The School and Friends of Dance took a moment before the closing performance of this year’s Days of Dance to thank and recognize professor and co-chairperson, Patty Howell Phillips, who will be retiring this summer. Dean Peter Weishar led off the surprise ceremony with kind words and beautiful bouquet of flowers. Friends of Dance president, Amy Lowe and founding chair, Dr. Nancy Smith Fichter, then announced a generous gift of $10,000 by Friends of Dance for an endowment in Patty’s name. Patty was of course stunned and deeply appreciative. Nancy closed the ceremony with praise for Patty’s administrative and creative life, both here at FSU and with the field at large.
Patty first came to FSU in 1964 as a freshman taking dance classes and working toward her BS in Housing and Interior Design. Once completing her undergraduate degree in 1968, Patty immediately began her graduate work in dance. She completed her Masters of Music, major in Dance, in 1969. After graduation Patty worked as an instructor at the Illinois State University and for the Dance Notation Bureau in New York before returning to FSU as an Assistant Professor of modern dance in 1972. In 1975, Patty moved to London where she worked for the famed Laban Centre for Movement and Dance. In 1984, Patty left Laban and returned to the U.S. Over the next eight years she held positions at Dominican College of San Rafael, Duke University, The University of South Australia and was the coordinator of the dance program at Sam Houston State. In 1992, Nancy Smith Fichter convinced her to return to Florida State as the first assistant chairperson for the then Department of Dance at Florida State.
Over the next twenty-three years, Patty received promotions to full professor, associate chair, and for the last nine years she has served as co-chair for the school. During that time she has overseen graduate and undergraduate programs and advising, curriculum development, and most academic activities. On her artistic side, Patty still found time to choreograph. Full Circle and Wyeth Wood were a couple of the audience favorites. When Nancy Smith Fichter retired in 1997, Patty became artistic director for the school’s faculty and guest concert series, An Evening of Dance. Her fondest memories of this series include organizing and assisting the many guest artists who were commissioned to set works on the student dancers.
Patty’s quiet service to the field should also be noted. Her national service included years on the commission on accreditation, as a board member, and as a site visitor for the National Association for Schools of Dance. To name just a few more, she has served on the board and as president for the Florida Dance Association, on the board for the American College Dance Festival Association, and on the Board of Regents and the State of Florida Department of Education Common Course Discipline Committees.
The faculty, staff, and students of the Florida State University School of Dance wish Patty the best in life and in her upcoming retirement, but her departure will leave a large hole to be filled in our programs, and in our hearts. As Nancy Smith Fichter would say, thank you for “doing it with love!”