The word had gotten out concerning the plan to redo the Hope High School gym floor.
In the eyes of many, opportunity was knocking to pay homage to Gloria Ruth Patterson, an individual who meant the world to Blue Wave athletics and the school she worked at up until her Jan. 2022 passing.
“Many alumni and community members recommended the floor be named after Ms. Patterson given the imprint she made and the lives she touched as a teacher, a coach, and a mentor to so many of her colleagues,” said Hope athletic director Vismark Gonzalez. “She was a leader not just in our school but in our community for a long time.”
Posthumously, Patterson has received a huge honor. Her name was painted not once but twice on the surface of the brand-new hardwood located in the same gymnasium where she spent countless hours as Hope’s varsity head coach for girls basketball and girls volleyball. One side of the floor features “Gloria R. Patterson Court.” The other side lists her coaching tenure at Hope – 1980-2022 – as well as her nickname (“Patty”).
An official dedication of the court that bears Patterson’s name took place on Feb. 10 in conjunction with a varsity girls basketball game between Hope and visiting Johnston. Speeches were given and memories of a special lady were shared, yet that wasn’t the biggest takeaway from the evening’s festivities.
“She got generations of people to come back to the school to be here. They felt it was their responsibility to give back,” said Gonzalez about those who played for Patterson making up the list of attendees. “That particular day, I never felt more proud to be a Blue Wave.”
Who is Gloria Patterson? The bookmark that Gonzalez compiled and distributed the night of the court dedication listed her coaching accomplishments within R.I. Interscholastic League circles. Yet for all the milestones and feats that unfolded under Patterson’s watch – from piloting two championship teams in girls basketball to her 2007 induction into the RIIL Hall of Fame – it was her striving to open doors for Hope students which perhaps was her greatest role.
“Through coaching, she wanted to create opportunities for the students at Hope High School. For women, she was a big advocate of them playing sports,” said Gonzalez. “She wanted to see more women involved.”
A 2000 graduate of Hope, Gonzalez started his journey with Patterson while in college at URI. Gonzalez needed to fulfill his quota for teaching observation hours and knew exactly where to turn. The arrangement featured Gonzalez returning to his alma mater to watch Patterson coach her teams.
Through the power of observing Patterson in action, Gonzalez developed an interest in helping kids and having an impact beyond the classroom. In short, he wanted to travel down the same path as Patterson in terms of making a difference through sports.
“Ms. Patterson used to tell me all the time that she’s a life coach. She wasn’t coaching in the sense of achieving wins and avoiding losses. They need to understand the importance of being productive members of the community,” said Gonzalez.
The more time that Gonzalez spent around Patterson, the more he realized that life as a faculty member and coach at Hope High doesn’t end at the conclusion of the school day, nor when practice is through.
“Every day we take off, we lose out on the opportunity to make an impact,” said Gonzalez about one of the creeds that made Patterson such an endearing figure.
Occasionally, Gonzalez would ask Patterson why she elected to put Hope students first when she could have retired. She was 73 when she died.
“I’m here for the kids and want to create opportunities that they don’t have,” was the response Gonzalez would receive from Patterson. “She spent so much time in our building that she just couldn’t help but be there for them.”
Patterson didn’t drive, hence Gonzalez would pick her up on his way to Hope each morning and drop her back at home after practice or games. When Gonzalez became Hope’s softball head coach in 2008 – a position he still holds today – he asked Patterson if she could help in a volunteer capacity. Without hesitation, the woman who already was a paid coach in basketball and volleyball said yes.
“I was blessed to have the opportunity to learn from someone like her. She kept me in check at all times … understand that this is bigger than winning a game,” said Gonzalez. “She made sure I succeeded as a coach and as an educator.”
Now Patterson’s name appears in text on the court where she mentored countless waves of Hope athletes – a fitting tribute that ensures her memory will continue to burn brightly.
“It’s an honor that speaks volumes to the job she did here at Hope and in the community,” said Gonzalez.