Patricia “Patty” Lynott grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. She attended Trinity College in Illinois for her undergraduate degree and then moved on to the graduate program in Northern Illinois University before finally receiving her PhD from Loyola University in Chicago. She has dedicated more than a decade to SNHU as Provost and in November 2017 she became the President of University College.
Before coming to SNHU, Lynott worked at Elmhurst College located in Elmhurst, Illinois. She began as a speech teacher before being asked to move up to an administrative position. Lynott decided that being an administrator was in the best interest of her and her son, since she had recently become a single parent at the time.
“As soon as I got into administration, I thought, ‘you know, I’m pretty good at this.’ And a lot of people aren’t. And good academic administrators make it better for faculty and students in the classroom, that’s the mark of a good academic administrator,” Lynott said. “If you can improve what’s happening in the classroom, then you’re doing a good job.”
Patty worked at Elmhurst college with a tenured position for 14 years and made many accomplishments there, including being one of two women on the administrative board and helping to establish the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy (ELSA) program, which is one of her most prideful accomplishments.
“I fought like hell to get that program up and running, and now if you actually go to the Elmhurst website, their ELSA program, the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy, is really, really a wonderful program that serves college age kids with special needs in a really great way,” she said.
Lynott moved to New Hampshire from Chicago in 2007 after meeting Paul LeBlanc at a conference. Each of them had to present to the conference, and after seeing Lynott’s presentation, LeBlanc approached her with a proposal that she could not refuse.
“This guy, he really says he’s going to change higher ed. So, he’s either really good at what he does, or he’s crazy,” Lynott said as she reminisced on the memory. “I literally packed up everything I own – didn’t know anyone, didn’t have a friend, didn’t have a family member in New England – packed up and moved here, and within two weeks, this was home.”
Throughout her career, Lynott faced many struggles with her leadership. Particularly, she found it difficult to find strong female mentors and equal representation. At the time, it was not part of the culture and was a factor in her decision to come to SNHU.
“Look at the senior leadership at SNHU. It’s Paul, but he has as many female leaders as he can and that makes a difference.”
For Lynott, it may be a little late to find that female mentor, but her value for the work she does has made her aware of the opportunities given to her as university college president.
“Something that I’m now committed to at my age now is I want to be that grown-up mentor that I wanted as a young person,” she said. “I look at some of the incredible, women faculty and administrators here and I want to be a role model and mentor to them because it’s really something I wish I had more of in my career.”
Lynott expressed how grateful she is to be a part of this environment and the fact that the workplace has evolved so much throughout the years. She reminisced on her childhood and the beginnings of her career as far as what was expected of women at the time.
“The whole ‘Me Too’ movement, can I tell you something? When I was young, like in my 20’s in the 70’s – I started high school in ‘69 – it was just a given, we were just taught that ‘men are gonna be that way,’ it was inculcated in us that it was our responsibility not to let anything torrid happen in the workplace. I cannot believe that that’s how the world was,” she said.
Lynott shared her gratification for the fact that this generation has been working to make so many improvements in society as far as tolerance and acceptance. She expressed her appreciation that SNHU is so open and welcoming to everyone.
“We have to accept people for all the ways they want to express themselves in terms of gender. . . I really think it’s this generation coming up that’s gonna fix a lot of these problems,” she said.
Lynott probably has a better understanding of society’s evolution than most. In her free time, she studies her family tree and traces her ancestry, otherwise known as genealogy. She appreciates the stories that can be found within the history and the lessons that she learns from them.
“Something you learn from genealogy is we all have scoundrels and we all have saints, and it helps put in perspective who you are,” she said.
Lynott also values art, and shared that she hopes to curate an art collection which she inherited from her aunt. She recalled her apathy for the collection when she was a child and explained how her interest in it only cultivated when she was older.
“It’s a cool thing to find something new and intellectually challenging in all stages of your life,” she said.
For Lynott, working at SNHU has also been a welcome challenge. Higher education can present many obstacles during a time when the future of it is constantly debated, and Lynott is proud to be working in a place that embraces change.
“We do things like nobody else in higher ed. . . We take risks, we’re not afraid to fail. If we make mistakes, okay that’s how we learn. And we are relentless about delivering education in a way that meets the needs of the individual person.”
SNHU aspires to revolve their design around each of their students. With the redesigning of curriculums, the success of the online college and other programs, like educating Rwandan refugees, SNHU’s impact to increase the accessibility of education stands apart from other higher education institutions.
“There’s something about knowing that you’re having an impact on a person’s life, particularly on a young person’s life. That is what’s cool about the university’s overall mission: we actually deliver something to people that has the ability to transform them, whether intellectually, socially or monetarily, but it can change their life for the good,” said Lynott. “If you can get up and go to work everyday and know that what you do makes a difference in somebody’s life, how do you have a better job than that?”
Lynott then talked about how her role in the university has changed since she became President of University College. As Provost, her duties were centered around making difficult decisions concerning students and trying to help make President Paul LeBlanc’s vision for SNHU a reality.
“I don’t follow policies, I don’t follow procedures, I follow people. I still believe in people. And the leaders I have known in my life are who have inspired me and who have probably helped me forge my career paths. Paul and my belief in his vision is what made me take this job,” she said. “What I’m looking forward to now is that I’m gonna be invited to participate in more things than are just for sheer joy and pleasure and pride, and I really love that.”
Lynott wants students and faculty to understand the sentiment that SNHU holds in her life and that the change in leadership will not affect the atmosphere here.
“I love this place, I really do. I think because I’ve always been in the background making the trains run, I don’t know that the kids know me enough to know how much I do love this place. I mean the kids who know me do, but I don’t know enough of them, so that’s something that I want to correct in the coming months and years is to make sure that I’m at more things with our students,” she said. “Paul was so wonderful and everyone loves him so dearly. You still have someone in the presidency of University College who really cares about this place.”