The Birth of Patricia Claire Enterprises

From my very first year of teaching I was involved in experiential learning. It’s not that I made a conscious decision to do that; it just happened.  I was teaching a speech class along with many English classes. The Historical Society contacted me asking if my students and I might be interested in developing a pageant for their celebration of the Pierre Menard Home. Of course I said yes. They explained that they were trying to get the State of Illinois to designate funds to restore this home. Their plans seemed to be anything but definite. I immediately saw an opportunity for “real life learning”.   Within a week my small speech class was divided into groups to attack the numerous projects: Some would develop the pageant; others would do radio programs on the local station; finally there was a group who went out to speak to civic and social groups asking them to write their legislators. They tailored their speeches to the type of organization. So the way the economy would be helped was given to Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce. For the ladies groups it was all about the beauty of restoration. The final appeal in each speech was handing out the names and addresses of the representatives in the Illinois Legislature asking each person to send letters.

When the pageant group needed money to rent costumes, I approached the Historical Society. They had no money and no ideas where to get some. My students ended organizing a spaghetti dinner to fund the costumes.

The day of the pageant, I stood waiting to narrate the program. One of the officers of the Historical Society approached me saying someone wanted to meet me. It was Senator Paul Simon (This was shortly before he moved to the Senate in the Federal Government.) “So you’re the person behind all of this. I want you to know never in all my experience in this state have we received so many letters. Furthermore, what these young people have done pushes me to make certain we fund this restoration.”


At one time a flyer for a Jean Houston workshop appeared magically on my desk. It was to be in Chicago and centered around Margaret Mead and Teillhard de Chardin. I was interested in both people though I knew nothing about Jean Houston. I attended. From then on my interest in experiential learning deepened.

As I write this, so many wonderful experiences come back to me, especially some related to a class for elementary teachers. The creativity was inspiring. One of the many projects was about destruction of trees. We could read about that, but in this case, we were put inside a make believe tree. Lights were dimmed and the narrator told us of what was happening. Sounds of bull dozers became louder. We were pulled in many directions. It was as if we were the tree and we were being destroyed. I’m sorry, but no “traditional way” of teaching could ever give the impact that this type of learning provided.

So when I was assigned to teach an Organizational Communication class on our then new weekend program at SIUE, it just seemed natural to form an organization. I called it Patricia Claire Enterprises for lack of a better name, plus I was obsessed with St. Clare of Assisi at that time and was dreaming of future ventures.


Vice Presidents in The Patricia Claire Enterprises project
Carolyn, Bill and Connie

Connie Freeman

Many years later when I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, I found myself wanting to help some individuals with their projects, to promote some ventures I believed in, to share stories of the interesting people I was meeting, and to finally create a home for the many stories I was writing. Several people advised me that I had too much for one place, but I never gave up. Thus we had a second birth of Patricia Claire Enterprises, and thanks to an amazing young woman who saw the possibilities, this “umbrella” web site was born under the name PCE.

And this is what started it all….

Believe it or not I have a total DVD of this last session of SPC 303, 1984, at SIUE. On this UTube cut you will see the beginning and the ending of the class session.

It was teaching this class that really was the Birth of Patricia Claire Enterprises. It was not however, the end nor the beginning of my firm belief in experiential teaching.   For any of you who have had me as a teacher over these many years, you have a chance to see the craziness of Pat again. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure (?) of me as a teacher… this may make you grateful you didn’t!

As I re-watched the video several times, certain insights came to me. I really do talk too fast. My goodness! No wonder students had difficulty following me. While viewing the entire tape, seeing all of my students from that time brought back so many memories. I continue to wonder where all of you wonderful people are now. Should you see this or hear about it, please update me on YOU!

The other thing that came to me was how my belief at that time of the importance of the “human factor” in organizations, permeates today’s concepts. I had taken several organizational communication classes prior to teaching SPC 303. Many models, particularly the Japanese one was prominent. Efforts to move from the traditional rigid one was afloat.   As I thought about this, once again I saw that most of my life I seem to be ahead of the game, seeing the future before it happens. (Please forgive my self-indulgence here. It is not always fun to be this as you take quite a few hits from the people around you. Oh my goodness, so many memories coming back! I won’t bore you with them.) I did decide however to check with Connie Freeman, one of my vice-presidents in the class who has gone on to success in the field. She concurred that this “human factor” is operative in today’s organizations.   The media is full of articles on bringing “empathy” to the organizations as well as schools.

Finally, as I watched 50 year old Pat, she looks much different today! But beneath even more weight and gray hair, some health issues, the spirit and passion remain!