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Interview with Brenda Pate, January 9, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Brenda Pate, January 9, 2006
January 9, 2006
In this interview, Wilmington College/UNCW alumna and local artist Brenda Pate relates and compares her experiences during undergraduate student at Wilmington College and as a graduate student in UNCW's Liberal Arts program. She also discusses her years as an EMT and substitute teacher in Pender County, as well as her work teaching at and directing the Community Arts Center and her involvement with the Celebrate the Arts Festival and the Children's Museum.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Pate, Brenda Interviewer: Riggins, Adina Date of Interview: 1/9/2006 Series: Voices of UNCW Length: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Riggins: ...2006. My name is Adina L. Riggins; I'm the UNCW archivist. I have a guest this morning in front of the camera and that's Brenda L. Pate. Ah.. Brenda, would you mind, before I forget, spelling your maiden name since that was the name you had when you were a student at Wilmington College?

Brenda Pate: My maiden name was LaBrecque, L A B R E C Q U E.

Riggins: Perfect, thank you. That will help out our transcriptionist a lot. Well, with all of our interviews and particularly our interviews of alumni in ah.. Mrs. Pate is an alumna, we'd like to just start off with some general information about where- where you were born, your history, early history before you even were thinking about college. So, please tell us where you were born and where you grew up.

Brenda Pate: I was born in Wilmington North Carolina uh.. October 11, 1948.

Riggins: Were you born in the Babies Hospital? Or no..

Brenda Pate: No, I was born in James Walker Hospital.

Riggins: James Walker.

Brenda Pate: Which is no longer here.

Riggins: Right.

Brenda Pate: The reason I was born in Wilmington was because my mother was from Wilmington. She had married a marine and they moved to Massachusetts, but my mother did not want her first child born in "Yankee Land" as she called it. So my father brought her back to Wilmington and I was born here at James Walker Hospital. We lived here 'til I was almost two and then we moved back to Massachusetts where I lived until I was about 12 years old. We moved back to the area, lived in Penderlea North Carolina with my grandmother and five brothers and a sister and my parents, and then we moved to Wilmington when my father got a job at Federal Paper. Uh.. so I started school in the Wilmington area at Roland Grise Junior High School and I went on to New Hanover High School, graduated in 1966 and then I- uhm.. went to Wilmington College in the fall of 1966. Uh.. that was a great eye opener for me. Uh.. had always been at home taking care of little ones, uh.. really didn't have a lot of personal freedom, so going to college - even though I was still living at home - was- was very interesting. The uh.. school was small. There were the three main buildings in the circle, Hoggard James Hall, and Alderman. Then Kenan Hall had just been built, that was the art building, and then we had the gym. Parking was on a sand lot, there were no paved lots on campus uh.. it looked very different from the way it does now although the beautiful Georgian architecture of the buildings continues to this day which I think is a big plus for the campus. As I said, Kenan Hall was new. My uh.. study was Elementary Education and- and art and art was my love. My mother thought I should become a teacher. I felt like I already was one being the oldest of seven children.

Riggins: You were the very oldest?

Brenda Pate: Yes.

Riggins: Let's- let's back up for a moment. It sounds like you said different- sounds like there were different cultures if your mother was from the south and your father was from Massachusetts and you got to taste both- both of those places when you lived there. What was it like coming back to Wilmington after having lived in Massachusetts for awhile when you were- when you were in junior high, after you came back to Wilmington?

Brenda Pate: Well, whe- as I said, when we first moved here we moved to Penderlea.

Riggins: Oh, where is that?

Brenda Pate: Penderlea is in New H- in Pender County, very small, very rural. Uh.. I was- I'll step back a bit. When I was in Massachusetts, uh.. the schools were quite different. The schools I went to had uhm.. all female teachers and they did not marry. The principal was generally a man. Uh.. my cousins were all Catholic so they went to Parochial School and I would go with them sometimes for- when they went to confession. So I got to go into the Catholic Church when you uhm.. had to, a woman had to cover her head and the services were in Latin and uh.. going to school, uh.. we walked to school through the leaves and the snow and whatever. Uh.. and it was really interesting up there. Uh.. the entire time I lived in the North, people said "Well you're not from here are you?" and I think that was because my mother was from the South and I learned to pronounce a lot of my words from listening to her. Uh.. but when we moved back to North Carolina, Penderlea was an entirely different world. It was very rural, the first teacher I had uh.. I could not understand, I'd have to ask her to repeat what she was saying.

Riggins: (inaudible).

Brenda Pate: She was very country.

Riggins: Right.

Brenda Pate: And here I came to school uh.. in school clothes and then we changed into play clothes when we went home, and going to Penderlea, the students came to school barefoot in the warmer wea- weather and uh.. I just was not used to that all. So it was quite a shock. And then when- when we moved to New Hanover County, I was bussed from Castle Hayne to Roland Grise. That was when busing us first started. Yes, and Castle Hayne children were rural as well. Uh.. most of the children that went to Roland Grise were from the better side of town. And so I had that conflict again being different. So I kind of grew up being different wherever I lived.

Riggins: Right, it gives you just a more worldly perspective. You certainly knew more than alot-

Brenda Pate: Well my teachers said that I was very polite. And I think that was from my mother stressing that we always say yes ma'am and no ma'am, and- and uh.. it ran into that a lot up north.

Riggins: Ah ha. So you were at Roland Grise, you were bussed in, again, you're- you were living in a more rural area. How did your father like living in the rural area? Did he get used to it?

Brenda Pate: Well, as he was growing up, he- he'd lived in Maine, that's where he was originally from and he had done some farming with his family and so I think he- he had come- felt very comfortable where ever he was as well.

Riggins: Sounds like it. So you went through Roland Grise and then to Hoggard?

Brenda Pate: No, New Hanover.

Riggins: New Hanover.

Brenda Pate: There were only two high schools when I went to high school. New Hanover was for the white students and Williston for the black students.

Riggins: Got it.

Brenda Pate: My junior year in high school was the- the first time for integration and at that point they only sent over the students that they felt would fit in. I- I had some friends that had lived out in Castle Hayne, uh.. some black friends. Uh.. we saw each other at school but that was really the only time you got together. So that was- that was quite a transition period. I never realized how much though until years later. Being involved in the community, you just don't realize the ramifications of everything that's going on around you until later. I think that hit me the hardest. Uhm.. let's see, right after I graduated from high school I got a job at Parker's grocery store which is right near where I lived and there were riots going on in town and I would read about them in the paper but they never affected me until they set up a curfew in town. And I got off work at 6:00 and that's when the curfew started and so I was stopped on my way home from work wanting to know what I was doing out at that time and uh.. so that, at the point, hit me that gosh, something's going on. Of course the Vietnam War was going on at the time too and I had friends that- that left and some that didn't come back which was kind of uhm.. sad and this was the first time that you got to actually see what was going on in the world. Uh.. it was televised.

Riggins: Television, that made a big difference.

Brenda Pate: Most definitely.

Riggins: Watching the war on the television screen _____ books say.

Brenda Pate: Well, and- I- as I said, I was uhm.. I'd started Wilmington College in the fall right after I graduated, it was just seeing the progression. I was the first one in my family to go to college and didn't get a lot of support. My mother kept saying I needed to become a teacher, I didn't really wanna be a teacher, so- but I went onto school anyway and I worked a job so that I could pay for my schooling. And uhm.. but out on campus, there were students that were very concerned about being sent to Vietnam. A lot of marriages occurred because uhm.. at that time, if you were married, you didn't have to go. And then if you were married and had a child, then you didn't have to go, and then after awhile it didn't make a difference. So uhm.. there was a lot of women that went to college looking for the, MRS degree is what they always said. And it was very evident that that's the reason they were there. Uh.. I didn't do real well the first time in college. I uhm.. I guess because I was being exposed to things I had known nothing about. I had a little bit of freedom at the time, even though I was living at home, uh.. and so I just broadened my education by being around people and doing things and seeing things that I had not been exposed to before.

