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“I was driving to D.C., 48 hours from signing on the dotted line for the Saudi con­tract, and Michael Jordan from Hillsdale called me offering the job here,” Dr. Patricia Bart said.

Just as a pirate travels far and wide in search of treasure, Dr. Patricia Bart underwent a similar journey on her path to Hillsdale College.

“I like to call myself a Pirate Queen. Because I love the adventure, but I also collect teapots and always wear my pearl ear­rings” Bart said as she pulled back her hair to reveal the ever-present pearls. “I could be hiking in a jungle some­where with my clothes rotting off my back, but I would still be wearing my pearls.”

Bart’s adventure for treasure began in ele­mentary school.

“I knew from early on in my childhood I was called to be a pro­fessor,” Bart said. “Some­where in third through fifth grade my teacher was talking about how our interests trans­lated to careers, and I very vividly remember her saying ‘If you sit and think a lot then you could be a philosopher.’ I imme­di­ately thought, ‘That’s it!’”

As a child, Bart worried her parents because they often found her in a corner “just thinking without looking at any­thing in par­ticular,” Bart said. “That wasn’t normal for my family.”

Although she always knew being a pro­fessor was her calling, finding the correct career path proved to be the adventure.

“I kept trying to do every­thing, such as most ath­letes of the mind do,” Bart said. “I slowly had to let things fall away which I could live without.”

For example, Bart tem­porarily thought she was meant to be a doctor, as it could still include teaching, so she began mem­o­rizing anatomy. For a while, she was highly inter­ested in eco­nomics and almost attended graduate school for the subject. All the while, English remained one of her primary interests, and it was the only one that never exhausted her curiosity.

“The fact was, I could never get my mind off English,” she said. “It has some­thing to do with the structure of my own mind and attachment of my heart to English class. It was beyond my full com­pre­hension.”

Although Bart settled upon English as her calling, she had not yet reached her final des­ti­nation.

She chose to attend the Uni­versity of Vir­ginia to earn her graduate degree in English. As she neared the end of her edu­cation, a Navy officer unex­pectedly visited her in the library one day, beginning the series of unique job con­sid­er­a­tions prior to Hillsdale.

In 2004, “The Navy tried drafting me to run a nuclear power plant on board a ship,” Bart said. “They said they chose me because ‘you can watch paint dry and take notes.’ Some of my friends probably put my name up for the job, but they know just when to get you. A few years before graduate school is over and in the middle of a declining job market.”

The offer appealed to her because she could bring her books to study, but she was hes­itant in responding. The job entailed rarely leaving the power plant on board and being accom­panied by a mil­itary escort to pro­hibit her from smug­gling any­thing out, jeop­ar­dizing the lives of many.

After a few weeks, Bart declined. “It wasn’t what God intended for my life…it was the safe adventure,” she said.

Her piratical per­son­ality pre­ferred to risk the aca­demic job market over the assurance of an imme­diate job and pension because she knew it wouldn’t fulfill her calling.

In 2005, Bart con­sidered another unique pro­fession.

“I almost went to England and joined a Dominican priory,” Bart said. “I was widowed at the time, but I felt it was God’s purpose for me to remain single and devote myself to His pur­poses.”

After her pos­tu­lancy and novi­tiate at the priory, she would have moved on to the École  Biblique in Jerusalem to teach and do human­ities com­puting.

“The oppor­tunity fell through and I entered the job market in the fall of 2006 before I defended my dis­ser­tation,” Bart said.

She applied for over 70 posi­tions, all with the desire to achieve her calling, but by varied paths. Although it was risky to apply without her dis­ser­tation fin­ished, she received favorable feedback. One job offer involved moving to Saudi Arabia.

“The post was as a pro­fessor of English lit­er­ature at Queen Effat College in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Very attractive on the adventure front, and very gen­erous in salary and ben­efits, but not really part of the usual tenure track world…I would have been on the side­lines” Bart said. “I joked with myself that, if things went south for Amer­icans, Jeddah is on the coast, so I could have a rigid inflatable boat stashed some­where for a fast getaway on the Red Sea to Eilat.”

Despite the advan­tages of the Saudi Arabia position, Bart chose Hillsdale’s offer en route to offi­cially accept the Saudi Arabia offer.

Hillsdale Pro­fessor, Dr. Michael Jordan explained Bart’s position was an extension Pres­ident Arnn gifted the English Department with the means to hire another person to fill an arising need due to an influx in stu­dents.

“There were 100 of appli­ca­tions for the job, but hers sur­faced because my brother-in-law’s brother hired Dr. Bart to travel with his family for a year in Europe and pri­vately tutor his kids in Western Civ­i­lization. She had a rec­om­men­dation from someone I knew and trusted,” Jordan said.

From those hundred appli­ca­tions, Jordan said three or four were invited for on-campus inter­views, including Bart. The prospective pro­fessors inter­views involved instructing a mock class and eating lunch with stu­dents.

“I was impressed with her per­for­mance in the classroom because she encouraged intel­lectual con­nec­tions by her inte­gration of history and art with English,” Jordan said. “The stu­dents’ report from lunch was that the con­ver­sation was lively, too.”

Bart accepted the job and joined the faculty in the fall of 2008.

“Although I applied to some lefty schools where I hoped I may be able to do some good, I feel ide­o­log­i­cally at one with Hillsdale,” Bart said. “I felt I had a better shot at a school which iden­tifies with me deep down. I have a whole heart for the mission of the College.

Jordan affirms Bart’s favorable fit here, saying, “Her success is seen by how our best stu­dents want to be advised by her. Hillsdale’s best grav­itate towards her.

Bart believes regardless of major, there is some­thing to be learned from English. She hopes to teach Hillsdale’s stu­dents to read closely and care­fully, sum­marize accu­rately and boldly step out on their own.

“My role here is to shake people up and chal­lenge them to realize the full riches from our past and to bring them into the future,” Bart said. “It is important to educate the younger gen­er­ation of civ­i­lization on virtues of republic. I hope to have a mul­ti­plier effect whereby teaching my stu­dents these things they will mul­tiply my effect by sharing their knowledge with many others and before you know it, hun­dreds and hun­dreds are impacted.”

After her many adven­tures in search of her career ful­fillment, Bart hopes to make Hillsdale into her “Bag End.”

“I enjoy Hillsdale because I get to reap the rewards of being myself and growing without having to cam­ou­flage the names of my courses and who I really am.  Although I enjoy the adven­tures, I like having my hobbit hole to come back to,”  Bart said as she ges­tured to her office lined with full walls of books in various lan­guages, pic­tures and arti­facts from her transcon­ti­nental travels, and the newest addition to her prized teapot col­lection.

“I no longer feel like a loose marble. I fit in here,” Bart said.

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Macaela Bennett
Collegian editor-in-chief, Macaela J. Bennett grew up in the Pumpkin Capital of the World, Morton, Illinois. In May, she will join The Arizona Republic as a 2016 Pulliam Fellow, working at its News Desk reporting on Metro/Breaking News. In the past, she's interned for The East Peoria Times Courier, Campus Reform, The Town Crier, and The Tennessean. Outside of the newsroom, she enjoys playing soccer, hiking, running, and cheering on the Cubs.