'I am CGCC' Pat Rawson
You could say that Pat Rawson has had the luck of the Irish at times in his life. Back in 1958, after immigrating at the age of seven to the United States, Rawson - along with his mother and five siblings - had the uncommon fortune of being reunited with his father on the nationally broadcast show, "It Could Be You." He then grew up amid a robust, growing Irish-Catholic family, which included another five siblings who were born in the states. However, immersed in such a big family, Rawson quickly learned not to rely on luck alone to get him by in life. He grew up learning the importance of faith, family and community, plus the value of having a strong work ethic. He learned not to take anything for granted - not his family, not his education, not his community, and not his country.
Rawson spent most of youth in Sunnyvale, Calif., after which he left to pursue a number of degrees including a bachelor's in philosophy from Don Bosco College in New Jersey, a master's in divinity from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., his teaching credential from San Jose University, plus another master’s degree, this time in social work, from Portland State University. Along the way, he married his true love, Becki, and became the proud father of two girls and two boys. Present at all four of their births, he says those moments were the most memorable in his life.
But there's no doubt that Rawson's entire life has been packed with many other memorable experiences, everything from paddling from The Dalles to the Pacific Ocean in his sea kayak to living in service to others. In 1989, he was hired by Columbia Gorge Community College (CGCC) to teach ESL (English as a Second Language), then eventually transitioned into becoming a math teacher, the position he currently holds at the college. Over the course of those 25 years, he’s built a reputation for supporting countless students in their efforts to achieve academic dreams. In particular, he’s made it a sort of mission to shepherd many students who've moved to the U.S. from another country - just like he once did.
"I've always found it extremely rewarding to work with immigrant students because I, too, am an immigrant and feel sincere compassion for anyone who is trying to adjust to a new culture," says Rawson, whose fluency in Spanish and experiences in Mexico and Honduras have been handy in terms of relating to such students and their needs. "There are so many hard working students at this college, but it's so impressive when migrant workers work all day in the fields and then show up for their college classes, so they can improve both themselves and the lives of their families."
In addition to teaching and inspiring CGCC students, Rawson has also drawn upon his deep respect for Catholicism and Buddhism. From these faiths, he's really come to believe in nurturing "the whole person," be it a student or anyone else in his large circle of care. For him, that's meant working with other community members to create fuller, richer lives through St. Francis House, an afterschool youth center in Odell for migrant farm worker children ages 7-17. It’s also meant sitting alongside local Hospice patients, listening with the heart and not just the mind, offering comfort, sharing kind words, and providing solace to the families experiencing loss and grief. And it's even meant lifting up crowds, striking up invigorating Irish melodies with local band Barley Draught, which plays gigs throughout the gorge region.
Whatever I'm doing, whether it's teaching, volunteering in the community, performing with the band, or just being a good husband, father and friend, I believe in service and giving back in a way that nurtures compassion, kindness and a reverence for life," Rawson says. "I always aim to have a consistent ethic that is like a 'seamless garment,' honoring the idea that all life is precious. It's not just a way to serve, but, for me, it's the most fulfilling way to live."
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