An Exercise In Persistence: Chris Patzke’s Journey

Rebekah Sieker

Chris Patzke began attending the University of Arizona in 2007 and was interested in majoring in Psychology. Initially, the university setting proved rather challenging and Chris found himself on academic probation and unable to recover in time to avoid disqualification. Refusing to completely abandon his studies, Chris spent the next six months in a training program at a community college and became a Certified Nursing Assistant.

In 2017, Chris came back to the University of Arizona as a transfer student, determined to pursue a degree involving his passion for gardening. This was when he learned about the SALT Center for the first time. He thought it might be the support that he needed. He credits the SALT Center and specifically his Learning Specialist, Mary Beth, with giving him the much-needed support to advance his education and be successful. The weekly meetings helped him establish a routine, keep on track, refine class notes, and plan out assignments.

With support from Mary Beth, Chris was able to make an impact beyond the classroom in the rooftop greenhouse atop the Student Union Memorial Center, which grows food for the Campus Pantry, a resource for Arizona students experiencing food insecurity. He was responsible for maintaining the hydroponic irrigation and fertigation systems where he made key improvements.

During his last semester, Chris experienced a sudden and deep personal loss. It was a blow that made it hard for him to focus, but he was determined to keep pushing through to complete his degree. Mary Beth was a touch point to him and encouraged him to get a plan each week. This support, along with other SALT Center services, enabled him to navigate through and complete his degree at Arizona despite the challenging circumstances.

Now that Chris has graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Plant Sciences, his impact will reach beyond the university. He intends to volunteer with local food systems to positively affect those with food insecurities. He also plans to put his skills to use investigating the medicinal properties of plants, specifically their impact in anti-cancer or anti-inflammatory treatments.

Much like the late David Livingston White, Chris has had an impactful and circuitous journey in reaching his goals, all while demonstrating great dedication and tenacity, so it should come as no surprise that Chris was named as the David Livingston White Class Ring Award Recipient for 2019.For Chris, the award, is a symbol of the support he received at the SALT Center, and a tangible reminder of his sustained effort, and completion of an exercise in perseverance. Chris encourages others with learning differences to,

“Reach out, even before you think you need help. Keep the dialogue going…Show up, that’s the important thing, and it counts for a whole lot.”
Chris Patzke

A TESTAMENT TO PERSEVERANCE: The David Livingston White Endowment

David Livingston White graduated from the University of Arizona in 2011 at the age of 73, after battling cancer for nearly twenty years. To commemorate his graduation, his siblings purchased him a class ring, which he treasured for the rest of his life. After David’s passing, his family established a $100,000 endowment to benefit the SALT Center. This gift supports our programming and provides funds each year for the purchase of a class ring for one graduating senior who demonstrates extraordinary perseverance. David’s original class ring is on permanent display at the SALT Center, and serves as an inspiration to generations of future students.

To learn more about giving opportunities, visit: