Patricia Oldt, retired GVSU Vice President for Planning and Equity, passed away on February 17, 2021. Oldt is remembered by friends and peers for her many accomplishments and passion for education and advocacy.
As superintendent of Northview public schools in the 1990s, Pat Oldt filed the district’s first Title IX audit, which showed inequities in girls’ and boys’ sports.
“I viewed athletics as an extension of the classroom, and many did not see it that way,” Oldt said in a GVSU profile in 2014. “I used to ask people, ‘What if your daughters didn’t have textbooks in the classroom? How is that so different from not having equal access in athletics?'”
Oldt had a knack for addressing difficult situations with grace and compassion, always advocating for students to have the best, equal experience possible.
Throughout her career in education, Oldt served as Assistant Dean of Continuing Education at Grand Rapids Community College, Assistant Superintendent of the Grand Rapids Public Schools, Superintendent of Northview Public Schools 1993-2000, and both Distinguished Professor of Education and Vice President for Planning and Equity at Grand Valley State University where she was instrumental in developing the Grand Valley charter schools’ program.
Oldt’s versatile background set her apart- she brought a unique perspective to her work in education, Charter Schools Associate Vice President Robert Kimball said.
“When she was an administrator of the charter schools office, she would be serving in the College of Education as a faculty member and working with the educators that were in the charter schools,” Kimball said. “She had this wonderful lens of how to improve this whole system.”
In her role as an administrator, Oldt prioritized students’ needs and strove to provide the best possible conditions for students of all ages to continue learning, Kimball said. This meant not only focusing on k-12 and college students but educators and professionals as well.
“She had a laser focus on students, and that student didn’t have to be a K-12 student, they didn’t have to be an undergraduate or graduate,” Kimball said. “It could even be a partner in the workplace, like the hundreds of people that she mentored. She really viewed it as part of her personal responsibility to build the education profession.”
Oldt herself was a lifelong learner, and approached new relationships as an opportunity to push herself and continue to learn, Kimball said.
“Even as vice president of a university, she was trying to learn as much as she possibly could by creating meaningful authentic relationships with students and educators.”
An important part of Oldt’s approach to education was equity and inclusion. Oldt’s work as Vice president for Planning and Equity shaped GVSU’s culture today, Former GVSU President Don Lubbers said.
“We needed someone to make sure our policies were equitable for women and minorities, and that programs were established to assist students to reach their full potential in their academic and personal pursuits,” Lubbers said. “For instance, the Women’s Center was established soon after her arrival.”
Lubbers reflected on Oldt’s ability to take action and advocate for students with grace.
“She was very good at analyzing a problem or an issue, and then initiating action to solve the problem, or meet the issue successfully,” Lubbers said. “She did all that in very good humor, and she could solve heavy problems with a light touch.”
Those who worked with Oldt will remember her not only for her accomplishments and career but as a friend.
“During the time we work together. I respected her superior ability to achieve, and all the tree pursued. We also became good friends, a friendship I will always cherish,” Lubbers said. “She was very good at what she did, she was very smart, and she was very thoughtful and she was very kind.”