Pat Hammer: Retiring assistant vice chancellor put students first for 44 years
Ask Brandman campus directors from Northern California what Pat Hammer has meant to them over the years and the answer is clear: she’s a mentor and a friend who instills in everyone the need to put students first.
Hammer retired this June after her last commencement ceremony in the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium. It’s a ceremony she’s helped make possible for more than 40 years, first as a military spouse working as an adjunct professor, then a program manager, campus director and, finally, assistant vice chancellor for the university’s Northern California region.
“Pat spent her entire professional career dedicated to moving us forward,” said Executive Vice Chancellor Saskia Knight.
“It pleases me no end to see how well [the campus directors] are doing, how far they’ve come,” said Hammer.
Moving the university and campus directors forward came with a variety of roles and titles and ultimately meant responsibility for eight campuses and three sites that stretch from Monterey to Roseville. Hammer insists most role changes were a bit serendipitous.
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She was a 23-year-old fresh out of earning her master’s degree in research and statistics when a professor recommended her for her first adjunct position. She did that while moving from one Northern California Air Force base to another, including Travis, Mather, McClellan and Castle, each of which offered Chapman classes. She settled into the program manager position at Mather.
“It was comparable to what we now call advising. But we didn’t have outreach or marketing. You did pretty much everything,” she said.
In 1990, she was offered a job overseeing programs at several campuses. At first, she said no because she had small children at home. Then came a change in marital status, so she asked for the job and got it.
“I became an expert on the master’s in health administration, the B.A. in health science, the MAOL and BAOL. Nurses in every hospital recognized me,” she said.
Another opportunity arose in 2000 when the dean of Chapman’s College of Lifelong Learning (A previous name for Brandman), Harry Schuler, asked her to be the director of five campuses. When she suggested others for the job, Schuler told her, “If I wanted them, I would have asked them.”
It was a tough decision. Bases were closing. Hammer’s children were involved in playing soccer and other activities. Still, she took it on with her usual enthusiasm. The positive attitude, energy and motivation she looked for over the years in those she hired, also describe her approach to every new assignment.
Managing change with a smile
The College of Lifelong Learning became Chapman University College and then Brandman University. Hammer’s role expanded again to 13 campuses. “I spent a lot of time driving,” she said. Did she have any favorites? The Monterey campus’s ocean views still make her smile despite a six-hour drive.
As the person in charge of campuses, she filled in – sometimes for six months at a time – when campus directors left or were out on extended leaves of absence.
The most significant changes came with the switch to Brandman. “It was a huge shift, but a positive one. We could make our own decisions about programs and classes,” she said.
Among the changes she worked on were dropping the freshman orientation-type class that Chapman had insisted all students take but which inevitably rubbed adult learns the wrong way. “These weren’t 17-year-olds our faculty was teaching,” she said.
And the memory of an effort to create a BBA program that was stopped despite having students because Chapman said no, still stings. “That was embarrassing. They (Chapman) were following guidelines but …”
All that makes her particularly happy with what Brandman has created a unified approach to services and made it possible to introduce new programs more quickly. “Each campus gets to have its own culture because of the locations. But students are getting the same level of advising and service.”
The secret to her success
Hammer was often the person who students would contact when upset about class schedule changes or other issues. As one campus director told her, “They go into your office roaring and come out like lambs.”
Hammer said it took a while to learn how to resolve conflicts. “I learned to listen. I let them know I heard them and would always ask, ‘What can I do for you’ and then followed up.”
She wanted them to know she was working on their request even if she wouldn’t be able to give them everything they wanted.
Hammer is looking forward to becoming a grandmother for the first time and plans to travel, both to visit family and beyond. She’s proud of her children, all of whom made use of the university’s policy of extending tuition to family members. “All of them did extremely well. I was a crazy woman (when trying to balance family and work).”
Despite “retirement,” Hammer hopes she’ll be able to work as an adjunct again. “I loved teaching.” Although not formally in the classroom, she approached her role supervising campus directors as an educator. “My favorite part was the relationships. I have the best bunch of directors.”
The directors give her the credit.
“She is passionate about Brandman University and always wants the students to succeed! She is a student advocate and is thrilled when students reached their education goals. She will be missed,” said Kimberly Pellow, director of Sacramento Valley campuses.
“Pat has been a tremendous support to me and my campus. Pat is always here to celebrate with us during our successes and supports us during the harder times. She always advocates for students and instills in all Brandman employees that the students come first,” said Linda Montenegro, Fairfield/Travis campus director.
She’s already settling into her new home in a retirement community north of Roseville and looking forward to starting up volunteer activities, including helping out at schools or her church. “I have lots of ideas,” said the former soccer mom/PTA volunteer.
For now, it’s a relief to sit and read a book and watch the deer, coyote and cottontails that wander from the wilderness area onto the golf course her home overlooks. She won’t miss the driving. She will miss the people.
“Other people’s achievements are the fun part.”
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