Class of 2000
For students who have attended Eckerd after the turn of the millennium, Director of Student Activities Lova Patterson ’00 is a constant presence.
Lova is the first person to admit she didn’t expect it to turn out this way when she joined Eckerd as a non-traditional transfer student in 1997—one of only five Eckerd music majors at the time. She planned to go to graduate school and become a college professor, pursuing her first love of medieval Renaissance choral music. A love and respect for Eckerd—and for now-Interim President Jim Annarelli—convinced Lova to change her plans. She is now one of more than 80 Eckerd alumni who call their alma mater their workplace.
“When I got accepted to Eckerd, it was one of the most impactful moments in my entire life,” she says, noting that she still has the handwritten receipt that Bursar Angie Noronow wrote when she made her deposit. “I was ecstatic.”
A photo of Lova (bottom right) as a student with the Palmetto Productions crew in 1999.
During her time at Eckerd, Lova received work-study aid. She started off working on disability accommodations, and then eventually moved into housing and working for the dean of students. The course of her life changed, she says, when she applied and was accepted to be concert director for Palmetto Productions, the student activity board responsible for Eckerd’s iconic events.
“That’s where I started learning everything I know about Campus Activities,” she says.
After graduation, the Campus Activities job was open, but for months Lova said she wasn’t interested because she knew the all-encompassing nature of student life work. She took a gap year and was watering office plants for a living when then-Acting Dean of Students Annarelli came calling. It was a time of great change at Eckerd: President Emeritus Donald R. Eastman had just started, and the student life program needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. She agreed to step in on a trial basis. Fred Sabota, now associate vice president for student life and interim dean of students, was also hired two weeks after she took the job.
While she spent a lot of time that first year piecing things together—campus activities didn’t even have balls for intramural sports when she started—Lova says the challenges were part of what made the job great.
“We got to be here for one of the most exciting moments. There was this huge bringing back to life that we were able to be a part of,” she says. “The rest is literally history. Here I am still sitting in the same office that I walked into in 2001.”
In a 1999 article in the student newspaper, Lova (then also Palmetto Productions concert director) plays with her band Frog and Flower at the Lily Fair concert on campus featuring all female-fronted bands
Lova as staff advisor to Palmetto Productions with the 2007-08 Palmetto Board.
Many of Lova’s fondest memories as an employee echo her experiences as a student. She brought legendary African-American women’s a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock to the Palladium with Palmetto Productions as a student, and then helped students bring them back a few years later as an adviser. The latter was more meaningful, she says, taking pride in the students’ joy at creating amazing college moments for themselves and their friends.
Another point of pride for Lova is being able to be an open and welcoming member of the campus LGBTQ+ community. Even back in 1997, she describes Eckerd as somewhere she always felt supported, and she says she feels that sense of the campus as an oasis to this day.
“I’m so grateful that students know that my door is always open. There’s always a safe place for all of our students in Campus Activities,” she says. “I hope everyone can feel that same way.”
Lova says her Eckerd experience, from classes to work, has never been easy. A first-generation student, she graduated with degrees in music and German and calls her three years in school an intense experience. A commuter student living in Bradenton, she would drive up at 7 a.m. each day to make sure she could use the music practice rooms.
The struggles, she said, have made her 25 years at Eckerd all the sweeter.
“To come to a place where it not only felt like home but the academics were amazing and I was challenged to grow—I had to put so much into my education but it came back to me a thousandfold,” she says. “I realized it then, but I realize it much more now.”