Former Nontraditional Student Starts UI Scholarship to Help Others

By Ben Frotscher
Pat Mellendorf, of Phoenix, Arizona, benefited from vital financial aid during her time at Iowa. Now she is paying it forward to future generations.
Patricia Patterson Mellendorf Photo Courtesy Patricia Patterson Mellendorf Patricia Patterson Mellendorf

Patricia Patterson Mellendorf (71BA, 73MA, 73EDS) could have easily given up on her educational dreams.

After her freshman year at the University of Iowa, Mellendorf got married and soon had a daughter. Two years later, she returned to Iowa City with a young child by her side and a determination to complete her studies.

“I did it because I felt like I had to do it, and I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other,” says Mellendorf. “Getting an education was so important to me, but it was a totally different experience with a young child.”

Mellendorf lived off campus in a mobile home park and worked at a daycare while managing her class schedule.

“The hardest part of going back to college was the financial piece,” says Mellendorf. “Inflation, at the time, was so high that there was not money for anything. I barely made ends meet, but that was only because the scholarships and fellowships I received covered my tuition. Being able to go to school—I was fortunate. Grateful does not touch how I feel.”

While faculty and staff at Iowa were extremely accommodating—including when her young daughter had to attend class—Mellendorf also benefited from mentorship by faculty members such as Richard “Jix” Lloyd-Jones (50MA, 56PhD), who worked in the UI Department of English.

“Jix knew I needed to be out and about with people,” says Mellendorf, who pursued an education specialist degree along with her English major. “At the time, community colleges were just opening and growing, and there was a dire need for instructors. He suggested a program that was just getting off the ground at Iowa, and it was pretty much designed for me.”

Patricia Patterson Mellendorf and her daughter Photo Courtesy Patricia Patterson Mellendorf Patricia and her daughter, Peggy

Mellendorf went off to teach at community colleges for a decade before teaching management development in the corporate world for more than 15 years. Now, retired in Phoenix, Arizona, Mellendorf continues to believe in the power of education, and she has passed on that importance to her family and friends.

“For me, she set in motion the importance of higher education,” says Peggy Gawron, Mellendorf’s daughter, who is a speech-language pathologist in Illinois and whose son, Ian Gawron (15BA), graduated from Iowa. “She wants to help this generation and put them in position to help the next generation. For her, it is really about generational change.”

Through a gift in her estate plans, Mellendorf is creating the Patterson Family Scholarship as a way to pay it forward to other individuals who are trying to better their lives. By including a bequest in her will, Mellendorf doesn’t have to part with any assets now—ensuring that the funds are still there for her should she need them in the future.

“I’m trying to duplicate what I was able to get—the availability of a scholarship for a single parent who might not be able to go to college without assistance,” says Mellendorf. “I want to give someone the opportunity to get that boost and to do so at Iowa.”

Learn how you can make a difference at the University of Iowa by visiting our planned giving website, or contact Susan Hagan, JD, executive director for planned giving at the University of Iowa Center for Advancement, at or 319-335-3305.

Iowa Magazine
Explore the latest stories from Iowa Magazine.

We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies in accordance with our Privacy Statement unless you have disabled them in your browser.