Stephens College to hold memorial for former president

Thursday, April 15, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA­ – Stephens College is honoring a former president, Patsy Sampson, with a memorial service on Saturday. Sampson, who led the women's college from 1983 to 1994, was its first female president.

Dr. Sampson died Nov. 24, 2009, in Albuquerque, N.M. She was 77.

Margaret Campbell, director of Stephens' Academic Resource Center, said what she remembers most about Dr. Sampson was her good will toward students.

“She was very generous about opening her home to students and groups,” Campbell said.

Dr. Sampson advocated being a servant leader to her students. She wished to do more than simply guide her students; she wanted to be an instrument that furthered their educations.

“She introduced a concept of giving to the students," said Campbell, who started working at Stephens while Dr. Sampson was president. "It wasn’t all about her — it was about the cause she was supporting. She was a very kind and gracious leader.”

Alan Havig, a retired professor of history, said he appreciated Dr. Sampson’s understanding of her role.

“She knew that decisions about curriculum were mainly up to the faculty, unless it involved budgetary matters,” said Havig, who taught at Stephens throughout Sampson's leadership. “She stood back and let the faculty do their job.”

Dr. Sampson had a lasting impact on the educational structure of the college, he said.

“There needed to be some adjustments with general education for students,” Havig said. “We created a course called Freshman Studies. That hadn’t been done for quite some time at Stephens.”

Freshman Studies still exists as a required course for all incoming freshman.

“The best I can say is that she met challenges, and she met them fairly well,” Havig said.

Sampson also had a passion for traveling, Campbell said.

Throughout her lifetime, Dr. Sampson traveled the world, including Africa, where she photographed hippopotamuses in the wild, and China, where she saw a wild giant panda, Dr. Sampson's sister, Dorothy Dhillonn, said.

Dr. Sampson's education included a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Oklahoma and a doctorate in social psychology from Cornell University.

She served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of psychology at Drake University in Iowa. She later took the role as dean of faculty at Pitzer College, in Claremont, Calif. She taught at Pitzer, at the State University of New York at Binghamton and at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

Dhillonn said her sister's life was not restricted to academics. She had twins, Catherine and Jacquelyn, at age 19 and later a third daughter, Rebecca. Dhillonn said that when Rebecca died, her two children, Sharon and Rachel, went to live with their grandmother while she was president of Stephens.

Dr. Sampson was preceded in death by her brothers Glenn, Hubert and Sam; and her daughter Rebecca Sampson.

She is survived by her daughters Catherine Falkner and Jacquelyn Rae; her sister, Dorothy Dhillonn; her brother, Ken Hallock; granddaughters Rachel and Sharon Sampson, Rachel Falkner and Sydney Falkner; and  grandson Frank Rae.

The memorial service is at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 17, in the Firestone Baars Chapel, 1306 E. Walnut St.

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