Patricia (Cox) McGregor ’81, P’12
The Rev. Dr. Patsy McGregor ’81, P’12, is currently the director of spiritual formation at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Stuart, Florida. For over 30 years Patsy, along with her husband Todd, has been devoted to providing spiritual and humanitarian aid to communities in need across the globe. Her years of service have taken her from tea time with the Queen in the rose gardens of Buckingham Palace to fellowship with a shaman in the remote regions of Madagascar and everywhere in between.
Patsy has published three inspirational memoirs: A Guest in God’s World: Memoir of Madagascar, The Detour: An Off Road Safari, and Tamana: At Home in Africa. A fourth memoir entitled Madagascar: The Window of My Soul, is set to come out in the fall. Patsy and Todd founded a nonprofit ministry called People Reaching People whose mission is to “serve God’s people through spiritual, pastoral, financial, and professional support.” (peoplereaching.org)
In her decades ministering to the people of Madagascar and Kenya, Patsy has worked tirelessly to create opportunities for people to improve their lives. In the 1990s Patsy helped to create a network of self-supporting medical dispensaries across rural Madagascar. She also helped people meet basic needs for food, clothing, and education by connecting philanthropic organizations to communities in need.
Patsy has served in several prominent roles in the Anglican Church, including being the only woman clergy in the Diocese of Toliara in Madagascar. In 2014, Patsy founded a women’s center focused on improving economic opportunities for women and families. With this center Patsy helped start the “Days for Girls” program, which educates young women on matters of health and well-being. Patsy wrote a musical call Miaraka: A Time to Dance, which has been performed in several countries in Africa, including South Africa at the invitation of Desmond Tutu.
Patsy comes from a family of Ursinus alumni, her parents Audrey ’53 and Gerry ’55, and her sister Betsy ’79, all graduated from Ursinus College. Patsy and Todd have two daughters, Corby and Charese ’12. Patsy currently serves a congregation in Stuart, Florida, and continues to have an active role supporting organizations in Madagascar.
Q&A with Patsy McGregor ’81, P’12
How is winning an Ursinus Alumni Award significant for you?
Ursinus is a college that shapes and changes lives. It certainly has been a strong thread in my personal tapestry of life, as well as the life of my mother (Audrey Rittenhouse Cox, 53), my father (Gerry Cox, Jr. 55) my sister, (Betsy Cox Wenzel, 79) , and my youngest daughter, (Charese McGregor, 2012). With distinguished legacy, Ursinus allows students to discover individual gifts, passions, and talents, providing opportunity for giving back these talents as leaders into society. Winning the Alumni Award for Service to Humanity is quite an honor, especially considering all the wonderful alumni who qualify for this award.
How did Ursinus College instill a desire to serve your community?
Ursinus gave me opportunity for leadership and educating others. Serving the Phi Alpha Psi Sorority as President, the tennis team as Captain and graduating with a degree in Education gave me opportunity to learn leadership skills, teaching teamwork, strategic planning, competency and character. As a small yet accomplished school, Ursinus allowed me involvement in many areas; Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Sorority President and Pledge Mistress, varsity sports, working on-campus jobs and providing service in the Dining Room for formal dinners and receptions. Speech class instilled confidence, teaching communication skills. These skills help me tell my story, not only as a minister in the Episcopal Church but also as an author of three books; A Guest In God’s World, The Detour: An Off-Road Safari, Tamana: At Home in Africa and the fourth to come out this fall, Madagascar: The Window of My Soul. These memoirs may be in the Ursinus library. (If not, let me know and I will be sure to bring copies in April.)
Involvement with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes allowed me to explore and develop my spiritual life as part of my liberal arts education and taught me practical skills of applying faith into my everyday lifestyle, molding me into the person I am today. Even performing “Singing in the Rain” on Bomburger stage as a sorority sister helped instill fun-filled passion to co-write a musical called Miaraka: A Time to Dance; a musical based on a true experiences about a woman (Mary) caught in the devastating cycle of poverty, trafficking and prostitution. Through the gift of friendship with other women, Mary finds hope, faith and love and begins to give back to the community by using her gifts, passions and talents to the glory of God and the benefit of society. Originally written in the small Indian Ocean island country of Mauritius, Miaraka: A Time to Dance has been performed in Mauritius, Madagascar (translated into the local language of Malagasy), South Africa (at the invitation of Desmund Tutu) and in the USA. Currently we are planning for 20 international performers from Mauritius and Madagascar to come to the USA in October of this year to perform and teach this musical to others, making it A Time to Dance for all.
