TC alumna and Trustee Emerita Patricia “Pat” Cloherty (M.A. ‘70)—who served on the Teachers College Board of Trustees from 1995 to 2005—passed away on September 23, 2022, at the age of 80.
“Pat’s spirit and dedication will have a lasting impact on our work for many years to come,” said TC Board of Trustees Chair William D. Rueckert, a close friend who worked alongside Cloherty on the TC Board and on the Board of International House. “I am so grateful we were able to call her an alumna, a Trustee, a mentor and a friend.”
A master’s graduate in the Philosophy and Social Studies program, Cloherty’s passion for education shone through her work and philanthropy. During her support of the College spanning more than 50 years, Cloherty served as the Board of Trustee co-chair from 2001 to 2002. Among her many generous financial contributions to the College, she supported the TC Technology Project, which powered distance learning, wired facilities, and equipment upgrades in the Gottesman Libraries; student scholarships; the TC Fund, capital improvements; and the Afghanistan Education Project.
“Pat provided invaluable leadership, expertise and financial support as a steadfast champion of Teachers College for more than 50 years,” said President Thomas Bailey. “She epitomized the best of TC’s community through her innovation, commitment to service and generosity in sharing her wisdom with TC and the world.”
Born in northern California, Cloherty earned her bachelor of arts at the San Francisco College of Women. As a young woman, she worked as an assistant to Baroness Maria Von Trapp, the stepmother and guiding voice of the Trapp Family Singers of Sound of Music fame. After college, she spent two years in Brazil with the Peace Corps. A chance encounter on a train in Brazil inspired her to pursue a graduate education first at Columbia University’s School of International Affairs and then at TC, which she attended on a Ford Foundation fellowship.
She would go on to develop an esteemed professional career in private and venture equity that included executive positions as Co-Founder of Tessler & Cloherty Inc.; senior vice president, president and co-chairman of Patricof & Co. Ventures; and chairman and CEO of Delta Private Equity Partners. She served on more than 90 boards during her career, including: NYSE Euronext, Diversa Corporation, and the National Venture Capital Association.
“When I was first persuaded to work in venture capital in 1969,” Cloherty said about her work in 2013, “what interested me was the idea that it’s like Don Quixote de la Mancha. You can finance little companies against big ones, and you can win with the proper people and strategy.”
Pat provided invaluable leadership, expertise and financial support as a steadfast champion of Teachers College for more than 50 years. She epitomized the best of TC’s community through her innovation, commitment to service and generosity in sharing her wisdom with TC and the world.
Cloherty’s exceptional business acumen was recognized by multiple White House administrations. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed her as Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration, and later, in 1991, the George H.W. Bush administration appointed her chairman of an Investment Advisory Council to revamp the Small Business Investment Company program of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Cloherty would go on to serve as a pro-bono board member of the U.S. Russia Investment Fund, which had been created to support the growth of a free market economy in Russia, under the appointment of President Bill Clinton in 1995.
During her tenure in Russia, Cloherty financed more than 50 companies—including modern necessities like the nation’s first mortgage bank, first credit card-issuing bank and first bottled water company. She earned Russia’s Order of Friendship as well as a spot on Forbes Magazine’s “Midas List” of influential deal-makers.
The daughter of a logger, Cloherty described her professional career as an unexpected journey that carried its own risks. “If you see something that appeals to you, never hesitate because of the risk,” she once advised. “Never put money-making before accomplishment of the goal.”
Though she considered herself “not in the save-the-world biz,” Cloherty made a point of backing mission-driven people and business, including in biotechnology, where she helped to finance, among others, the company that produced one of the world’s first protease-inhibiting drugs for HIV/AIDS. She likened her passion for supporting meaningful issues to the lessons learned during her days as a Girl Scout: “You try to leave the campsite better than you found it,” Cloherty explained.
Described by Rueckert as having “seemingly endless stores of energy,” Cloherty also lent her expertise and time to co-founding the Committee of 200, a non-profit organization of leading women executives and entrepreneurs that supports the growth of women-owned businesses, and serving as a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Member of the Rockefeller University Council, and a Trustee of the East-West Institute, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and of Columbia University from 2005-2007. In 2007, Cloherty received the Award for Corporate Citizenship from the Kennedy Center of the Woodrow Wilson Institute for International Scholars.
Active in the Teachers College community throughout the remainder of her life, Cloherty most recently attended a regional alumni event at her home in Miami, Florida.
Cloherty is remembered fondly by her friends throughout the TC community. As Rueckert shared, “May we let the memory of Pat’s passion for just causes and belief in those she backed guide us in all of our future endeavors.”