Patricia Fahy’s career plans didn’t take off as she once planned, but her career has soared nonetheless; and her accomplished tenure as an advocate for higher education is one of the reasons she was selected the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.
Fahy, a 1979 Moraine Valley graduate, serves as a member of the New York State Assembly with a long list of committees and service that focus on education. As a first-generation American and the first in her family to graduate college, she is an outspoken advocate of increased college access and affordability, which led to her receiving the 2014 New York State School Board Association’s Freshman Legislator of the Year award.
Her early career plans were to become a flight attendant, but a professor in one of her political science classes soon persuaded her that her talents could be better utilized elsewhere.
“I mentioned becoming a flight attendant to see the world for a few years and he lectured me all over again about shooting higher. It worked. I majored in political science and went on to receive my master’s degree in Public Administration,” Fahy said. “I remember one of those very first days where the professor started the class by really just insulting everybody. He would say, ‘Ah, you’re middle class. You’re never really going to have a say.’ He said the middle class doesn’t help fund elections. I took away from that how important it is not only be an advocate at the grassroots level, but how important it is for the middle class to have a voice.”
Getting involved became a focus for Fahy, who advocates for children as a member of the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Albany, is a founding member of Albany PASS (People Advocating Small Schools), and a long-term mentor to at-risk and refugee children. In addition, Fahy has served as a consultant on education and workforce training issues for Big Brothers Big Sisters, the AFL-CIO Workforce Development Institute, and the National Commission for Education and the Economy.
Fahy enjoys coming back to Illinois to visit family and friends and recalls with great pride her days as a student at Moraine Valley.
“I remember a sociology teacher told me how we had to read past the first page of a newspaper,” she said. “I was always into current events and a big newspaper reader. But I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, in order to really understand an issue, you have to get past the first page.’ I’m still a big newspaper reader and try to get my kids to do the same. Nowadays a lot of people don’t read hard news anymore. You’re reading everything in sound bites because of Twitter and Facebook, and I think we’re missing a lot.”
One of Fahy’s passions is supporting community colleges, which she says are very popular especially because of their affordability. “Community colleges really have become a big avenue for training. It’s important that we keep community colleges affordable and keep them competitive, too,” she said.
“I was really flattered to win this award from Moraine Valley,” she said. “I’m so grateful that I had the opportunities I had—and to be recognized—I’m truly touched by it.”