Riggins: So do you think deep down you didn't- you didn't want to be a teacher but what would you have liked to have been?

Brenda Pate: Art was my first love. I had always drawn. Uh.. my mother told me that when I was uhm.. first or second grade, teacher sent home a drawing that I'd done with a C on it and my dad went to school and told the teacher that I was better than that and I didn't need the C. So uhm.. my parents had always encouraged my drawing and uh.. and I was pleased with that although I don't think they wanted me to become an artist per se, that's- that was the reason for becoming a teacher.

Riggins: Right. Yeah.

Brenda Pate: A safe uhm.. position.

Riggins: Always a need for it or you're starting out majoring in Elementary Education, started in 1966 at Wilmington College. You said it was just very different than uhm.. it was very different from high school and everything even though you were living at home. Uhm.. I guess Wilmington College started out uhm.. at this time was integrated in 1966. Uhm.. from what I understand, as soon as they moved to the new campus, uh.. there was an agreement that they would take African American students. Do you remember there being some African Americans among the students?

Brenda Pate: I don't. There may have been some but I don't recall any- and it could be because uhm.. integration started my junior year of high school that uh.. it was just somebody el- it wasn't a big deal. Because the Vietnam War was going on, uh.. the only protest I can remember was five of the theatre students standing around the flagpole and the cannon protesting the war. And that's the only real protest.

Riggins: Around the flagpole in the......?

Brenda Pate: In the center of the campus.

Riggins: Really?

Brenda Pate: Uh.. and uhm.. they were protesting the war. I can't remember any other areas of people complaining or any problems. I think everybody just integrated well into the- into the classrooms.

Riggins: That's what I've heard about the experience here. And of course the other issues at that time of Vietnam were different, I've heard that. But in general it was not a very activist university from what I understand.

Brenda Pate: No, it wasn't.

Riggins: Yeah, compared to campuses in bigger cities. To me that makes sense, yeah.

Brenda Pate: Well, the students all lived at home or had apartments. You didn't have a lot of people from other areas and so I think that had something to do with it as well.

Riggins: They were from the region.

Brenda Pate: Um hmm, yes.

Riggins: And there was a lot of uhm.. was there quite a bit of social activity even though the students were- we have an archive with all these pictures of the homecoming dances and the homecoming court and things like that.

Brenda Pate: It was like a continuation of high school in that respect. James Hall, where registration goes on now, was the pub and that's where the social events took place. That's where the dances were held if you can imagine that! We uhm.. as you saw, we had the yearbook and our pictures were taken at the time, but James Hall was the pub. We'd go for snacks and you'd have the dances. Upstairs there was a small radio station, campus wide radio station, and uhm.. then there was the Hanover Hall where we had gym classes. So it was just uh.. it was a small, close knit campus. Uh.. Bill can tell you more about uh.. some of the homecoming events because he was active in the Engineers Club.

Riggins: Okay, right. We have pictures of that.

Brenda Pate: Yeah.

Riggins: Great.

Brenda Pate: He can tell you about the bonfire!

Riggins: Okay, Brenda's husband (inaudible).

Brenda Pate: There were some fraternities and sororities and I did go to a few parties but I was not one to uhm.. even be asked to be in a sorority, which was fine with me. I- I mean when I left school I went home and had things to do there. So uhm.. I did have a part time job. I worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken and I remember doing some of my sketches for my art classes on the counter when I wasn't busy with customers.

Riggins: So you were taking art classes here?

Brenda Pate: Yes, Claude Howell was my professor at the time.

Riggins: How did you like him?

Brenda Pate: He was a very strange person! I admired him, I loved his work, uhm.. he was uh.. the type of person that felt like if you wanted to be an artist, that had to be your life. And uhm.. that became the most important thing in your life. And I learnt-

Riggins: And he lived that.

Brenda Pate: He did.

Riggins: You know, it certainly was important to him.

Brenda Pate: Well, I enjoyed being in his class as he was- he was very challenging.

Riggins: He was demanding.

Brenda Pate: Very demanding.

Riggins: He had that attitude that he- he felt like well you shouldn't be spending time you know, going to parties and stuff. You spend time on your work. Was that definitely a-

Brenda Pate: It was. It was. Uhm.. but I did learn a lot from him. Uh.. I just took uhm.. regular drawing classes and uh.. never took any life drawing classes when he was a professor. I did those later when I came back- back to school.

Riggins: Were there other teachers as well?

Brenda Pate: I remember two others, I don't recall their names. Uh.. one was uh.. the ceramics teacher/pottery teacher, I did not take any of that at the time. And uhm.. Art History- Claude Howell [ph?] taught the Art History classes and he taught the drawing classes. So he was the one I- I worked with while I was there.

Riggins: Wow. But you were studying Elementary Education so that really-

Brenda Pate: Well, I- I was not there uhm.. just a little over two years and I took the- just the general classes that I needed to take- Communications, uhm.. History, and uhm..

Riggins: Oh, like for the pre-

Brenda Pate: Right.

Riggins: I thought at the time they didn't- well they were starting to offer the four year degree at this time but you were-

Brenda Pate: Right, it was a four year degree and it was on the quarter system and you had to declare a major and a minor at the time. And so I did take a few education courses which, I really enjoyed them. I did. And- but uh.. so I was working towards that degree and uh..

Riggins: So what happened? I take it that there were some things- other things going on in your life making- you met someone. You- you started in 1966 and then you left Wilmington College a couple of years later.

Brenda Pate: Well, I started dating. I didn't date in high school.

Riggins: Too busy taking care of the family!

Brenda Pate: And uhm.. yeah, but I ended up marrying a local boy. I met Bill- Bill worked off and on and came to school when he could and I met him and uhm.. we ended up getting married in 1968. Uh.. another one of the jobs I had while I was on campus is I worked in- in the university library with- with Helen Hagen.

Riggins: Oh you did? You may have told me that but I don't uhm.. remember. So you worked directly for Ms. Hagen?

Brenda Pate: Yes. Uh.. Ms. Hagen-

Riggins: In the office or in the-

Brenda Pate: Well I worked uh.. whereever I was needed- circulation desk where I got to meet a lot of interesting people and I remember uhm.. having to put the newspapers on the- the long roller rods. They don't do that anymore either! And we had microfilm and didn't have computers at the time so we had the card catalogue to update and then I'd work uh.. over the summer. Uh.. we would have donations, especially of National Geographics. We had to get all those catalogued and set- and then I helped move uh.. the books from the library that was in Alderman over to the first section of this library.

Riggins: Oh the move, I heard about that!

Brenda Pate: Yeah, it was a big move.

Riggins: It probably had to be very well planned. I remember they- I've heard stories about it and they switched over to- from the Dewey decimal system to uhm.. LC classification before and it was very smart and _____ libraries just never did it at the right time which would have been anywhere from 20 to 40 years ago and now. It's too overwhelming to do it. But LC is a- a more manageable system. Uhm.. the- what was- this Helen Hagen like? I've heard about her. Of course I didn't get the chance to interview her.

Brenda Pate: She was what I think a lot of people today still think of librarians. She was very business-like, very stern uh.. she could give you a look and you knew just what she meant. Uh.. demanded quiet in the library. You did not talk in the library even-

Riggins: Food?

Brenda Pate: Oh, no food whatsoever! Not even chewing gum.

Riggins: So if students were- college students were chewing gum?

Brenda Pate: They had to lea- get rid of it or leave. And uh.. there was no getting together with groups to discuss things. You- you came in there to study.

Riggins: So she was very business like. It's interesting, there's different stereotypes of librarians that of course still persist to this day and I think one of them is if a librarian- if a female librarian is a manager, running this big ship, she was tough, but still prim, sort of, you know?

Brenda Pate: Oh yes. Prim and proper. And you can look at the photograph in uhm.. Special Collections and that was Ms. Hagen. Always.

Riggins: Ah ha, so she ran a tight ship but she demanded highly of herself too?

