Vice President for Student Affairs is a position many can not handle. This position was created in 1965 at the University of Miami, and for 32 years was synonymous with Dr. William R. Butler, who held the position until his retirement.
In June of 1997, President Edward T. Foote II announced that Dr. Patricia A. Whitely would succeed Butler as Vice President for Student Affairs.
After almost losing Whitely to Washington University in St. Louis in 1996, the University of Miami’s decision to promote the veteran administrator has been proved to be a good one, as she has risen to the task.
The Vice President for Student Affairs plays a huge role, because that person is in charge of everything from Greek Life to Wellness & Recreation, from Residence Life to Multicultural Student Affairs. This job is paramount to a university’s success. “I am basically responsible for everything outside the classroom,” said Whitely about her wide-ranging responsibilities.
When Whitely was appointed in 1997, she already had a long tenure in a variety of positions at UM. After serving as Residence Coordinator of Stanford Residential College in 1982, she then served as Assistant Director of the University Center. Moving up the ladder, she was named Director of Student Life and the University Center, where she served for three years before being promoted to Vice President.
Whitley received her Ph.D in Student Affairs from the University of Miami in 1994. She is also a member of the Greek community, being inducted into the Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority in 1993. She is a proud wife to her husband George of seven years. She is also a new mother, to her daughter Megan. “You will definitely see Megan, who is going to accompany me to many U of M events,” she said.
When asked to describe her career, she focused on students. “I love working with students, I love watching them grow, I enjoy and cherish my time with them.”
Student Government President Emeritus Jose “Pepi” Diaz says “Dr. Whitely is not the typical vice president.”
A typical vice president would not hold monthly lunches called “Vice President Roundtables” to discuss student issues and projects with student leaders. A typical vice president would not pay to install wireless internet in all fraternity houses. A typical vice president would not invite students into her office to discuss daily life issues. “She is anything but typical,” says Diaz.
Kimberly Racciato, Zeta Tau Alpha President, shares many feelings with Diaz. “Dr. Whitely is just extraordinary! She is just unbelievable! She really cares about her work, who she works with, and especially her university family,” said Racciato.
Whitely assumes more of a proactive role, always looking to improve things before the need is apparent.
Whitely describes herself as a huge UM fan! “It was a highlight of my year to go to the Rose Bowl and promote school pride.”
As Whitely begins her fifth year as Vice President, she still places students concerns at the top of the list. “I am available and accessible to all students.”
At one of President Shalala’s first meetings at UM with the faculty and several student leaders, she remarked on her feelings towards Whitely. After working with Whitely for only several months, Dr. Shalala commented, “I am a groupie of Pat Whitely,” which seems to be the consensus of the University of Miami.