An Extraordinary Everywoman

 3 min read

An Interview with New Board Chair Patricia D. Wellenbach

Innovation and creativity have always been in Jefferson and Textile’s DNA (creativity is literally in our curriculum). So, it makes sense that we would need a novel Board of Trustee governance structure that’s ready to meet the unique and evolving oversight demands of our thriving university and health system.

We open this new academic and fiscal year led by the most diverse board in our history, with minorities and women accounting for 43 percent of our trustees. It starts at the top, with our newly elected board chair, Patricia (Trish) Wellenbach.

Trish was the granddaughter of Irish immigrants. Her father was the first in his family to go to college, and her mother was never able to attend college. Trish began her career as a registered nurse and has risen today to become the president and CEO of the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. She is the first woman to lead the Jefferson board (at Philadelphia University, Elizabeth Gemmill and Eileen Voynick served as board chair).

I caught up with Trish as she takes the helm of the board to ask about her vision for Jefferson, what it takes to be a trustee, and what would be on her “stranded island” playlist.

ED: What qualities do you think are most important in a trustee?

PW: Integrity, authenticity, respect, and an appreciation for the importance of rigor and data to inform decisions are critical. And the capacity to bring humanity into how we implement decisions are all qualities that I believe make for outstanding trustees and leaders.

ED: What’s your vision for Jefferson?

PW: My vision is that Jefferson continues its legacy of excellence in educating future leaders and in providing the highest level of quality and safety in patient care. Jefferson’s commitment to healthcare access for underserved and marginalized individuals and communities continues to be a focus of the board and management and is something I care about very much. I believe there is more we can and will do to bridge the deep divide in healthcare and higher education that continues to exist for so many people.

ED: How will you measure success as the new leader of the board of trustees?

PW: I am focused on ensuring we continue our work of inclusion and equity. I am looking forward to working in partnership with our trustees and management as we steward Jefferson toward its 200th anniversary in 2024.

ED: Stranded on an island, if you are stuck with one song on your playlist, which would it be?

PW: Ah, this is a tough question because as my life has evolved and circumstances have changed I know the answer would be different.

At this moment in time, it would have to be “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan. Of course, the Whitney Houston version may be one of the best recordings of the song. I know as chair, I now have a higher calling to be “every woman.” Who knows, the job I do might just convince some people that every woman is more than capable to do any job.

ED: What advice do you have for an alumna or young woman entering the workforce today?

PW: Never underestimate what you can do, and never underestimate your worth. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. I can guarantee that if you do, you will find an untapped inner capacity to do what might have seemed unimaginable.

Elizabeth A. Dale, EdD, MPA

Elizabeth A. Dale, EdD, MPA
Executive Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer 
Office of Institutional Advancement


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