College Women's Association of Japan
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Overseas Member Spotlight with Patty Collins

Years ago, when a member left Japan, she essentially left CWAJ. She kept in touch with friends and hoped to get back for a visit. Some purchased Print Show catalogues from afar or asked a friend to do so for her. Some donated every year; some came back to visit. But for many, CWAJ became a treasured memory.  

In the early 2000s, while evaluating membership trends and needs, the Board created an Overseas Membership (OM) category. In 2006, they asked past President Patty Collins, now back in the U.S., to organize it, and the U.S. OM program began with five members. It slowly expanded, and, receiving heartfelt comments from returnees about how good it was to reconnect with CWAJ, Patty forged ahead. When the 60th Print Show traveled to Highfield Hall in the summer of 2016, U.S. membership shot up to 60. The numbers fluctuate year to year, but the trend is strong. The 2020 membership year proudly claimed 51 U.S. overseas members, a number of whom remotely volunteer with CWAJ programs. OM dues support the CWAJ operating budget, and many overseas members are donors.

Upon hearing from Membership in Tokyo, Patty sends a welcome message to members moving to the U.S. She sends out annual renewal reminders (many!) and updates on CWAJ programs and can put overseas members in touch with each other when they have a common project such as recent gifts of past Print Show catalogues to art museums. Overseas members may pay dues and donations with U.S. dollar checks, which Patty deposits in the U.S. bank account she opened specifically for CWAJ. At year end, she transfers the funds to the CWAJ Treasurer. Patty connects US overseas members with the US Print Show Catalogue and Products program, and she was a strong advocate for U.S. overseas members  interested in purchasing prints at the 2020 CWAJ Online Print Art Gallery, leading to vibrant overseas print sales, particularly in the U.S., and healthy support for CWAJ programs.

CWAJ members are dedicated volunteers, and Patty is imbued with that spirit. U.S. summers have been ravaged by natural disasters in recent years. A few years ago, with devastating wildfires slowly approaching and her evacuation bag packed and waiting at door, Patty calmly sent out membership renewal reminders. 

Patty arrived in Tokyo from Florida in 1993 and immediately joined CWAJ, involving herself in what was then known as Language and Education Services (LES), including English conversation groups for young college women, a week-long summer English camp for middle school students in Beppu, and a U.S. homestay orientation program for middle school boys, who were shocked to hear they had to make their own lunches. She chaired the CWAJ Lecture series on Japanese religion in 1995 and was President in 1997. Prior to coming to Japan, Patty owned and directed a preschool, and at one CWAJ luncheon, as she patiently tried to get enthusiastic members to take their seats so the anxious wait staff could serve, she wryly observed that it was easier to get four-year-old children to gather and sit down for story time. She and her husband transferred to Singapore in 2000 where she became involved with the National Museum of Singapore and happily played tour guide for visiting CWAJ friends. She also led a National Museum Study Tour back to Japan.

Patty and her husband retired to Portland, Oregon to be closer to her two sons, and soon found a second home in the woods near the White Salmon river. Patty served as a docent and docent-trainer at the Portland Japanese Garden for 10 years. She plans a trip to Japan with her two young granddaughters for late summer, with hopes that this year it will work.

After 14 years, Patty has stepped down from overseeing OM. In her letter to her successor, Silvia Wilson, she wrote of her connection with overseas members, “It is still sometimes a jolt to me to realize that I have never met in person most of these friends whom I have “known” for as many as 14 years.”