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Pat Frank recognized for blazing a trail decades ago at the University of Florida

The festive sounds from the building next door echoed into her room at the all-girls boarding school.

She could hear the fun, but she could do no more. The nuns wouldn't have it.

"There was a USO next door to the convent and I could hear all this wonderful music," Hillsborough Clerk of the Court Pat Frank said as she reminisced on her formative years. "But do you think I could set one foot out of that place? No way."

When it came time to go to college, Frank set her sights on the University of Virginia and Smith College. But with little guidance from her school and a father who had only a sixth-grade education, she lacked the needed direction to meet application deadlines.

So Frank decided to attend the University of Florida. In 1947, she would become one of the first women to attend the former all-boys college, but she had no trepidation about being a pioneer. Having missed out on the USO parties, she was more than ready for the experience.

"All I know is I didn't have a problem with (being one of the first coeds)," Frank said wryly. "It sounded good to me."

And so began her path to becoming a member of the university's prestigious Florida Blue Key student honor society. It didn't end until nearly 67 years after she enrolled, but it's not because Frank wasn't worthy.

As a Florida freshman, she ran for a student government position. In high school, she served as the student government president in her junior and senior years, so she wasn't daunted with the idea of being active at UF, even if she was one of the few women at the college.

She ran for the secretary of the treasury and put her name on the ballot as "Patsy Collier."

"My given name was Patricia and my father's name was Paul but everybody called him, 'Pat,' " Frank explained recently. "So to distinguish from him, I ran as 'Patsy.' But I later dropped the 'sy,' because I never wanted to be known as a 'patsy.' "

Frank says her opponent was a cheerleader who was as "cute as a button" and frequently campaigned by visiting the boys inside their dorms.

"I wasn't about to step foot inside a man's dorm," Frank said. "I think it cost her votes."

Frank won, launching an active tenure at the university. She would end up serving as one of the leaders of a campus political party. She co-hosted a political show on the local radio station, WGGG, and she wrote movie reviews for the school paper. She also served as chairwoman of the homecoming parade one year, which she says was a "big deal."

In 1951, the University of Florida student hall of fame honored Frank with induction. But she never got into Blue Key, a society so prestigious it's considered an important stepping stone for Gators with political aspirations.

In fact, Frank never even applied. At the time, the society only accepted men and no one questioned that decision. Her boyfriend was president of Blue Key and that was enough for her.

Asked who her boyfriend was at the time, Frank chuckled and said, "Oh my gosh, I better not say."

Frank moved on to a distinctive career in public service, winning election to the Hillsborough County School Board, the state House, state Senate, and the Hillsborough County Commission.

She has served as Clerk of the Court since 2004.

Frank finally received her Blue Key pin this year, along with other honorary members including Gov. Rick Scott. She didn't chat with the governor about the shared distinction.

"I don't know if he saw my Charlie Crist bumper sticker," Frank said. "I told them there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that I had to wait this long. The good news is that I'm not getting it posthumously."

Actually, I think the good news is that Frank remains as spry and energetic and funny as she was when she walked onto the University of Florida campus in 1947.

That's all I'm saying.

Pat Frank recognized for blazing a trail decades ago at the University of Florida 05/30/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 30, 2014 12:46pm]
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