Every commencement, graduates conclude their time at the University of Missouri–St. Louis as students and begin their journeys as alumni. Patrick Gadell, BA political science 1973, may have continued on to Saint Louis University for his juris doctor and become a well-respected attorney at the Thomas R. Green Law Offices in St. Louis, but UMSL was never far from his heart or his helping hand.
With the professional network he built over his career, accrued experience and spirit to make things happen, Gadell offers a lot back to UMSL for giving him his start. As one of the many members practicing the new alumni engagement model, he has thrown himself into connecting students and alumni with UMSL in meaningful ways at all points in the engagement life cycle.
Pass along UMSL pride
Gadell knows first hand the importance of exposing up-and-coming high school students to UMSL.
“My mother instilled in me the importance of a good education,” he says. “She had to drop out of high school during the Great Depression, but took and passed the GED exam at the age of 56. She hadn’t set foot in a classroom for over 40 years.”
For him, a college education was a necessity. Born into a large family, Gadell is one of six kids. Money was scarce, and UMSL was the affordable four-year university for many middle-class families in the area. Not only did Gadell choose UMSL, but his brother, two nieces and two nephews are all alumni as well. He even met his wife, Marietta Abele, BA history 1974 and MEd 1986, at UMSL, so there is no shortage of Triton pride in his family.
Philanthropy, as Gadell likes to note, is derived from the Greek word “philanthropos,” meaning “love of mankind.” He holds that message dear and is truly concerned with the betterment of lives, especially those of UMSL students.
Some find themselves in the unfortunate situation where they need only a few credits more to graduate, but have no way of paying for their final educational expenses. Without financial aid, many times these students drop out. Gadell, aware of this trend, led the effort to pool university resources from the Division of Advancement and Student Affairs to create the Finish Your Degree scholarship. It enables students to apply for a one-time grant that provides tuition assistance, allowing them to re-enroll and “finish” their education.
The first year, 12 students, who had left the university because of financial obstacles, were awarded the Finish Your Degree scholarship. All 12 returned and completed their undergraduate education.
“It was extremely gratifying to see those 12 students succeed when they were so close to the finish line,” he says.
Build a network
Gadell is a man who unites people. He recently organized a dinner to introduce pre-law students to local established lawyers and fellow alumni. John Weller, with John C. Weller Law Firm in St. Louis, and Rob Strobing, vice president and chief financial officer of Connectria Hosting in St. Louis, answered questions and shared their knowledge of the field with the soon-to-be graduates.
“I wanted the dinner to encourage students, allay any anxiety they may have about their futures and about what it means to be UMSL alumni,” he says.
The students, anxious to begin their legal careers, formed lasting professional connections. With more than 88,000 alumni, the UMSL network continues to grow with each new graduate.
Join the club
As second vice president of the Alumni Association, Gadell is on the task force proposing to change from a dues-paying system to an all-inclusive membership. If passed, all UMSL alumni, as well as students, will automatically become members of the Alumni Association. There would be no further solicitation for dues, encouraging participation levels to greatly increase.
“This will be a fundamental change, which benefits alumni and students alike,” Gadell says. “UMSL is and will always be a vital force in the economic well-being of the St. Louis area. It is well past time for us to exert the strength our numbers provide to the community.”
The hope is that bringing current students into the association will foster a closer relationship with alumni so that as students graduate, they already have essential professional contacts often resulting in internships and job placement.
Celebrate in red and gold
Gadell’s relationship with UMSL isn’t all work and no play. Currently, he is a member of the steering committee for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of UMSL’s first graduating class. The reunion will take place in 2017.
“The planning is in its early stages,” he says. “But you only get one opportunity to be the first — as in the first Golden Jubilee Class — so it is important to get it right.”
He spoke about the many accomplished alumni locally and outside the St. Louis area who he believes deserve a special night of recognition and the occasion to recall their college days as one big, joyous group.
“It’s not just for the ‘rich and famous,’” Gadell says. “We hope to have many of the graduates return to campus — some for the first time since graduating. It’s a chance to see all the wonderful changes that have transpired.”
This story was originally published in the spring 2014 issue of UMSL Magazine.