Brenda Pate: Oh definitely, yes.

Riggins: How did you like working at the library?

Brenda Pate: I- I liked it. Uh.. I had no idea that uh.. about library degrees or anything like that. I feel like I uhm.. I- I wasn't sure what I wanted to do and when I came to school here, there was really no one to direct you, you know? Like now you have advisors. We did have an advisor to help get our schedule together, but that was all that- that was- at least the advisors I had, that was- you know, get your schedule set. No real direction and I wasn't sure where I wanted to go and I- I wish now looking back that uhm.. I'd been pushed a little bit more. I would love to have gotten into library work sooner.

Riggins: Right. I know. I'm sure then it was a different story than now because of course now there are advisors but it is amazing that so many people, even my age, say, "We didn't have Library Science." And I had always thought about it personally, but I kind of put it- I wanted to try other things first. And so I tried them and then no, I really want to go back to Library Science. But a lot of people don't think about it, it's such a changing field. It's changing and yet there's uhm.. a lot of people who are retiring. Well, you probably from here about five or six years ago, there were a lot of retirements (inaudible). It's just changing all the time and you know, compare Sherman Hayes to Helen Hagen-

Brenda Pate: Oh my gosh, yes.

Riggins: Very different styles and personalities. Well, it's never too late if you want to pursue- well let's talk about your other-- you've had lots of other education before we get into whatever future goals you may or may not have. Uhm.. you left and you got married to Bill Pate. It sounds like- he was probably very serious too. You sound like you were pretty serious as a-

Brenda Pate: Bill and I met-

Riggins: Not for most people.

Brenda Pate: No, well we met here on campus. Well, really no. Bill worked at Sears, in the Sears warehouse and he always jokingly says I was attracted to his uniform- green and green! Because I'd had dated several military guys uh.. while I was here uh.. because we did have people coming down from Jacksonville to uhm.. take classes at Wilmington College. And uh.. but we dated for awhile and then we married in- in 1968 between summer school and the fall semester.

Riggins: And did he- did you start back in the fall?

Brenda Pate: I did, but uh.. Bill was trying to finish up. He graduated in the spring of '69 just before the school became UNCW. And uhm.. he had gotten a job up in Winston-Salem and so we left Wilmington and moved up there. And uh.. that's where our daughter was born and we lived in Winston-Salem for about 13 years and I worked for a large insurance company and worked with medical claims. And I really got drawn into the medical side of things. We had a company doctor and we had classes to learn how to uhm.. evaluate claims and learn the medical terminology and I was really drawn into that. So I-

Riggins: (Inaudible).

Brenda Pate: I enjoyed that job and then as I said, our daughter was born uhm.. in- in the early 70's and I took a First Aid course to help me make a- become a better mother in case of emergencies and so uh..

Riggins: Did you like that?

Brenda Pate: I did like that. And uh.. in the back of my mind I always had the idea that one day I would go back to school, I just didn't know when but I wanted to have my- raise my family first. At the time we didn't know we were only going to have one child but that's the way it ended up. So we uhm.. you know, lived and worked in Winston-Salem and was involved with our church and uh.. then we moved back to Wilmington in 1981. The university was uhm.. changing over and Bill took a job here on- at the UNCW.

Riggins: UNCW- the department over there- well we'll hear more-

Brenda Pate: Yeah, you- he'll be telling you about that. And uh.. when we first moved here we lived in Hampstead which was nice because uh.. it was close to Wilmington but not right in Wilmington.

Riggins: In 1981 it must have seemed quite far away. Now it's-

Brenda Pate: Yes, it was a little two lane road and- and Bill got out every morning and headed to town and Wendy and I were very involved in the community. But uh..

Riggins: In Pender County?

Brenda Pate: Yeah, in Hampstead. And I became involved- as I said, I was interested in the med- medical field and our community in Hampstead had a rescue squad and they had a little newsletter that went out and said they needed some help with uhm.. with the small rescue squad and I said, "Well, I can at least drive an ambulance even if I don't- can't do anything else." So I took an EMT course and started with them and ended up spending almost eight years in the medical field in that aspect.

Riggins: Really? So you were working as an EMT?

Brenda Pate: I was an EMT.

Riggins: Really?

Brenda Pate: And uhm..

Riggins: That's- oh, that's- I don't know. I didn't know you had that- that takes a lot of, I guess aggressiveness but also- or ability to deal with crisis.

Brenda Pate: I think passion was the main thing. I- I was uhm.. very caring for my patients and wanted to do the best I could do. Uh.. I had an excellent teacher, Dickie Holmes, who has passed on now but she had been an RN and an EMT both- she and her husband. And she taught our classes and she always said you- you learn what you need to learn to take care of your patient. You put your own feelings aside until you've done what you need to do and then if you need to, you go off and get sick or whatever. But uhm.. it was an area I was very much involved in. And uh.. I also- because I'd moved from Winston-Salem where I'd worked for a large insurance company, there wasn't really anything in this area that was comparable, plus I didn't want to make that drive to town everyday cause I was takin' care of Wendy. So I started substituting at the uhm.. schools in the area and uh..

Riggins: So Wendy- Wendy was in school?

Brenda Pate: Right, she was in the fifth grade when we moved here and she came home one day and was complaining about a substitute teacher she had and I said well, you know, I'll see if I can't get in and get involved with that. And again, I was- I was doing rescue squad job work as well as- because that was volunteer, as well as uhm.. active in the church and then I started substituting at the local schools and uhm.. really enjoyed that more than I thought I would especially since I'd early on said that I didn't really want to become a teacher. And at the time I- I still said I don't want to become a teacher. It was too political. I'd hear the teachers complaining about things they couldn't do and all the paperwork they had to do. So as a substitute, I- I had the best of the world because I could go in and uh.. have a lesson plan or because I was involved with the rescue squad, if I was with a class for a week, I would uh.. arrange to have some EM- EMT's come in with a "Resuscitation Annie" and we would do a class like that with the students.

Riggins: You subbed at a- a elementary school?

Brenda Pate: No, I- I- from kindergarten through twelfth grade and in fact, uh.. I used to substitute for the- for the uhm.. shop teachers regularly and the- the rule was at the time a substitute teacher could not take the students into the automotive shop or the woodworking shop and I went to the principal and I said, "You know I'm with the rescue squad," I said. "If somebody gets hurt you're gonna have to call me," I said, "and I know how to operate tools." So I got permission. I was the only substitute that could take the students into the shop and they were much happier because most of them were taking shop classes because they didn't wanna to get in a regular classroom.

Riggins: (inaudible) you're pretty handy with-

Brenda Pate: Yes, well Bill and I've done renovations and built furniture and done things like that. So I- I was very familiar and as I told them if somebody got hurt, you were gonna call me anyway.

Riggins: Right.

Brenda Pate: So I knew what to do. And unfortunately I had to end up using it a few times. Uh.. for gym class, sometimes the teachers would take advantage of a substitute and I ended up with three classes in the gym one day. The other teachers just went off and took breaks, and a young man came walking up with a uhm.. a fracture of his wrist. He'd just gotten pushed. It was just too crowded.

Riggins: Did the other teachers, would- would-

Brenda Pate: Oh, that was just that one incident.

Riggins: Some substitutes would leave, send their classes to the gym?

Brenda Pate: I don't think these were substitutes. But I loved working up in Hampstead because it was a small rural community. Uhm.. I got to know the people very well either going to their homes for a rescue call or through the school and uh.. I even substituted for the school secretary when she was out for some surgery one time and uh.. so there was one year I was at school almost everyday.

Riggins: These were uhm.. what schools were they?

Brenda Pate: Topsail middle school, Topsail high school and then Topsail elementary.

Riggins: Right.

Brenda Pate: And uhm.. I enjoyed it. In fact there was one time I was substituting in a class and the secretary came to relieve me of my class that I was substituting for so I could go on a rescue call. So as I said, the community was small, we all you know, worked together-

Riggins: You _______.

