Patti Rowe, professor of movement science
In the early 1960s when she was in high school, Patti Rowe was told that she did not belong in a chemistry class. She was also informed she could not take the drafting class she wanted.
“I was told those classes were for boys,” she said.
Those actions quashed her curiosity about pursuing careers of a physician or architect, but did lead her down the path to making a difference in the lives of countless students.
“I was told my choices were to be a teacher, nurse or secretary, and I was directed down those paths,” Rowe said. “But I was pretty determined. I thought I could make a difference in physical education and do the job differently than the instruction I received while in school.”
At the time, physical education classes for high school girls meant a competitive, intramural style of play in three sports. Rowe said she and other girls who were not athletically gifted had limited opportunities to develop any kind of sport skills. “We sat on the sidelines,” she said.
Because of those limitations, Rowe was convinced she could teach better PE classes. “I wanted to teach a new kind of physical education that would be more positive for the average student, like me, who was not an athlete,” she said.
Rowe earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Central Michigan University and a doctoral degree from Michigan State University. Her passion and drive eventually led her to teach students who would be the kind of physical educator she envisioned; in 1984, Rowe joined Grand Valley’s Movement Science faculty.
“My job now is very connected to my past and the lack of opportunities I had,” she said. “I can help help develop teachers who would see the need for fun, physical activity for every student and not just the athletes.”
Rowe has dedicated herself to establishing an excellent PE teacher education program at Grand Valley, while also advancing the physical education curriculum in K-12 schools statewide. She has received numerous campus and professional awards; in 2011 was recognized by the Michigan Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance as its “College/University Leader of the Year.”
She said being a namesake with Joan Boand for the new endowment fund is an honor and a humbling experience.
“I’m so excited about the endowment. This has the potential to do wonderful things,” Rowe said. “Students will have extra funds to travel, to apply for grants; it will open new doors.”