Before June 2015, the last time friends Shelley Lloyd, Patricia Brown and Susan Sarapata had been together was March 17, 1973… the day they graduated from Ohio University. The friends then piled in a car and said goodbye to Athens as they drove to Columbus in a snowstorm for another special event.
It was new beginnings for the three friends as they started their lives toward successful careers that they credit to the education and support they received from OHIO.
Lloyd found herself at Ohio University after transferring from Bethany College in 1970, shortly after the Kent shootings and riots that caused many colleges in the state to close early that year. Brown followed her high school boyfriend to OHIO in 1969. She and the boyfriend separated in 1970… but there would be more to that story than she knew at the time. Sarapata, one of five children in her family, came to Athens in 1969. She was solely responsible for paying for her education, but work-study programs and scholarships helped her dreams become reality.
All three women pursued speech-language science during their time at OHIO. They worked hard every day to get the most out of their education.
“My friends in the program were intelligent, self-disciplined, highly motivated, fun, and genuinely good people,” Sarapata said. “We all worked very hard—sometimes crazily so. I once dreamed about Wernicke’s area [the part of the brain linked to speech] after catching some sleep before an anatomy test! In retrospect, it was a privilege to learn and mature with such high caliber people—it helped me take many limits off my own capabilities.”
Lloyd recalled doing clinical work with her friends and colleagues in the basement of Ewing Hall—which was razed in 1974, just one year after they graduated. She remembered learning to do therapy with pencil and paper and working with the simple materials available at the time.
“We learned how to do more with less...something that was valuable to me in my work as a speech pathologist,” Lloyd said.
The education provided by Ohio University gave each woman the foundation for her own unique and successful career.
Lloyd, who spent most of her career in a small suburban school district in Connecticut as a speech pathologist, retired in 2011, although she has continued working in several extended leave positions.
Brown worked as a teacher for hearing-impaired students and later as an adjunct faculty in deaf education at Ohio State University. Her passion for theater and education in hearing sciences and speech pathology led her to start a one-woman show titled Hair Theater. She currently coaches public speakers and volunteers at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, where she teaches the women communication skills and etiquette.
Sarapata spent 11 years working in Chicago with students of all ages who were hearing impaired. She later moved to Ohio and was drawn to the corporate world, where she did consulting work for companies. She thanks her education at Ohio University for her diverse and satisfying career.
“I learned about the value of adapting to circumstances, working with others, being resourceful, solving problems, taking responsibility, maintaining composure, and keeping a good sense of humor throughout,” Sarapata said.
Despite being busy with their successful and fulfilling careers, these women stayed in touch for more than 40 years, hoping to reunite one day. In 2015, they decided to finally make their “trip down memory lane” to Athens.
Just before the trip, Lloyd received an email from the College of Health Sciences and Professions about T-shirts for visiting alumni. She responded with the day she and her friends would be at the university and that they would “love to have T-shirts.” She didn’t expect a response, figuring the college was busy with hundreds of emails to answer. Instead, she was surprised with an excited and friendly message from CHSP a short 10 minutes later.
“We got there and there was a note about our arrival,” Lloyd said. “We had five shirts we could choose from, a keychain, a water bottle and a cutting board. We were treated like royalty. They took our photo and put it on Facebook—it made us feel good! They could’ve given us a five-minute tour of Grover, but we got a tour for more than an hour. We felt so comfortable and at home.”
“Our visit to the new building was fabulous,” Brown said. “Everything impressed us so much and we were treated so warmly. Our undergrad classes had been in the dank and dark basement of now swept away Ewing Hall. This new building looked like the Ritz to us.”
The trip down memory lane was exciting and enjoyable for the women. They spent time retracing their steps, finding all of the old buildings where they used to live. They also embraced the changes, admiring the many new or renovated buildings both across campus and uptown.
“The College Green looked much the same—well… except that Ewing Hall was gone,” Lloyd said. “We were so impressed with the growth of the University in general. In particular, the new clinical facility was a shining star. Being able to have those allied health professions under one roof is such a gift. It was clear that the University valued our speech pathology program in terms of the facility built.”
Between revisiting their favorite spots on campus and exploring the new health sciences buildings and facilities, the women spent their warm June day in Athens laughing and reminiscing.
“I had just become a grandmother for the first time days before that,” Brown said. “Our return to Athens was particularly poignant for me when I thought about that 17-year-old me leaving home and preparing for her future. The grandfather of this new baby happens to be the boy who broke up with me at Ohio University.”
That special event in Columbus following the women’s graduation was Brown’s wedding to the boy who broke her heart her freshman year. They are still married after 43 years.
The visit to Athens reminded the women of their love for the University and all that it provided.
“Ohio University gave me so much: good friends, great memories and my career,” Lloyd said.
“I got a rich education and made exceptional friends that have lasted for a lifetime,” Sarapata said. “It doesn’t get better than that.”