Patricia “Pat” A. Thornton ’56, a resident of Cambridge, Mass., died Dec. 10 with her niece by her side. She was 83.
Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Pat spent a lifetime helping others. After graduating from Colby Junior College in 1956 with an associate degree, Pat continued to further her education, earning a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and a master’s degree from the Boston University School of Social Work. From there, Pat spent her career working as a social worker.
Following graduation, Pat remained connected to the local community. She had a second home on Dutchman Pond in Springfield, N.H., where she spent her summers, and was frequently seen visiting the area.
Pat was also a dedicated member of the Colby-Sawyer community. Elected to the college’s Board of Trustees in 1986, Pat served on a variety of committees before the conclusion of her second term in 2005. Her impact on the academic affairs, board organization, buildings and campus planning, and student development committees is still felt on campus today.
In addition to donating her time, Pat’s generosity to Colby-Sawyer earned her membership in both the Legends and Heritage Societies. In 1991, she was presented the Alumni Service Award for Distinguished Service, and in 1993 she received the Susan Colgate Cleveland Medal for Distinguished Service. In 1995, Pat established the Thornton Presidential Scholarships to attract and reward academically talented students each year. Since the scholarship fund was established, 105 students have benefited from Pat’s generosity. In the summer of 1995, the college named the Thornton Living Room in Colgate Hall in appreciation of Pat’s commitment and support of the college. Each year more than a thousand prospective students and their families travel through this unique space, and it remains a favorite venue to host social gatherings on campus.
“Pat exhibited a special dedication to her alma mater. As a former trustee, she served her college well. As a philanthropist, she shared her generosity with us in ways that were transformative for the institution. I only had the pleasure of meeting Pat once, but it was clear during our meeting that she was a true champion of Colby-Sawyer and that this college was indeed very special to her,” said Colby-Sawyer President Susan D. Stuebner.
Pat supported numerous capital projects on campus, including the Davidow Center for Art + Design, where the garden holds a plaque in her honor.
She was also a dedicated volunteer and supporter of the Mass Audubon, Planned Parenthood and various hospice houses. She loved traveling, birding and playing tennis.
A memorial is being planned for June 13 in Colby-Sawyer’s Thornton Living Room.