By Caitlin Clark, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications
Mary Ruth Patranella began her career at Texas A&M University in 1939 at age 19 in the basement of the college’s poultry house, where she counted eggs for $2 a day. Sixty-one years of service later at almost 90 years old, Patranella retired in 2010 as the university’s longest-serving staff member.
The longtime employee – who was referred to as the “Google” of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences for her rich knowledge of events over the prior six decades, according to her obituary – died Jan. 28 at 99 years old.
During the course of her career at Texas A&M, Patranella worked in some capacity for every dean of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, her obituary says. Her many awards included her designation as assistant dean of agriculture and life sciences emerita by the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents.
The resolution conferring the title says that Patranella served as a clerical assistant and stenographer in poultry husbandry; secretary in landscape art; stenographer, bookkeeper and secretary in animal husbandry; administrative secretary for the director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station; executive secretary to the dean of agriculture and assistant to the dean.
Patranella worked under 15 presidents, saw the admission of the first women and African-American students and witnessed the university grow from just a few thousand students to nearly 50,000 at the time of her retirement, according to an article about her retirement in the Bryan-College Station Eagle.
“You will never meet anyone that has met her that doesn’t hold her in the highest respect,” Mark Hussey, former vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture, said in the article. “She’s truly an icon here and has meant an awful lot to [staff] she’s worked with.”
Patranella and her husband left College Station for Los Angeles during World War II, where she worked for Sears Roebuck while she waited for her husband to return from the war, but she resumed her work at Texas A&M after the couple moved back to Texas. She took a brief break in service from 1949 to 1958 to raise her children – all four graduated from the university, as well as her four grandchildren.
A Life Tribute Celebration will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Fellowship Freewill Baptist Church in Bryan. Condolences can be left at the Callaway-Jones Funeral and Cremations Centers website.
This story was originally published by Texas A&M Today.