A Cup of Chai for Pat

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Professor Patricia Symonds, known to all as Pat, passed away this week.  I graduated from college 25 years ago, but when I heard the news, I felt a tremendous loss.  Pat was such a wonderful woman who supported me academically and personally from when I first took her class on Southeast Asia at Brown. She inspired with her gentle strength and example.  She moved from Liverpool to the States, raised seven children and stepchildren, and then went back to school in her forties to complete her Bachelor’s degree, going on to do her fieldwork in Northern Thailand, where she learned to speak Hmong fluently, then earned her PhD and became a professor, all at Brown.

As for so many of her students, she was a loving mentor and source of support for me.  She encouraged me by making me her TA, patiently guided me through writing my senior honors thesis, and even gave me a job doing some editing for her. (I think as much as she needed the help, she was equally trying to find a way to give a starving student some money!) The door to her kitchen was always open for a chat and a cup of tea (Tetley round tea bags, always).  She was also one of the first people to give a vote of approval when the man I would later marry started dating, spoke eloquently (and humorously and cheekily) at our wedding, and was one of the first to phone me when my first baby was born.

It was such a shame that decades passed without seeing her, but I take solace and feel tremendously grateful that my husband and I had a chance to reunite with her and her beloved Alan at my recent 25th college reunion. She was as cheeky as ever and shared colorful stories of her experiences in life and around the globe.

Here’s a cup of chai for you, Pat– spicy and strong, just like you.  We will miss you.❤️


A Cup of Chai for Pat

Ingredients (per cup)

1 teabag of strong black tea, preferably Tetley round tea bags

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup water

slice of fresh ginger

3 freshly crushed green cardamom pods

sugar, to taste


Add tea, milk, water and spices to a saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes, to desired strength.  Sweeten to taste, then strain into your loveliest teacup. Enjoy with someone dear.




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