kettering as vice president of Student Affairs in 1993.

He claims not to have a well defined philosophy of student affairs. He prefers to see his career in administration as a series of doors that opened, allowing him to grow professionally and do more for the students he cared so much about.

"I was very involved with student life as a faculty advisor to dozens of student groups for 20 years," said Deese. "When I was asked to take on the job at Tennessee Tech I saw it as a second career and I wanted to do it well."

During his almost baker's dozen years at Kettering Deese has been involved in a lot of changes in student life including helping to get the Recreation Center built and the recreation fields renovated; developing the Wellness Center on campus and securing funding for the facility; overseeing development of the Women's Resource Center; petitioning for upgrades in Thompson Residence Hall to air condition and provide computer networking for the university's freshman housing; and working with former Kettering President Dr. James John, Susan Bolt and with outside developers to build more student housing near campus, resulting in Campus Village Apartments.

Now he is ready for the third career, what he calls retirement. "I don't want to do anything for a year," he said, "I just want to get my 'retirement legs' under me until I figure out what to do with myself."

Some of that figuring will include what he calls "dabbling" in the antiques business, specifically, antique American Art Pottery. "It's like hunting for buried treasure," he said of his passion for finding, buying and selling American Art Pottery.

He will probably also teach as an adjunct professor of History and Political Science. "Having something meaningful to do is what's important," Deese said. "That is the challenge of retirement, finding meaning work."

And of course, he wants to travel. He and his wife plan to spend a month in Key West to escape some of Michigan's winter weather, but as for naysayers who question his retirement home in Michigan, Deese said "I've never found that happiness was a by product of location. It was always my work and the people I know." And for those, Michigan is a fine place to be.

Written by Dawn Hibbard
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