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Lessons from Patty

After losing her sister, Patty, to a sudden illness in her 20s, Adrienne Garcia dedicated herself to a career in fundraising and endowed a fellowship in her and her sister’s names at the College of Education. Garcia’s can-do attitude also led her to become one of the UF Alumni Association’s first woman presidents. She is shown here in that role at a pre-game celebration with Albert at the 1994 UF Homecoming.

Adrienne Garcia lost her sister too soon. So she honored the young teacher’s legacy by leaving the gift of education to future Gators.

Tampa native Patty Garcia (BSEd ’72, MEd ’73) was a born teacher.

Family members recall how Patty loved to play school as a little girl, always insisting on being teacher. Once Patty became an educator herself – teaching middle-school math in Alachua – she would come home every night and fondly share stories about her curious students.

Three years into her career, Patty, 25, died of a sudden illness. Among those most devastated was her older sister, Adrienne Garcia (MEd ’70, EdS ’71, EdD ’78). The two had done everything together, including graduating from UF’s College of Education in the early 1970s.

“We both loved going to UF,” said Adrienne. “She was a very good student and more disciplined than I was. She had so much left to give before she was suddenly gone from our lives.”

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My sister’s legacy will continue through the young teachers who benefit from this fund.

— Adrienne Garcia, Ed.D. —

To honor her sister’s memory, Adrienne recently endowed a fellowship at the College of Education. The Adrienne and Patricia Ann Garcia Endowed Graduate Fellowship will support graduate students in math education, with preference given to students with a demonstrated commitment to service in the Hispanic community, students bilingual in Spanish and English, and those from Hillsborough County.

The fellowship is a legacy gift, to be funded by a portion of Adrienne’s IRA and a piece of real estate.

“My sister’s legacy will continue through the young teachers who benefit from this fund,” Adrienne said.

Adrienne credits UF with giving her a solid foundation in problem solving.

As a middle-school math teacher in Alachua, Patty Garcia loved to regale her sister with tales of her students and their families. Patty tragically died at age 25 of a sudden illness. “She had so much left to give before she was suddenly gone from our lives,” said Adrienne.

“Not only did I learn to identify a problem, but also figure out what would be a good solution,” she said. “Since then, whenever someone tells me about a situation, I’m able to immediately break it down in my head and understand what needs to happen next.”

“I don’t know what they put in the water at UF,” she joked, “but they have the best professors at the College of Education. I owe my analytical mind to them.”

After Patty’s sudden death, the elder Garcia took on the mantle of discipline and striving for success.

“Seeing my family hurting so badly, my solution, I guess was to bury myself in work,” she said. “My dad was a very hard worker, he ran a department store in Tampa, and as I worked harder, I saw more things that needed fixing. You know, I’m the person that someone invites to a meeting, and next thing you know, I’m raising money and chairing the committee.”

That can-do attitude led Adrienne to launch a career in professional fundraising and development. Since the 1980s, Adrienne has served in leadership positions for key institutions in the Tampa Bay area, including the Hillsborough Community College Foundation and the Tampa Bay History Center. Development work is much more than raising money, she asserts.

“I call it matchmaking,” she said. “You find someone who is interested in your cause or institution, and you tell them about what the needs are, and you match them up. It’s such a good feeling because you’re doing good on both sides, not just for the institution and the cause, but definitely for the people who feel good about their connection and the gift.”

From left to right: Adrienne and Patty Garcia were inseparable since childhood; the sisters graduated from playing “school” as girls to attending the UF College of Education together in the 1970s. Now the holder of a doctorate in education, Adrienne recently established a graduate fellowship in Patty’s name at the college. Photo courtesy Adrienne Garcia

The granddaughter of Spanish and Mexican immigrants, Adrienne has also made it a priority throughout her life to support Hispanic culture in the Tampa Bay area. Most notably, she was part of the successful push to have Ybor City designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1990. For that and other efforts, Tampa Hispanic Heritage named Dr. Garcia the 2005 Hispanic Woman of the Year.

Equally dear to Adrienne is her love for UF. A past president of the UF Alumni Association, she donates generously to the College of Education, whose 87-year-old Norman Hall recently underwent a top-to-bottom overhaul, including a renovated classroom named for Adrienne and another donor.

One day, when the first recipients of her graduate math fellowship are strolling the refurbished corridors of Norman Hall, the Garcia sisters’ legacy will be complete.

“Our parents and grandparents always taught us to work hard and give back,” said Adrienne. “There is so much good a donor can do by supporting a cause close to their hearts.”