Created by Ralph, who lives in Bluefield, Virginia, in memory of his wife, Jane, who passed away in 2003, the Patsel Scholarship will not only preserve the legacy of Jane Patsel, but also provide vital scholarship assistance to Bluefield College students for years to come.
“This is an endowed scholarship, which means it is designed to last forever,” said BC’s Ruth Blankenship, vice president for advancement. “It will protect Jane’s memory perpetually and provide scholarship awards to students indefinitely.”
Ralph attended Bluefield College from 1955 to 1957. “It was heaven!” he said about his experience as a student. “All who went here in the 1950s — I don’t know how to explain it — could never imagine going anywhere else. No school ever compared to Bluefield College.”
After his student days at BC, Ralph attended Baylor University in Texas and the University of North Carolina, before coming back to Bluefield College in 1961 to serve on staff in the Alumni Office. He worked his way up to Director of Alumni Relations and later Director of Admissions, before ending his career with BC as Director of Development.
Jane earned her degree from Bluefield College in teacher licensure in 1951. She later attended Concord University before coming back to BC to as a business professor in 1957.
“She had high standards for herself and for her students,” Ralph recalled about his wife’s teaching days at BC. “She demanded perfection, and the students gave it to her. She was a lady. She had an air of self-assurance, and she tried to instill that same confidence in her students.”
In addition to her classroom duties, Jane served as a faculty advisor for the BC Business Club and the Yearbook staff. Her career with the college lasted 18 years, but more importantly introduced her to Ralph while they both were on staff in 1961. They were married a year later by then President Charles Harman, and they lived on campus in married-student housing and on Faculty Row for 10 years.
“Our son, Neel, was never happier than when we lived on campus,” Ralph said. “It was like a hundred acre playground. It was such a community. Everybody was family.”
Ralph left Bluefield College in the early 1970s to teach at Southwest Virginia Community College, a position he held for 17 years before becoming the registrar at Bluefield State College. He retired from BSC in 2001, just two years before his wife’s passing in 2003.
When asked why he decided to create the scholarship for BC students, Ralph responded, “Because Jane loved Bluefield College every bit as much as I did. Bluefield College introduced us and set us on a path for life. It was a special place. She always wanted to do something like this, but we never did…until now.”
Preference for Patsel Scholarship awards will be given to BC juniors and seniors who are graduates of Graham High School. The idea, Ralph said, is that the scholarship awards will help meet the financial needs of local students, particularly since scholarships made it possible for him to attend Bluefield College.
“I know how important it is to receive scholarship assistance,” he said. “I hope this scholarship will make it easier for some students to attend college and in some small way honor Jane.”