Brenda Pate: Yeah, we all worked together.

Riggins: What church did you go to at this time?

Brenda Pate: I first went to uhm.. the Baptist Church and then uh.. we moved over to the Presbyterian Church. I knew all the people from the community. The fire- local fire rescue had uhm.. oyster roasts in the fall and so this was a big wide community event and uhm.. so I knew people from both the Baptist Church and then the uhm.. Presbyterian Church. There was also a Methodist Church there. And so we were just all a nice big community and worked together. Uh.. some of the calls I went on were- were kinda rough. One of the very first calls I went on was two- three young people in the community that were going to school in a car and turned in front of a vehicle and one- the driver walked away with a bruised knee, her sister in the passenger seat died of a broken neck, and the young lady that was in the backseat uhm.. is still in a nursing home. So that was kinda hard.

Riggins: Did you have to get your EMT certification updated all the time?

Brenda Pate: Yes, every two years it had to be updated and then when we-

Riggins: It's tough.

Brenda Pate: Uh.. well it- I found out later it's tougher when it's in a community where you know the people cause later we moved to New Hanover County and I worked with Ogden Rescue and uh.. still active there, and I moved on up. I never got to the paramedic level, I was EMT where I could start IV's. Uh.. we had to train at the hospital. We had to do uhm.. continuing education hours uhm.. pretty regularly.

Riggins: Uh huh, yeah.

Brenda Pate: To keep our skills updated.

Riggins: You've got all this background and you're also all the time thinking well, I'll go back to school. Did you ever think about going back to school for nursing or for something related to your own..?

Brenda Pate: No I didn't. I really didn't. Uh.. I liked being with people and I was comfortable with what I was doing. Uh.. but then uh.. the county came in and I went to work for New Hanover County EMS for two years and they were pushing everybody to become paramedics.

Riggins: Oh, so after you were working with- it switched so that you reform to the county?

Brenda Pate: Well I - I took a job with the county.

Riggins: Oh really.

Brenda Pate: And uh.. worked for them for two years.

Riggins: Paid job?

Brenda Pate: A paid job, right. And they were pushing everybody to become paramedics, even the volunteers of the county. And I just wasn't ready for that.

Riggins: That was uh.. a step into other things.

Brenda Pate: Well I saw so many paramedics have this God syndrome where they felt like they were just so much better than other people. Not everyone I worked with but there was a lot of people like that and uh.. I was always in assisting roles and I- I was more comfortable with that. So that got me thinking more about going back to school. I said you know, if I'm gonna have to take two years off to- to study and become a paramedic, I was getting older and uh.. working in an ambulance is- is a lot of physical work. I mean you're- you're lifting people, moving them a lot, uhm.. you're down in the ditches helping people out and all this and I- I saw a lot of people getting hurt because they were kind of macho, they weren't gonna wait. Uhm.. when I worked with a partner, uh.. we always called for assistance if we felt we needed it and- which we were supposed to do. And so I thought well, if I'm going to do some more studying, maybe I oughtta think seriously about going back to school. So in uhm.. 1989, I left the county EMS and then I was still a volunteer with Ogden also and I continued on with that for awhile. But I started at uh.. UNCW in the fall of 1990. And at the time, things had changed over to the semester system.

Riggins: Oh yeah, it'd been awhile!

Brenda Pate: Yes, I'm sure it had. And I had courses in education and art and I decided to concentrate on my art. So I didn't have to take any more English classes, I didn't have to take history, you know, different things that I'd already- uh.. because uhm.. they transferred with no problem. Just the same as school.

Riggins: Your husband, he told me a long time ago that even the- it was so long ago and it was Wilmington College- you were able to transfer them, which is great, you know?

Brenda Pate: It was great in some respects. Uhm.. I probably should have taken another English class- I did take a Communications class with Carol Talent and that was fabulous. I mean she- we videotaped ourselves as we were performing in front of the class and- and that was- that was really good. And I was older so I was- had a little more confidence, I felt more comfortable being in front of a lot of people. But uh.. I did concentrate on my art and here was a very interesting point uh.. Kenan Hall was still the art building, still had the same number of classrooms.

Riggins: Wow.

Brenda Pate: Still had the same paper cutter!

Riggins: Wow!

Brenda Pate: I couldn't believe it uhm.. there's this huge monstrosity of a paper cutter, it was the exact same one I'd used when I was here in the 60's! And so you had to take the arm and pull it very hard to cut any paper. So uhm.. but Claude Howell was gone at that time. He was no longer teaching here, although I was involved with him because I was a volunteer at the art museum but that's another story! But back to the school, uhm.. uh.. took design- a couple of design classes again. Uh.. took Life Drawing, got into sculpture classes which I loved. I found out I was much more interested in three-dimensional art over two-dimensional art.

Riggins: Interesting. You hadn't realized that before.

Brenda Pate: No. And so I- I also took a ceramics class- just one of those, but three-dimensional art was where I was most interested and so I concentrated on that. And sometimes we'd spend hours you know, in the studio working. Uh.. I remember many a night we would try and finish up some projects and we would order pizza on campus and sit around and- and we would be at school until midnight or later trying to finish up projects.

Riggins: (inaudible). You enjoyed your second round back in college?

Brenda Pate: I did.

Riggins: Did you enjoy it more than the first time?

Brenda Pate: Most definitely.

Riggins: Really?

Brenda Pate: Uh.. I enjoyed it more. I- although I did not get involved in most activities on campus other than what I needed to for- for my classroom. Uh.. I also took some theatre classes and uhm.. just had a wonderful time.

Riggins: Why do you think you enjoyed it more? Do you think maybe being a non-traditional student, you just feel more comfortable in your skin and knew who you were?

Brenda Pate: Well, uh.. I was a non-traditional student and it's interesting, just before I started back to school, my daughter said, "Now mom, don't go to school and- and be a mother.' And so I tried not to be a mother but because I was older, I did have a lot of students come to me with- just to talk and I felt good about that- being able to pass on information whenever I could.

Riggins: Uh hmm.

Brenda Pate: But I guess I just felt more comfortable with myself and uh.. I was doing something I really enjoyed doing. And I felt like the feedback from the professors was better in that uhm.. I felt like the first time I was in school, professors were critical of everything. When I came back, the- the criticism was tempered with what was constructive criticism. Uh.. you know, you would be told that you need to work better on this but there was always something especially with Don Furst. He always said something good about your work and he always- also pushed you along "Now let's try this next time" or you know, he never said you had to do it a certain way. I mean you were free to do what you wanted to do.

Riggins: In an art department, yes, there has to be a fine line because you don't- a professor doesn't want to squelch someone's creativity, you know? But they do want to give constructive criticism. You mentioned Don Furst, were there other professors that made an impact on you during this time?

Brenda Pate: Oh, he's the one- he's the one I remember. And Steven LaQuire was the- was the sculpture teacher and he was- he was very good too. He pushed us hard and he was a very quiet person and I remember one of our first classes, I- he was showing us slides of different artists' work and I spoke up and said, "Well, what is your work like? And he got up and left the room and didn't say a word. And you know, people were looking at me like, what have you done? Because I was a little more outspoken now than I had been in earlier years. And a few minutes later he came back to class and brought a carousal and showed us his work.

Riggins: Wow!

Brenda Pate: But he had always told us if he ever said anything in class, it was important enough that we needed to listen cause he didn't speak much.

Riggins: That's a good rule. That's funny.

Brenda Pate: But uhm.. as I said, I enjoyed it. It was- it was tough. It was tough but uhm.. I felt like I- I was there because I really wanted to be there and that makes a big difference. But something else I want to point out about coming back. I was coming back in 1990, the Gulf War was going on at the time and I was walking across campus one day and there was a couple of students ahead of me and they were talking about uh.. being in the reserves and maybe being sent. And I just got cold chills. It just brought back so many memories.