Why has giving back to Ursinus been important to you?
Living as a missionary for 30 years (Madagascar, Kenya and Mauritius), I was able to give back to Ursinus by hosting three small teams who desired an international experience. In 2001, three Ursinus students came to Madagascar to teach English. One of those former students was so transformed by her experience that she formed a non-profit and returned to give back to the under-privileged Malagasy community over a decade later, serving as a doctor. Another group of three Bonner Leadership Students came with Dr. Christian Rice in 2010 to help us form a business plan for a project in the Diocese of Toliara.
As members of society, we are called to be people, who reach people, in all walks of life. People Reaching People is the name of the non-profit I co-founded with my husband which focuses on education, evangelism and economic empowerment. Giving back to Ursinus through providing overseas experiences for others allowed personal and community growth for both the American and Malagasy communities, joining intercultural sensitivity and communication skills - many times without words because of the language difference! These experiences capitalized personal and community reflection. This was not only transforming for me, my family, the students and the UC community, but also for the Malagasy people. From time to time, when our travels brought us back to the Collegeville area, I was given opportunity by Dr. Christian Rice and Dr. Houghton Kane to speak and share my story at various UC gatherings. Leaving a legacy and lighting other people’s torches for them to then carry into the world and light other torches allows legacy and impact to society to be continued.
What was your proudest UC moment?
My proudest UC moment was a interesting one. In my senior year I was President of Phi Alpha Psi Sorority and was called into Dean March’s office to explain the sorority’s actions on a specific situation. Strong in my beliefs as a Christian, I was given the opportunity to put my faith into action in a challenging, and very secular situation. I stood up for my sorority sisters, believing we all make choices. This experience with Dean March helped me to take responsibility as a leader and yet realize that every person has their own free will. As a sorority leader and a strong Christian, I learned to listen to differing opinions, problem-solve, lead meetings, and be prepared to explain actions. I believe this experienced helped me to become who I am now, a priest and Director of Spiritual Formation at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Stuart, Florida.
Furthermore, I also have to say that beating a few male classmates in badminton was also a highlight. A few of my male friends didn’t think badminton should be a varsity sport, so my sister and I challenged them to take our discussion to the courts. The winner would be awarded Stromboli from Marcella’s Pizza Restaurant. Need I say, my sister and I really enjoyed the Stromboli. J In retrospect, this opportunity and fighting for what I believe in gave me needed skills for later in life. As the only woman clergy in the Diocese of Toliara, I was asked by the Archbishop of the Indian Ocean to pioneer women’s ministry and ordination and be the first woman to work as an ordained priest under the Anglican Diocese of Mauritius. During my year in Mauritius (2012/2013) I was chosen as one of the thirty most influential people in the country of Mauritius. And to think it all started on a badminton court at Ursinus.
Finally, it was a proud moment for me to see my daughter, Charese on the podium, graduating from Ursinus. Living overseas all her life, Ursinus was her induction and welcome back to the USA. Dr. Melrose had a great influence on her and I am grateful for who my daughter is today.
What advice do you have to current students and alumni who want to address needs in their community?
A friend once told me that her mother gave wonderful advice. “I know I would have raised you well if you are just as content while sitting on an upside-down orange crate with cockroaches all around, as you are having tea with the Queen.”
I have had the privilege to do both. For over three years I lived next door to the Shaman, in a slum, mentoring his daughter, with cockroaches (and pit-latrines) all around. She became a very close friend and the first Malagasy woman priest for the Diocese. As well, I have twice had the privilege to meet Queen Elizabeth, having tea in the rose gardens at Buckingham Palace. Living these extreme experiences have had everlasting impact on my life.
My advice to current students and alumni is this. Experience the richness of humanity, in all cultures and all walks of life. Be people who reach people. Pass on the legacy of love and leadership and make a difference in people’s lives. Use your gifts, talents and passions to the glory of God and benefit of mankind. Dream big. Be open minded and blend your faith into society. We all need love, only love.