The Man Behind the Emails: Who is Patrick Hite?
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 13:03
“Come in,” he says when he hears the knock on the door to his second floor office in the Memorial Health Center. “Let me finish this quick little email.” He taps away at the desktop computer at the large wooden desk at the back of his office. The room is filled with family photos of his wife Janice and his three grown children, Monica, Ryan and Colleen, along with trinkets-mementos from his stint in the Navy and various service awards that he has won through SMU and the Rotary Club of Plano. His bookshelf is filled with colorfully bound books and binders, carefully organized by topic and year. Many students at SMU may know his name, but few truly know who Patrick Hite is.
“All I know is that I get his emails pretty much every day and the flu shot one stands out in my mind,” said SMU junior Katie Bernet. “Everybody says they get too many emails — they’re all deleted.”
“He sends a lot of emails, but they’re all informative,” said SMU freshman Jackie Sweeney. “[Sometimes] they’re kind of annoying.”
The tapping stops as he finishes his email and triumphantly presses the send button. He turns around and flashes a warm grin. Piles of papers are stacked carefully in front of him, organized in neat fashion with binder clips. His crisp blue button down accentuates the color of his grey-blue eyes that sit calmly behind his gold-framed glasses. His graying hair is combed neatly to the side to complete his finished look.
Hite is so much more than the name behind the emails — he’s a dedicated family man with strong Midwestern roots, and a service-oriented leader who has devoted much of his life to helping others. He goes by Patrick, but only at the workplace and on his emails — Pat is what his friends and family call him.
“I usually have Patrick on there because my whole life they always thought I was a woman. Healthcare is dominated by females, so they always assumed I was a ‘she’ instead of a ‘he’,” said Hite. “I sign everything by Patrick again so they don’t make a mistake.” Calling him detail-oriented would be an understatement.
In the little free time that he has, Hite enjoys playing golf and volunteering at Christ United Methodist Church near his house in Allen. He and his wife, a dental hygienist, have been active members there since 1998. He is also the membership chair at the Rotary Club of Plano Sunrise. Despite his fondness for email, Hite is still old fashioned. He prefers hand-written notes to electronic ones and plans to go to the library to pick up the proper forms in order to do his daughter’s taxes.
“I can download them on here, but if you download them at home, you use up all your printer cartridges,” he says. “You can pick them up for free at the library, which is right down the way.”
Those who work with Hite only have nice things to say about him. “He comes from a very skilled background. He is a very hands on and very involved manager in here in every facet of the health center- very accessible to his staff, very respected,” said Lori Antoine, the testing coordinator for the Counseling and Psychiatric Services department in the health center. “He has a long history here. He’s a great person. I really enjoy working with him.”
Heading into his 17th year as the director of the SMU Memorial Health Center, Pat Hite has an enormous amount of responsibility. His day largely consists of paperwork and meetings, but he estimates he only spends about 25 percent of that time on his email, although he claims to gets close to 200 a day.
“Probably 80 percent of those you just delete,” he says almost in unison with the ping of his inbox. And yes, he has gotten his flu shot, so he practices what he preaches. “I’ve probably had a flu shot every year since the late 70s when they first came out,” he says confidently.
Hite wasn’t always the model example though-he left college after only completing his freshman year. “I absolutely hated it,” he said. Soon after, like many other young men who were single and without a family, he enlisted to serve in the Vietnam War. After a four-year stint in the Navy that took him all around the world, including Vietnam, Hite settled back in to school at the University of Indiana to finish his degree.
He was close to studying business in graduate school, but decided to get his master’s in healthcare administration instead. “In the '60s when President [Lyndon B.] Johnson was president, they passed Medicare and Medicaid and that was revolutionary, almost like the Obamacare that we have now,” said Hite. His email pings as he receives a new message in his inbox, but he ignores it and continues talking. “Healthcare was a booming industry back then like it is now.”
After more than 20 years in various management positions in hospitals throughout the country, Hite was contacted in 1996 by SMU about the opening at the Memorial Health Center. The vice president of student affairs called to see if he would interview for the job. He wasn’t that interested but, "After about six months, lo and behold, I decided to come over here and try it,” he said.