Patricia Winter reaches out

Patricia Winter’s only home other than La Jolla was Chicago. She graduated from the University of Chicago, married her high school sweetheart and they raised their children in Chicago. They moved to La Jolla in 1977.

Shortly after, Winter worked in real estate appraisal for five years. But of her many careers, the one she has found the most challenging, exciting and meaningful is the education outreach that she did first when she started the program at the Salk Institute, then on to General Atomics to start it there and finally as a founding member of the San Diego Science Alliance.

Winter is now happily retired but still “working” as the program director for one of the Science Alliance programs.

In addition, she finds time to travel for pleasure and to see her children who live on the East Coast.

Her daughter, Melissa, was chief of staff for Michelle Obama during the campaign and is now deputy chief of staff for the first lady.

What brought you to La Jolla?

In 1977, my husband, our two children and I escaped Chicago’s extreme climate to enjoy the mild West Coast and raise our family.

What makes La Jolla special to you?

The fabulous sunsets, all the creatures that migrate through here and all the great spots to catch a bite with friends!

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in La Jolla?

It’s hard to improve on perfection. I love all the local shop owners’ friendly attitudes, so perhaps more of that. I also cherish that I live so close to UCSD and try to take advantage of that as much as possible.

Who or what inspires you?

Jonas Salk inspired me almost 20 years ago at a luncheon when he challenged me/us to consider leading an effort to connect high school students with the Salk Institute. That inspiration put Anne Prause Blue and I to work on developing Salk Student Day. From the first year of High School Science Day at the Salk, we had more than 200 students from all over the county. The experience was so rewarding that it further inspired me to provide additional opportunities for K-12 teachers and students. In 1995, I went to work with the General Atomics Sciences Education Foundation and also formed a nonprofit organization, the San Diego Science Alliance. Today, the Science Alliance is the catalyst for improving K-12 science education in San Diego County ( Now my inspiration in science education comes from Nancy Taylor, an exceptional educator.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

My husband (deceased). I would want him to know of our children’s great accomplishments and successes. He would not believe how the world has changed. Jonas Salk (deceased) to see all that his inspiration for science education in San Diego has made possible. Anne Prause Blue, the other inspiration for the San Diego Science Alliance. Dr. Larry Woolf, a solid state physicist at General Atomics and a strong voice in science education statewide and nationally. Larry Bock for his dream and vision in bringing the Science Festival to San Diego this spring. Michelle and President Barack Obama, for their “yes we can” spirit. Science will again be important because of President Obama. I have had the extreme pleasure of meeting the Obamas several times.

What are you currently reading?

“Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. While it is a retrospective analysis of the political genius of Abraham Lincoln, there are many lessons for life in this work. It is clear that Obama has studied Lincoln’s administration and is implementing similar tactics.

What is your most prized possession?

I have approximately 900 “grandchildren” who are part of the Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering (BE WiSE) program of the San Diego Science Alliance. When we began the program in 1999, I had no idea that a sleepover event for young women interested in science would grow and sustain the interest of more than 900 young women ages 13 to 25. These women are my most prized possession as they and their parents e-mail me regularly with appreciation for the program, updates on what they are studying (many are now pursuing advanced degrees), and sharing the interests they are exploring. Every spring, I get a new “crop” of girls who enter the program to add to the prize. I am very fortunate to also have a group of adult women in science and engineering fields who volunteer their time to participate on the steering committee and identify scientific venues for the BE WiSE girls to visit.

What do you do for fun?

I’m an avid reader, concert and theatre goer and there are very few things that I haven’t converted to needlepoint. I am also a consummate “foodie” and love trying new foods and new restaurants both here and in my travels.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

Two healthy, happy and successful children and I had the good fortune of being one of five who founded the San Diego Science Alliance (SDSA). This nonprofit organization has changed the shape of science education throughout San Diego County since its inception in 1995.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Family and friends are of utmost importance. Beyond that, I try to give back of myself in as many ways as I can. Without special friends, I would not know what to do.