Release Date: 
Thursday, June 10, 2021

HFC’s Dr. Patricia Lanzon retires, takes new position at UConn Health

A headshot of Patricia Lanzon.

Dr. Patricia Lanzon, who recently retired as HFC’s Pre-Education Program Director, always knew she would be a teacher.

“It started when I got a chalkboard for Christmas when I was 4. I would make my siblings sit down and I would teach them at the chalkboard,” recalled Lanzon, the fifth of eight children, with a laugh. “My first formal experience was teaching catechism to adults with intellectual disabilities when I was 15. My next experience teaching children was when I was 16 and I coached a 6th grade cheerleading team. Those two experiences had me hooked on education.”

A native of Romulus, Lanzon, a single mom to 23-year-old daughter Colette, recently moved from Dundee to Weatogue, CT. She is now the Assistant Professor in Residence in the Department of Public Health Sciences, Child and Family Studies at UConn Health in Farmington, CT.

An alumnus of Romulus High School, Lanzon attended HFC (then Henry Ford Community College) for a year before transferring to Eastern Michigan University to study secondary education.

“HFC provided me with the opportunity to catch up with the necessary academic skills I needed to transfer and be successful at the university level,” said Lanzon.

At EMU, Lanzon earned her bachelor’s degree in Communications and Theater Arts. She minored in English, Language, and Literature. She also earned her secondary teaching certification at EMU. She went on to earn both her master’s degree in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education and her Ed.S. in Educational Administration and Leadership from Florida State University. Lanzon earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in Educational Psychology from Wayne State University.

Proving the best educational experiences possible

Lanzon has been in education for 30 years. For four years, she taught English, Literature, and Reading in the Willow Run Community Schools at the middle and high school levels. She was the newspaper advisor, cheerleading coach, union representative, wrote and directed a high school play, and collaborated on restructuring projects with the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. For three years, she was the assistant principal at what was then Holland West Middle School. For an additional year, she was the principal at White Cloud Middle School.

She left White Cloud to return to her HFC roots in 1999. At first, she was a psychology instructor and worked with the Pre-Education program, teaching educational psychology and contributing to education advisory boards. In 2014, she became the Pre-Education program director, a position she held until her recent retirement.

When asked what she enjoyed about teaching at the College, Lanzon answered, “I always wanted to help teachers get better at teaching. The position offered me the opportunity to teach educational psychology. It transitioned me into creating curriculum for educators that prepared them for university coursework and student teaching. There’s a lot of positive energy when you work with teachers. They’re extremely excited, creative, and they love their field. It’s amazing how their energy transferred to increasing my energy and motivation to provide them with the best professional experiences possible. I have loved being a part of their professional growth.”

Love and support from the HFC community

During her first month at HFC, she contracted transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder in which there is inflammation of both sides on one section of the spinal cord. It took away Lanzon’s ability to walk independently and shook the foundation of her life. Since she was only one month into the job, Lanzon was worried that she would lose her position. Her worries were in vain, because she received a lot of support from her peers at the College, going as high up as HFC President Emeritus Dr. Andrew A. Mazzara and HFC Federation of Teachers, Local 1650 President John McDonald.

“The best thing about working at the College was the support from coworkers, students, administration, and the union. The faculty member I replaced, Rebecca Horvath, finished out my semester. Colleagues I had just met visited me at home and at the hospital,” said Lanzon. “When you lose your ability to walk, you believe your life is over. To have all these people say to me, ‘Your life is not over. You’re going to keep your job. You’re going to continue on as the professional you were trained to be’ meant everything to me. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to support my daughter, who was 2 at the time. I was afraid I would end up on disability at 33. All of those fears were for naught. The College had my back. These types of accolades really spoke highly of who I was working with. I remember (then-Human Resources Director) Dr. Sally Barnett calling. She said, ‘Don’t worry about anything else. We just want you to get better and get back to work to do what we hired you to do.’ That level of caring is what has attracted me and kept me serving the College for 22 years.”

She continued: “I loved the kindness of the students. As a person who has a disability, my students have always been supportive and helpful. I’ve consistently had people assist me with various events. Campus Safety walked me out to my car when it was snowy and icy. Facilities Services would carry heavy items to my office and to events for me. Another thing that was very good for me is I’ve made some exceptional friends who’ve been my colleagues and coworkers for 22 years. And it’s been a wonderful experience for me to learn about the different types of socioeconomic marginalization and ethnic diversity the College provided me with. It’s been a great experience for me.”

“It was the perfect spot for me”

Many of Lanzon’s students were single moms, which endeared Lanzon to them; she knew the struggles they faced as a student on top of their responsibilities as a parent.

“I loved working in a diverse community. It’s where I feel most at ease. HFC offered me that. I enjoyed helping out future teachers who were first-generation college students just like I was at 18. I enjoyed providing support to parents trying to provide their families with a better life by getting educated. For me, education is the great equalizer. I wanted to see people who have goals and dreams reach them by getting an education,” she said.

Lanzon is proud of many of her former students. One is a professor at the University of Maryland in College Park, MD. Another graduated from Harvard Medical School in Boston and is now a physician in the Metro Detroit area. Many of her former students are teachers and administrators in the Metro Detroit area. One, Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, is a former state representative and is now the lead government affairs representative for the UAW at the state level.

As for the benefits of working at HFC, Lanzon elaborated on the professional growth HFC provided her.

“I’ve presented at conferences, both nationally and internationally. HFC has supported each educational endeavor I undertook. It can’t get better than that,” explained Lanzon. “I don’t think there’s a college with better staff support than HFC. There were technology grants for me to create an industry-standard education classroom, there was conference money for myself and for my students. You have to be the one to take the initiative and utilize them. I’ve presented at some amazing conferences because I had support from HFC. I never came up with an idea I never got help for. That was one of the huge benefits of working there. I like to create courses, seminars, and events for students to attend. It was the perfect spot for me.”

"It has been an honor and a privilege to work with Dr. Patricia Lanzon. Patricia brings energy, passion, and unwavering support to her students every day. Under her leadership, the Pre-Education program has grown. She is a colleague and friend whom I will miss dearly," said Dr. Susan Shunkwiler, Dean of the HFC School of Health and Human Services.

Lanzon decided to retire from HFC and take a position at UConn Health to work in early childhood disabilities studies and participate in research opportunities at the university level.

“An early retirement gives me the opportunity to spend the next 15 years of my career using the expertise I gained from my PhD. I want to grow. I want to contribute more,” she said. “I could not be prouder to say that I attended HFC and that I retired from HFC. It’s been an amazing ride. Looking back on 30 years, I wouldn’t trade them for anything, and I wouldn’t change anything. Each step in my career helped me understand the importance of education on a deeper level. I don’t know many people who can say they’ve retired and have an opportunity at another career. I’m blessed.”