Riggins: Right, from your first time. Oh, I can imagine. Yeah. I remember that period well. So you were- it just- being on campus, hearing students, it drew some parallels of- well this time the campus was of course very different in 1990. I guess Dr. Leutze was probably just about starting as the Chancellor.

Brenda Pate: He was. And of course there were a lot more buildings on campus then, had paved parking lots and uh.. and I- at that time, most of the professors that I had were very willing to have non-traditional students in their class. But there was still some of the older ones that felt threatened.

Riggins: Really?

Brenda Pate: Especially when they were- especially in- I guess in the history area. Uh.. they would relate things from earlier times and- and many of the non-traditional students, probably myself included, would look- would bring it up from our perspective and a lot of the professors uh.. that were talking about this, didn't want to hear another perspective. I mean they were in- it was their classroom, they wanted their idea brought about and nothing other. But then I had others that just embraced having the non-traditional students and I did too. I loved being in a class with younger ones and older ones and getting different perspectives on life.

Riggins: I've interviewed a lot of faculty members and almost all of them say that they really have enjoyed the non-traditional students because they bring in an atmosphere of seriousness to the classroom that your typical 18 or 19 year old might not have. So basically I've heard it as positive and it's been such a tradition on this campus ever since its beginnings really- you know, when we had uhm.. when we had World War II vets-

Brenda Pate: Right, those were the first students over in Isaac Bear hall.

Riggins: Certainly nontraditional; certainly they had done and seen a lot. When did you finish up your degree?

Brenda Pate: In 1992.

Riggins: And what was your degree?

Brenda Pate: In Studio Art. And uh.. that was an interesting time because my daughter had started Wilmington College- uh.. UNCW as well. So she and I were both out here at the same time.

Riggins: This is really a family event, you know!

Brenda Pate: And Bill worked on campus at the time too, so-

Riggins: Did you ever see each other on campus?

Brenda Pate: Occasionally, yeah.

Riggins: But you basically did your own things. So she started out here too and she got a degree in Geology?

Brenda Pate: Geology, with a minor in science- in uhm.. no, not science, chemistry.

Riggins: Oh, chemistry.

Brenda Pate: Chemistry, yes.

Riggins: So you got your degree in Studio Art and then uh.. you're like, well, now I have to find a job!

Brenda Pate: Well I had already been involved with a community art center. I was also- I was a volunteer at Cameron Art Museum and helped with installations and worked closely with Anne Brennan and uh.. would even travel some to help pick up artwork. So I was involved with the art uhm.. museum. Uh.. the community art center, I had taken some pottery classes with Hiroshi Suyoshi, and uh.. he was great- great instructor- wonderful person and I- I ended up working with him on- on some installations at the art museum which was St. John's at the time which was right across the street from the community art center. So uhm.. I submitted some proposals and started teaching art classes at the community art center- after-school art classes.

Riggins: Oh, I didn't know- let's talk about that when we come back. Let's take a little bit of a break. We're back after taking a little break and fooling around with the uh.. camera colorings, so it looks even better. And I just wanted to continue and pick up with Brenda about your work at the community arts center. You wrote up some proposals to get uh.. some funding to teach some courses.

Brenda Pate: Right. Uh.. as I said, I was teaching classes at the community art center. Sam Garner was the director and Sam had been out at Wilmington College the same time Bill and I had been out there. I knew him as a theatre person, I didn't really know him that well. Sam Garner was the director at the community arts center, talking about interaction of people and how you kinda overlap. As I said, I knew Sam from Wilmington College. When Bill and I moved back to the area and we lived in Hampstead, Sam was active with a- an event that went on in Hampstead every year- the Spot Festival. We became active in the Spot Festival as a fundraiser for the community and found out that Sam helped with the pageant as he was active in Wilmington with the Azalea Festival, he also helped with the pageant at the Spot Festival. So we worked closely with Sam there. So then years later when I decided to start teaching some art classes, there was Sam at the community arts center! So again we were working together. And Sam was all excited about having- he'd been wanting to have some children's classes at the center, so I- I did a proposal for an after-school class which was very popular. Uhm.. I enjoyed working with the children. Gave me an opportunity to try some things that I'd been wanting to try as well with art. And then it developed on uh.. that I was teaching during the summer arts camp the community arts center had every summer. I taught art classes, two-dimensional as well as three-dimensional, we had 60 children a week and we had four weeks of 60 different children. So it was quite an event uh.. planning for that and- and acquiring the materials that were needed to teach art classes and I just loved it. Uh.. I ended up becoming the director of arts camp.

Riggins: Really?

Brenda Pate: I liked teaching the art better than directing, but I did that for a couple of years and then went back to teaching again. So I was involved with that.

Riggins: This was over in Hampstead at the-

Brenda Pate: No, this was at the community arts center here in Wilmington.

Riggins: I- I took uhm.. I was involved in a summer arts program when I was younger, when I was a child, it was great. As a director you had a lot of administration and you had to go out and hire the teachers?

Brenda Pate: And make sure everybody was doing what they were supposed to do and dispense medication to the children that needed medication and uh.. but it was okay. I mean I enjoyed it but teaching was- teaching art was what I really liked. And I was also continuing to be involved with the Orange Street Potters' Group which met in the basement of the community arts center and uh.. started teaching children's pottery classes and that was interesting too, trying to introduce clay to- to the younger ones.

Riggins: I bet they loved it.

Brenda Pate: Oh they did, uh.. most of them. There was one young man that came to our classes and I had a feeling he wasn't going to continue working with clay very long cause every time he got his hands dirty he went to the sink and washed his hands. I said, "I don't think this is for you!" And he didn't stay, but most of the children did love it and it was great to see them learn how to work with their hands and to learn to express themselves.

Riggins: How old were they?

Brenda Pate: Uh.. they were like first through fifth grade. At that time I was busy teaching at the community arts center but I was also teaching art classes through St. John's Museum of Art. I taught some classes at uh.. the Children's Museum and I went to some nursery schools and- and did some classes as well. So I- I was doing what I wanted to do. I didn't want to get into the regular classroom, uh.. I enjoyed teaching in the community and uh.. then St. John's uhm.. got some kind of a grant where tea- artist's could go into the schools and I would carry my potter's wheel with me and I would go into some of the- the local schools.

Riggins: So you were an artist in the scho- schools?

Brenda Pate: Yes. It would just a one or two day event where we'd go into the art room and- and introduce the children to working with clay- is what I did, and other artists did different things. So I did that for quite awhile and again, my daughter was getting older, I was thinking about maybe doing something else. I'd also had in the back of my mind some day going back to school again, so I looked into the Master's program and uh.. first looked at History, wasn't sure what I wanted to do with history and then I saw they had a Public History program which involved working with art museums, the public, and this sort of thing- and- and just regular museums and I thought, well, that's what I'd really like to do. So I did go back to school in 1999, again, UNCW.

Riggins: I guess we don't have graduate degrees in art, in studio art or MFAs?

Brenda Pate: No.

Riggins: Would you have considered that-

Brenda Pate: Oh definitely. In fact, I looked into uhm.. a teaching art degree and the closest school would be ECU and at the time I didn't want to try to drive that far to go to art school. So I just went ahead and uhm.. I got into the Public History program, enjoyed most of it, but it was still not closely related with people the way I wanted. I was more interested in relating with- as we'd say "the common man" and- which Public History, to me, I thought was going to be, but I found that it was- it's more inclined to study what the writers of the books had to say and their opinions and that's not really where I wanted to be. So I had some struggles and I transferred over to the Liberal Studies program when I found out Public History wasn't for me. It just didn't work out that way. And Liberal Studies, I'd already taken one class with- with uhm.. uhm.. an excellent professor and uhm.. moved on and was able to work on my thesis with the topic that I had wanted to work on when I first came to school. I was discouraged from persuing that topic-

Riggins: Really?

