Paving the road for women in athletics


In thinking about Dr. Pat Zezula, the first thing that comes to mind was her dedication to providing a good learning experience for the students and one who cared deeply for the well-being of Huntington University. Her leadership was very evident in many areas of campus and within the physical education profession.

Pat started her university teaching career upon graduation from Huntington College in 1969 when she was hired as an instructor in the Department of Physical Education. She retired in 2006 after 37 years of service. On Feb. 18, 2013, she passed away at Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Through the first 15 years of her career, she served the university as a head coach in each of the women's sports offered at the time. In 1982, she was promoted to athletic director, giving her the distinction of becoming the first female intercollegiate athletic director in Indiana. She progressively moved up through the professor ranks becoming a full professor in 1990.

Colleagues of other colleges and universities throughout the state of Indiana and Midwest recognized Pat for her commitment, dedication and leadership in the promotion of the physical education profession.

Among the many awards bestowed upon her by the state professional association, IAHPERD (Indiana Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance), was The Legacy Award, the highest award from the organization, which was given to Pat in 2008. According to the association, "The Legacy Award is designed to recognize persons who have given long and distinguished service to the Association. … (It recognizes) persons who have left a legacy, a benchmark, or a standard in professional service, scholarship, and leadership." Pat truly represented the qualities and characteristics of this award.

Having the opportunity to work with Pat for years, I observed her dedication to the students while they were students and continuing after their graduations. Former students continued to contact Pat for advice and share their appreciation for her active interest and involvement in their educations and development as young professionals.

Since her passing, the department has received emails from former students expressing their sympathy while sharing their memories of a caring professor that helped impact their lives.

Although many hours were spent in the commitments she had made to the university and her profession, family was always at the core of her thoughts. From her husband, Harry, to her son, Josh, and daughter-in-law, Bethany, to grandchildren, her mom, sisters and extended family, she was always sharing stories and the joys she cherished from those memories.

Many people will remember Pat's interest in growing flowers, creating flower décor, buying and selling antiques and sharing her talents and interests through handcrafted items exhibited at "Pat Zezula and Friends" weekend shows.

Huntington University colleagues will remember her dedication to students, giving her best in everything she did. They will cherish the role she played and the legacy she left for HU women in athletics.

Taking a walk down the halls of the Merillat Complex, one can see the era of time that Pat represents through the pictures on the walls and the rose that was placed on the corner of her Hall of Fame photo. She was loved by many, and will truly be missed.