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Dr. Patricia Oldt remembered as an advocate for equity and social justice in education

Feb. 21, 2021 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Dr. Patricia Oldt will be remembered for a strong belief in equity and social justice, advocating for women to advance to leadership.

Dr. Oldt, a lifelong educator, was Grand Rapids Community College’s former assistant dean for community education. She passed away this week at age 84.  

“Dr. Oldt’s impact is felt not just in the students she helped educate at the K-12 level and higher education, but in women she inspired and mentored to follow in her footsteps as a leader,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. “That’s a tremendous legacy. We at GRCC extend our condolences to her family and friends, and hope they are comforted with the knowledge that her work and advocacy has made West Michigan a better place.”

In addition to her leadership role at GRCC, Dr. Oldt was assistant superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools, superintendent of Northview Public Schools, and both the distinguished professor of education and vice president for Planning and Equity at Grand Valley State University. She was instrumental in developing GVSU’s charter schools program.

She earned many awards and honors, including election to the Michigan Association of School Administrators Hall of Fame in 2009.

The DeQueen, Ark., native earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma, then master’s and doctoral degrees from Michigan State University.

A strong advocate for education and equality all her career, Dr. Oldt said in a 2014 interview that growing up and attending public schools in the segregated South shaped her beliefs.  

“Being exposed to blatant discrimination against women and people of color convinced me that the only ‘equalizer’ that could make a difference is education,” she said in a GVSU profile after being honored in the university’s Celebrating Women in Sport and Physical Activity

She commissioned Northview’s first Title IX audit of athletics, revealing the inequities in girls and boys sports.

"I viewed athletics as an extension of the classroom, and many did not see it that way," Dr. Oldt said in the GVSU profile. "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?'"

She focused on equity at Grand Valley as well, leading a campus climate study that resolved inequities in salaries, scholarship opportunities and employee benefits.

Dr. Oldt’s family requests that those wishing to make contributions in her honor donate to the Grand Rapids Community College Foundation's Salute to Women Scholarship at grcc.edu/foundation or to the Grand Valley State University Foundation's Grand Valley Fund, at gvsu.edu/giving/gvu-foundation.

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