Brenda Pate: In Public History but uhm.. when I got into the Liberal Studies program, it- it was just so open, you could do just about anything you wanted to if you had an interest and my- my interest was on the artist Elizabeth Augusta Chant. I had done research at the art museum, I had helped set up a- a couple of exhibits, I had spoken to the Docents about her life and I just wanted to find out everything I could about this person- her influence over the artists in Wilmington, she had been one of Claude Howell's first teachers. Uh.. she was a woman that had branched out and done things women of her day didn't normally do. I mean she didn't stay home and raise a family, she got out and taught her art and traveled by herself and she just had a fascinating life and uh.. I ended up doing quite a bit of research on her. Uh.. I made it-

Riggins: That's an understatement! I remember those days!

Brenda Pate: In fact I made a trip to Minneapolis with St. John's uhm.. curator, Anne Brennon, where we were doing research for an exhibit on Elizabeth Chant. I was going to school at the time and I'd asked if I could uhm.. do an independent study on her life and received permission for that. And so uh.. I did finish my thesis in 2004 and a copy's here at the library and there's one in the library at Cameron Art Museum.

Riggins: And I think- I did tell you that when I was working at the reference desk, a student came up who was researching Elizabeth Chant. She wanted to look at your..

Brenda Pate: Oh no, I had not heard that! That's wonderful!

Riggins: Sure. She'd actually had it written down, she wanted to know where it was located.

Brenda Pate: That makes- makes me feel good that there's still interest there.

Riggins: Definitely, and I know you did research in our special collections and our archives because we have materials on Elizabeth Chant, and went downtown to the lower Cape Fear Historical Society and did they have the same-

Brenda Pate: They had- oh yes, quite a bit because Elizabeth Chant lived at the Latimer House for uh.. near the end of her life for a few years and uh.. did some painting there, had her bedroom there. In fact, uhm.. Anne Brennon and I took some of the items in the art museum collection and instilled them in a bedroom at the Latimer House which uhm.. that she lived in and some of her drawings are up on the wall there. And her trunk that she always kept packed for travelling is sitting there in the room at the Latimer House.

Riggins: I haven't had a formal tour there so I had to go back and see it. I just sort of had a behind the scenes tour of the archives but that's really fascinating. You did a lot of work and you're pleased with your final output.

Brenda Pate: I am, but uh.. there's still more there that can be researched.

Riggins: For sure.

Brenda Pate: Quite a bit more.

Riggins: She certainly was an interesting and important figure in the art scene in the history era- and still such a vital art theme.

Brenda Pate: Yes. Well this community does have quite a bit and we have a new director at the Cameron Art Museum now that is working diligently to uhm.. bring more of the public to the art museum which I think is very good.

Riggins: She? It's a she?

Brenda Pate: Yes.

Riggins: She does have an outlook towards the public and-

Brenda Pate: Yes.

Riggins: Are you volunteering there?

Brenda Pate: I'm still a volunteer there. In fact, uh.. when I first started volunteering back in 1990, was also the first uh.. time that Anne Brennon started working at the art museum. So we kinda grew up together in the museum. Uh.. Anne had been uh.. her mother had been active at the museum as a volunteer but Anne started working as the registrar and curator in 1990, the same time I started as a volunteer. And that branched out from a museum studies class that I was taking as an undergraduate here at UNCW and uh.. there was an internship available at the art museum and I jumped right on that and started- started working there as a student and then just continued on.

Riggins: That sounds great. And is Anne Brennon still there?

Brenda Pate: Yes she is, same capacity.

Riggins: You two are good- you're colleagues and worked together- are you friends too?

Brenda Pate: We are, yes, very much so.

Riggins: How has that museum changed? I mean well since it moved, of course it moved in- what was it, maybe 2002 or thereabouts.

Brenda Pate: Thereabouts, yes. Well, when it was St. John's Museum of Art, it was in downtown Wilmington in three old buildings uh.. an old lodge building, a building that used to be a Greek Orthodox Church, and then a two story house. It was uhm.. where the art classes were taught and then they were in an L shape right on the corner and there was a uh.. sculpture garden that- in the L with a wall built around it and so it was a beautiful place to have an art museum but it was very small. And uhm.. the storage area for the art was miniscule and trying to sort things out and uhm.. get prepare work for an exhibition always involved- spreading things out on the floor in the gal- sales gallery that we had to close down so we could have a place to work. Uh.. but Red Rown [ph?] was the director at the time and he was a wonderful person to work with and uh.. most of the time he seemed very serious but he did have a- a comic side to him that you learned to appreciate. I know when I first started working, he uhm.. jokingly said that he always liked to have me around when we were setting up an exhibition cause I was the height of a typical fifth grader! And so he could always get a good eye for where to place the art and make sure everybody could appreciate it. So uhm.. we worked well together.

Riggins: Right, yeah, I know it's a real loss for the community when he passed away.

Brenda Pate: Yes it was. But- now the new art museum's Cameron Art Museum and it's moved out away from the downtown area and when you're on that side of town it's like you're in a different town. And I think people are- some of the locals are a little reluctant to go out to this museum and I think the new director is working hard to- to bring the public. She has free days and trying to have different types of speakers and different types of events- music coming out, different programs- there- they have a place where they teach art classes as well.

Riggins: Yeah, so she's working on it but it is certainly a change but that's great that you're still involved. How often do you volunteer down there?

Brenda Pate: Not as much now as I have had in the past. Uh.. I still help some with installations. I like to go to a lot of the programs. I'm not teaching any art classes there right now, I've been involved with other things. But uhm.. it- it's still a vibrant place.

Riggins: And how you're handy- you're handy with tools? When you do the installations, do you actually-

Brenda Pate: Oh yes, I bring my own tools sometimes. I have a little work belt and I bring- everybody has a level. You have to work with levels and- and take measures and this sort of thing. And uhm.. I've helped other people learn how to work with that too so that we can hang the work properly.

Riggins: Uh hm, wow. Well that's important! And I know your work so I know you're detail oriented and like to be exact. So that certainly helps with installations.

Brenda Pate: Yeah.

Riggins: How else have you been keeping busy? Oh, we have only a few minutes left on this- on this tape, but I would like to- if you don't mind, go onto the next tape just so that we don't have to rush _____ and we'll talk about how you've been keeping busy with uh.. friends and family. UNCW may not factor in too much- into your life at this moment but just your experiences with UNCW now.

Brenda Pate: Okay.

Riggins: So let's move onto the next tape. Thank you.

(tape change; new tape begins abruptly)

Riggins: Interview with Brenda L. Pate. Let's pick up with what you've been doing lately and most recently. What's important to you now as well, in addition to your work at Cameron Museum of Art.

Brenda Pate: Well, uhm.. I don't know if we talked about my finishing school here. We did talk about my finishing with my thesis. But, I was uh.. working in the Special Collections Department at the library at UNCW which I- I enjoyed. I- I did a lot of research uhm.. we had donations that were given to the library that I was involved with doing research on. Not research as such as finding out about the people, or, the donation, as much as, the people that gave the donations to us. Uh.. we had uh.. Billie Ruth Sudduth gave us her collection. It was first her professional collection, all the papers that she'd collected and exhibits she'd been in and- and pictures of her wonderful baskets. But, then she decided to give us all of her books uh.. from her tiny baby days.

Riggins: Her photo albums.

Brenda Pate: Her photo albums.

Riggins: You did a beautiful job arranging that collection.

Brenda Pate: Well, I- I know Billie Ruth and- as an artist. And, she had moved away from Wilmington. So, it was just wonderful to get to know her even better. Uh.. but, that- that was the biggest collection that I worked on and I really loved categor- cataloguing items so that someone else would come along and- and learn about her life as well. Because, Billie Ruth, who's still with us, I didn't mean to sound like she wasn't, she's moved away, she lives up in the mountains. But, uh.. wonderful person, I don't know anybody that didn't like Billie Ruth. And, then we had other artists that have given us collections and uh.. just different things that uhm.. have come into the university. Things I don't think a lot of people would even think about that we have. And, somebody has to sit there and go through it and- and give them numbers and so that we can have them in our collection for people to come back later. Also, in special collections we would set up exhibits. We had the Pat Hingle exhibit; it was very well received. Pat Hingle is an uh.. an actor that moved to this area and took up residence and we had an exhibit of- of his life. And, things that uhm.. were important to him.

