Patricia L. Irvin '76
By any measure, Pat Irvin has had an impressive career. She holds a law degree from Harvard and has been a partner at three prestigious law firms. She served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, a civilian role with the rank equivalent of three-star general that took her around the world, including to humanitarian "hot spots" such as Bosnia, Iraq, Cambodia and Rwanda. She has brought her legal acumen to organizations as diverse as a start-up entertainment company and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She currently runs her own real estate investment business.
Pat has sat on a number of boards ranging from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to the Lincoln Theatre/U Street Foundation and the Mystic Seaport Museum. She is generous with her time and talent in support of others. As just one example, in 1984 she founded PALS, Practicing Attorneys for Law Students, which mentors and supports minority law students in the New York City area, including many Princeton graduates, and still thrives today.
Through all this, she has served Princeton well. While a University trustee she sat on three different advisory committees. She has been a board member of the Association of Black Princeton Alumni and is currently on the board of the Princeton Alumni Association of New York, starting a highly successful new program, called 40 Plus Salon, for alumni of a certain age and parents of current students.
Pat's engagement with the Princeton Prize in Race Relations — a dozen years on the board, vice chair and then chair of the Nominations and Governance Committee — clearly demonstrated her character: her staunch insistence on keeping the highest standards, fully integrated with her generosity of spirit, her wealth of wisdom and the warmth of her welcome to all. A member of the national board from its inception, Pat was, as program founder Henry von Kohorn '66 notes, critical to the formulation of the program. From her own experience of facing racial discrimination in her travels around the world, she, with classmate Fred Dashiell, pushed to ensure that board meetings be more than just a "feel good" time, but instead that each meeting keep the focus on the serious discussion of race relations. As chair of the Nominations and Governance Committee she insisted on the importance of diverse leadership for the Princeton Prize. She further devoted innumerable hours to reviewing and revising the operating documents and bylaws, instituting a rule on term limits to guarantee that new blood would come in regularly and that a living document would help the program grow for decades to come. Those who have worked with her are united in admiration. One offers that Pat is "a warrior for racial justice." Another that Pat "is a role model." And Henry's own assessment: "One of the best things about working on the Princeton Prize was becoming friends with Pat Irvin."
Pat, this Award for Service to Princeton is a token of our deep gratitude that, in your very full life with its myriad commitments, you have given such a large portion of yourself to Princeton.