Getting to Know UCO’s 21st President

Patti Neuhold will become the 21st president of the University of Central Oklahoma when current president Don Betz retires on June 30. News stories and press releases have noted her strong leadership skills and that she is currently UCO’s Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer, but none have discussed who she is outside of work. The Vista’s reporter, Madison Bolton, sat down with Neuhold to discuss her beginnings, academic journey, hobbies and more. Her responses have the possibility to give students, faculty and staff insight into their new president before she officially takes office July 1.

What is your best childhood memory?

“I have to start by saying, I have so many that it’s hard to pick one. I had a terrific childhood. If I had to pick the thing that rises to the top for me right now, it’s playing in the neighborhood with all my friends until dark. Back in the day I was allowed to run lose for hours on end because, everybody knew each other in the neighborhood. It was kind of like controlled independence.”

Neuhold was born in Naperville, Illinois, a town right next to Lisle, Illinois, where she was raised. Neuhold’s father was an entrepreneur and had a desire to own his own business, so in the 5th grade she moved to Wichita, Kansas, for a year and then Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the family has been ever since.

Where did you attend college?

“I got my bachelor’s from Oklahoma Christian [University] and I got my master’s degree from the University of Tulsa. My bachelor’s is in psychology and management, and my masters is in organizational psychology.”

What led you to receive these degrees?

“I was always fascinated with what made people tick and psychology was just so fascinating to me. To learn how the mind works and how personality manifests itself in what we do, how we think and how we feel. So, when I found that there was a master’s degree in something that combined my passion for psychology and business, I decided in my bachelor’s program to see if I could have a minor in management along with my major in psychology. This was something they didn’t have at the time, so it was a special request.”

Going back to your college years did you ever think you’d be where you are now?

“No way! If someone told me this is where I would be, I would be floored; I would’ve been in disbelief. When you do organizational psychology you’re not thinking about that end result, I think. You’re thinking about being inside of an organization and trying to understand the people inside the organization. But, it has been an exceptionally helpful path for me to have that understanding of people as I’ve grown in my career.”

How do you spend your free time?

“This is a very unsung answer, but reading and writing for my dissertation. I am a candidate in a Ph.D. program right now. So, all the reading I do right now is not for fun, it’s all for research. I am three years in and I’m in my final year, so I should be finishing up this year.”

What do you feel most proud of?

“That’s easy: my son. I have a 19-year-old son and he is such a sweet, fun, good person. He’s just my pride and joy.”

Patti’s son has been playing hockey for 11 years and for eight of those years has been playing at a competitive travel level. For the past two years he has been playing hockey in Atlanta, Georgia, where he lives with a host family.

What is your favorite music?

“Anything I can sing along with. I love music and harmony of all kinds. I like anything from the lounge music of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to country music, show tunes, 80s music, all kinds. I love it all!”

Neuhold also enjoys live music as well. She loves to attend performances put on by the University of Central Oklahoma at the Jazz Lab, Mitchell Hall and the Academy of Contemporary Music performance lab downtown. She even mentioned she will be attending the P!nk concert in Oklahoma City later this month.

If you could travel anywhere where would you go and why?

“That is a tough one… I have been to Paris, France, a couple times and I absolutely loved it. So, I have to say I would go back to Paris. There are other places I would go as well, but I think Paris is a number one spot for me. Sometimes you just feel a connection to a place, to a city, and Paris is just one of those.”

According to Neuhold, if she could explore somewhere new it would probably be Ireland. But Paris has always been number one for her, she loves everything about it: the fashion, art work, history, the pace, architecture and the café experience.

Neuhold even has a minor in French and said it helped her a lot with the language barrier when visiting.

If you could only keep five possessions, what would they be?

“My grandmother’s piano. She left me her 120-year-old grand piano and I love playing that; it’s like my connection to her. Boxes of photos, letters from friends and family, and sentimental jewelry.”

She also said she would include her dogs in that list. Neuhold owns a miniature schnauzer named Idgie (named after Idgie Threadgoode in the book Fried Green Tomatoes) and a shih tzu named Poppi.

Who has made the most impact on you and why?

“I’ve had so many people who have influenced my life, but I would be remiss not to say it’s my parents. Because they instilled my core values in me, they were good role models for how to treat people and how to respect yourself, and they provided a really good balance of encouragement and discipline throughout my life. I wouldn’t be who I am today without my parents.”

What Are your top three favorite books?

“‘Leadership on the Line’ by Ronald Heifetz, ‘Necessary Endings’ by Henry Cloud and ‘The Culture Code’ by Daniel Coyle.”

Neuhold said she enjoys mostly nonfiction but there are times when fiction books peak her interest. Usually when they’re about thrillers or mysteries.

“Where you’re trying to figure out who’s doing what and what it would take to get the next step, I like to solve problems even when I am reading about them.”

What skills would you like to improve?

“I would say my piano skills. I currently play piano to unwind, slow down, take time to myself and accompany my singing. I would love to play great piano! I’ve listened to several of the piano instructors here on campus like, Sally Pollock, who are just so truly gifted. I’d love to have a tenth of their talent. I’d also like to improve my drawing skills; I enjoy drawing!”

Neuhold said she comes from an artistic family. Her mother was an artist, her father and grandparents were talented musicians, and all of her family members sing as well.

All throughout high school Neuhold was in show choir and at least five musicals. She carried on her artistic talents in college at Oklahoma Christian University, being a part of the freshman variety show and directing her club through Spring Sing her senior year. She even grew up singing at weddings and funerals of close family and friends.

What does a perfect day look like to you?

“I’d say brunch with my friends, walking my dogs and just relaxing. Actually, not having to do homework would be ideal! Now, when I say relax, it just means doing whatever I want to do when I want to do it. So that could be running errands, watching a movie at home or cooking.”

Brunch is Neuhold’s favorite. When asked where she would go get brunch she said Hatched, Café Kacao or Neighborhood Jam.

What goals would you like to accomplish during your presidency?

“Overall, I want to leave UCO better than I found it. I want people to be proud to work here and attend school here. We have such a powerful reservoir of knowledge, experience, ideas. I intend to tap into that every chance that I get. I want to expand our innovative thinking into innovative action across the university.”


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