Riggins: And, you catalogued a lot of videotapes for me.

Brenda Pate: Oh, yes. As an archivist, uh.. you had received uhm.. videos that had been taken around Wilmington over many, many years. And, I had an opportunity to go through those and try to figure out who was on the videos and uhm.. where they- where they took place, and set up a record so that we could have that for future reference as well. So, uh.. and there's still a lot of that to be done.

Riggins: Yes. It'll probably never be completed, completely. But, we have basically broken it down into some big categories. Well, this is more of a work matter but, I can tell you after the tape finishes what we're doing to close off that project.

Brenda Pate: Okay.

Riggins: So, that's been your recent years at UNCW as an employee as well as having been a student here many times.

Brenda Pate: Right. As my uh.. I'd mentioned uh.. just before I came back to school to get my masters degree, I worked at the Wilmington Railroad Museum. And, again, this was along with my love of people and history and uh.. just knowing more about this area. And, uh.. I left there when I came back to school full-time. I was also taking care of my father who was ill. So, that took up a lot of my time. My father died just before I graduated and so that kind of changed my life as well. And, uh... unfortunately, when I was finishing up my undergraduate degree, back in the 90s, my mother passed away. So, I think, I was thinking uhm.. yeah, I need to find something else to do. I don't need to come back to school right now. So, I have been working uh.. part-time with the New Hanover County Library. I work in the reference area and I work in the children's department, and I work at two of our libraries. The main library downtown and the uhm.. the Northeast Library over near Landfall. And, uhm.. I'm just using everything that I've- I've accumulated over the years in my knowledge. I love to do research and uhm.. involved with the history of the area. In the children's department, I've helped with some of their craft classes and the summer reading program, you know, I've worked with the children on that. So, I feel like everything I've done throughout my life, is just uhm.. now I'm using it again in something I enjoy doing. Uh.. my daughter is uh.. involved with her work. She works as a chemist with Applied Analytical and uh.. still in the community as well. So, and Bill is retired and he's a metal worker and I help him with some of his projects. And, so, I just feel like I have a, a very complete life.

Riggins: It certainly sounds that way. You're obviously a people person you like working with the public, and the children, yet, you also like working with your area of expertise, which would be history, art, libraries, museums.

Brenda Pate: Well, yes. Years ago, I needed a studio to work and so we took our front living room and sold our furniture. We really didn't use our living room that much. So, we sold off our furniture, our living room now has tables, bookshelves, shelves on the wall and this is where I- I do a lot of my work. I also have a little studio out back, uh.. behind Bill's shop, where I have my pottery equipment. So, uhm.. I can still do my art, I don't do it as much as I would like. Right now I'm packing up Christmas and getting things moved around that way. But, I have a place that I can work, I have a view out the window, I can see deer going through the yard sometime and uhm.. uh.. just pretend--

Riggins: What's your favorite media to work with?

Brenda Pate: Oh, that's hard to say. As I said, I collect things and uhm.. I'm always looking to have something to put together for a- for a three dimensional project. Although I do like to work with pastels as well. So, pastels is considered a type of painting, but to me that's dimensional also, because you get your fingers in what you're doing and- and shape your items. I like to work with clay, I like hand-building, more than wheel work, although, I do do some wheel work as well. But, I like to hand-build and that way I can shape my piece. Uh.. my husband and I have made some wind chimes uhm.. that hang out in the yard and uhm.. as I said, he's a metal worker so, I've helped him with projects and that's of course, three dimensional. And, then doing collages and uh.. when working with the children, we would do uh.. collages, we would do mobiles uh.. I have materials where we do kaleidoscope classes. So, uhm.. again, I'm- I'm combining science and art and uhm.. always try to talk about the history of why something has come about.

Riggins: Do you still like to draw, do painting? Do you do that as much?

Brenda Pate: Painting I never did much. Uhm.. I guess my favorite paint class when I was in school was the theater painting, we did large-scale and..

Riggins: Interesting, very practical.

Brenda Pate: Yes, I guess so, practical is more-- and that's- that's one my problems sometimes when I'm doing an art project, I don't want to waste anything. So, I'll save little pieces to use someplace else. But, I know one of the art teachers that puts work over at uhm.. the art museum, over at uhm.. the Northeast Library, is that way as well. Because our Christmas display was scraps of wood that she had taken from uh.. deck project that she'd been doing and they were little shapes, little points and rectangles that the children put together and painted to look like a little village. So, there's a lot of us around that like to work with uhm.. found objects.

Riggins: That's a good way to put it. That's really interesting. You've probably talked to Sherman Hayes, our director, or, maybe you haven't, but, did you know that he's really interested in art, that's why there's so much art around our building?

Brenda Pate: Oh, he has several of my pieces in his office. I guess he still does.

Riggins: Did you sell them to us?

Brenda Pate: Well, we had uhm.. an artist inventory sale once a year at St. John's Art Museum and Sherman and his wife would always come. And, he bought a few of my pieces.

Riggins: That's great, that's great.

Brenda Pate: And, uh.. when I was working on a paper for one of my classes, I was researching cooking vessels. And, uh.. Sherman let me go to the warehouse and look at some of the things we have in our collection here.

Riggins: Yes, our Museum of World Cultures.

Brenda Pate: Yes. And, uhm.. he was very involved with that wanting to know what was going on. So, yes, I know he's very art- art-oriented.

Riggins: Great family to the arts and to artists. As you can see, since we got the manuscript collection from Billie Ruth Sudduth. I'm sure one day he'd love to have your manuscripts. Something to keep in mind. We always like to support our artists and make sure that they're producing and make sure the people in our library can see their work.

Brenda Pate: Well, the latest project that Bill and I have helped with, we didn't, did not design the project, but, we've been working with Paul Hill, who has uhm.. done uh.. a piece for the new children's museum. And, we just installed that uh.. right before the holidays.

Riggins: I've heard about that new children's museum. It's going to be the new location.

Brenda Pate: It's where St. John's used to be.

Riggins: That's right, so you're still involved.

Brenda Pate: Oh, yes. And, this community uh.. is involved a lot with the arts. I also work with the uh.. Celebrate the Arts Festival that's held at uhm.. where Pineywood used to be at Hugh Macrae Park. And, uh.. so, our community does have a lot for the arts, which is good.

Riggins: Yes. We have a lot going for it. Well, any closing thoughts or anything else for this tape.

Brenda Pate: Well, I didn't talk too much about uh.. how the university has changed my third time back.

Riggins: Definitely.

Brenda Pate: As a student.

Riggins: As a graduate student, right, and we talked about what you were studying, but not so much the bigger picture so please fill us in.

Brenda Pate: Well, first off, the campus has continued to grow, more and more buildings. I mean if you want to get a good a walking workout, just come out to UNCW and walk around, they've made it more pedestrian-friendly. Before, you could drive across campus, now you just drive the outer perimeter of the campus and you walk a lot. Which- which I think is good, even now, coming out today, uhm.. you'll see two more buildings going up. Fortunately, one of them is an art building which has been needed for so long.

Riggins: I'm so excited about that.

Brenda Pate: It's going to be at the back of the campus, next to the uh.. new education building. And, I'm looking forward to- to touring that and seeing what's been put in there. I do know the paper cutter that was there in the art room, when I came back the second time, has finally been gotten rid of. It went out on- on uhm.. in the warehouse to get rid of. I did not buy it, I said I didn't want that monstrosity. But, somebody has it now, it's not part of the campus.

Riggins: Part of that surplus.

Brenda Pate: (laughter) Surplus, yes, that's the word I was looking for. So, it is gone.

Riggins: And, is there a new paper cutter?

Brenda Pate: I imagine so. I- I when I go to the art building now uhm.. I cut through sometime, coming from the parking lot, and uh.. th-there's still the same space. I'm really looking forward to having more art space, it's going to be great.

