Alumni Service Award: Patricia Conway Thorpe (C63)
Patricia Conway Thorpe made the most of her time as a Northwestern student. She was house president of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, won the Claudine V. Mason Award as the outstanding senior woman in 1963, and even took part in a joyous mob that spiked Sherman Plaza’s fountain with bubble bath after a particularly rousing Wildcats football victory over Ohio State.
Of course, the impact Northwestern made on Thorpe runs even deeper than these warm memories.
It was as a student teacher at Evanston High School that Thorpe discovered a lasting sense of purpose — developing programs to help all students thrive. That passion ultimately blossomed into a pioneering career as an educator, administrator, and program developer.
“As a result of an NU education, one never hesitates to tackle a problem or project,” Patricia said. “And you expect to make a positive contribution.”
That expectation has also guided Thorpe in her role as a Northwestern alumna.
Contributions to her alma mater include 35 years as co chair of Northwestern’s Colorado Alumni Admission Council and 11 years on the board of the Northwestern Alumni Association as a regional director, and director at large. Additionally, she has served as president of the NU Club of Colorado and on the committee for four Class of 1963 reunions. She is also a member of the Council of One Hundred, the NAA women’s mentoring organization.
Such a wide range of alumni activities mirrors the diverse professional career Thorpe has led since leaving Northwestern. She taught English, speech, and debate in elementary, middle, and high schools across three states. After earning a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Colorado, she became the first female principal at a large Denver-area high school in 1986.
In 1993, Thorpe became director of continuing education for Aurora (Colorado) Public Schools, where she was pivotal in convincing the board to establish a self-paced high school with computer-assisted instruction. Now she is an instructor, reviewer, and mentor of faculty for the University of Phoenix.
Thorpe has won numerous awards for excellence as an educator and administrator, including Outstanding Adult Educator from Aurora Public Schools in 1994, Woman of the Year from Colorado BPW in 2000, the Outstanding Career in Literacy Award from the Colorado Department of Education in 2003, and an Award of Merit from Mountain Plains Adult Education Association in 2008.
Patricia and her husband, Richard, live in Denver. They have two adult sons.