Riggins: It's exciting, the change that will happen with the arts; for both the fine arts and performing arts.

Brenda Pate: Yes.

Riggins: They'll have a bigger stage and more practice rooms.

Brenda Pate: No leaky ceilings. (laughter)

Riggins: More studio space. It's so important for the whole community, not just the university.

Brenda Pate: Yes.

Riggins: It's busy. It seem like Thalian Hall and Kenan Theater have something going on every evening.

Brenda Pate: It's good, it's good, yes. And, coming back as a graduate student was- was different also, because, you're- you're doing just what you want to do, you're not having to take a bunch of classes that you have to have as a requirement, that are not part of your interest. And, you meet in more of a round table type group. We sit around a table and discuss the topics uhm.. I- I think the most favorite teacher I had in graduate school was John Haley, who has- has since left the university.

Riggins: Yes, he's retired.

Brenda Pate: Yes. Uh.. that man has more knowledge packed in his head, he never used a note in class. And, a student might ask him a question that was not completely related to the subject we were discussing, yet off the top of his head came out information, books and authors. I mean, being with a professor like that just makes you want to learn. And, he was teaching Southern History and uh.. I learned a lot uh.. about areas that I- I did not know about uhm.. the depression era and uhm.. then we would choose topics and I'd learn more about uh.. because I was interested in Women's History. I learned a lot about the different levels of women and- and the struggles they had through time. Uh.. and I took uhm.. some just some wonderful classes, had some wonderful discussions, the professors got very involved in what we were doing. And, uhm.. always a wealth of information to pass on to us. So, the graduate time here was--

Riggins: It was very different.

Brenda Pate: It was different, but it was- it was great.

Riggins: In history you were in- even though you were in public history, you took a variety of history courses.

Brenda Pate: Yes. Public history dealt with uhm.. learning about uhm.. historic sites, the lies we were told as we went through school, you know, what was really going on. And, a lot of the propaganda that goes along with public history, uh.. telling people one thing, when really, that wasn't the way it happened.

Riggins: You didn't touch on this much, but, I would think your many years of volunteer work at the Railroad Museum must have been good experience for the time you spent in the public history program.

Brenda Pate: Yes. I worked as a program director at the Railroad Museum, so my job was--

Riggins: So, you were paid.

Brenda Pate: Yes, I was paid there yes. And, uh.. bringing- bringing in tours, leading tours through out the museum, which, again, prompted me to do some research to find out more about the history of this area, and how the railroad came here. It was a vital part, in fact, it was the biggest employer in Wilmington for many years, and when they left, a lot of people thought well the town was just going to collapse. But, in- in retrospect, in just helped the city because we blossomed, we brought in a lot of other companies that probably would never have come here. But, the Railroad uh.. Museum was a- a good place to do research, interact with people and uh.. so, yes that helped me. And, of course, it was the topic for some of my papers throughout uh.. my classes as far as uhm.. the history of the railroad and the people that were involved with the railroad. Claude Howell, in fact, worked for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad when it was in Wilmington. He uhm.. he never married uh.. he lived with his mother, he would bring his paycheck home and she'd take care of all the bills and then he would sit and paint at night. So, uhm.. he had it made. (laughter)

Riggins: Yes. That was his life. When you were in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program it was a very different experience. That program is really huge, it's just growing, right? It's very popular.

Brenda Pate: It's unbelievable. When I left, it was the largest graduate program on campus. And, it may still be I don't know. But, uhm..

Riggins: And, as you know, we have some library staff and faculty who are in that program. Beth Roberts, she finished after you, right?

Brenda Pate: Right, we were in some classes together. I got to hear her Krispy Kreme report.

Riggins: She's an excellent manager. She basically runs this library and runs Sherman's life.

Brenda Pate: Keeps his calendar straight I'm sure.

Riggins: And, Lisa Williams is a librarian.

Brenda Pate: Right.

Riggins: A top librarian here, and she's in that program. I'm sure you got to meet a lot of interesting people.

Brenda Pate: Yes.

Riggins: Did you like working with the other students.

Brenda Pate: Oh, yes. And, in fact, one thing about the graduate program, you did a lot on your own, but, you also worked together with another student on a project. And, uh.. like, LuAnn Mims and I worked together on- on some exhibit classes. And, we put together the Delgado-Spofford mural, [ph?] not the two of us by ourselves, but, with- with a few others.

Riggins: Supposedly not the two of you by yourselves.

Brenda Pate: Well, we were both uhm.. I guess you say seasoned people uhm.. she'd worked in theater and I had worked in it some with my art background as well. We did uhm.. come up with a lot of ways of uhm.. presenting material that was new to some of the other people.

Riggins: Neither of you are rookies, let's say that.

Brenda Pate: But, she and I worked very well together I think, and- and I know she's still working part-time here at the library in special collections.

Riggins: You finished with a Graduate Liberal Studies Degree. Do you ever recommend the Liberal Studies Graduate Degree program?

Brenda Pate: I recommend it if a student does not have a definite goal as far as uhm.. just getting a graduate degree. If they're planning on going on into say medicine or law or something like this, it's a, the Liberal Studies Program is a good interim program. Uhm.. it- it brings you in touch with so many different people, that have so many different interests. That's what I really liked about it. When I was in the history department it was history only and more concentration on the authors and their work. Rather than the people, which is what I was more interested in. And, with liberal studies you never knew from one class to another who you were gonna be exposed to and their interest and you just.. It was almost like getting on the computer when you're researching something, and you see this little tidbit over here and it leads you over and you have to pull yourself back. But, with liberal studies you got that all the time.

Riggins: It's a lot of enthusiasm and I know the students were almost all adults in the sense of they'd been out of college for a few years at least.

Brenda Pate: Yes, and they had personal experiences that they could relate which uhm.. just expanded your knowledge.

Riggins: Whether work experiences or life experiences, etc. I do think it's a good program. Anything that helps you get in touch with all different kinds of people, plus, of course, you're going to learn all the academic stuff, that's a given. But, just the variety of people, I agree it does help you in other aspects of your life. Any other thoughts? I don't want to leave anything out. We can't capture everything about your time here in Wilmington and with the college and university, but do you have any other thoughts, or any closing thoughts you'd like to say for the camera?

Brenda Pate: Well, I still come out to the university. Uhm.. still has a wonderful library and uh.. I've made a lot of good friends so I like to come out and visit with them occasionally. And, as I said, this is a beautiful campus and it's a great place just to come out and visit. And, since Bill's retired now, uh.. we don't come out as often, but uh.. I still do and uhm.. just love walking around here. I'm glad to see that it's progressing, it's still building new buildings and bringing in more students and more programs. And, someday, I just may come back and take classes again.

Riggins: Sure. Certainly visit the library. There's a special collections in archives, when you have the chance. In fact, maybe after this interview if you have time I'll show you archives because I'm working on re-shaping it.

Brenda Pate: I'd like to see how that's bettered. (laughs)

Riggins: Yes it certainly is better and getting better all the time.

Brenda Pate: You say you're getting ready to have another exhibit in special collections as well.

Riggins: Yes, you can come and talk to Jerry and LuAnn about that because they know more about that than I do.

Brenda Pate: That's another way of tying in the community by having these exhibits uhm.. that bring the public to the campus to see what's going on.

Riggins: Community outreach is definitely an important factor. Certainly come visit us all the time. It's interesting to me, that just shows, I guess, your academic and artistic leanings that even though you are from Wilmington, came here when it was a little place, you don't feel threatened by that fact that it's growing and expanding and changing, you're very supportive of that.

Brenda Pate: I am.

Riggins: Like you were saying, some people when St. John's Museum moved to Cameron, they felt a little nostalgic, but it's also important to support the new place.

Brenda Pate: And, I appreciate the opportunity for this interview as well.

Riggins: It's great to have you and of course keeping in touch. Thank you Brenda.

Brenda Pate: Thank you.

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