Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In memory of Pat Sloan...

Monday I got word that my dear friend, business partner and mentor Pat Sloan passed away over the weekend.

Our lives first crossed at Pier 1 Imports, where she was my supervisor in the marketing/advertising department. We all had nicknames (I was Ralph) and for some reason, lost to my memory, she was dubbed "Patsy Bob." She possessed an infectious smile and enthusiastic approach to all challenges.

We both eventually left but stayed in touch. At the reception for one of her daughters' wedding, she said she was ready for a new challenge (this was around 1994). I said there was this new thing called the world wide web...

We positioned ourselves as web designers (back then if you knew what HTML stood for, you could call yourself a web designer), and landed Michaels Stores as our first client. We did all of our initial presentations on layout pads in marker and somehow beat out the Richards Group, probably because we had no idea how to price ourselves. Since Pat was a much better designer than I, my role morphed into that of technical support, although for some of the really heavy coding, we pulled in Matt Tomlinson, an amazingly bright TCU student.

Pat's backyard guest house office became our command headquarters. Her dog Bosley was appointed office manager. Much of what I know about project planning I learned from her. She included everything when bidding a job. 

My youngest son, Edward (in preschool at the time) loved to visit Pat because she had a never-ending supply of exotic pens she would generously give him.

The Michaels gig lasted about 5 years, during which time we were responsible for all creative and technical support on the site. We did some amazingly fun stuff: store locator, on-line greeting cards, coloring books, midi-jukeboxes, holiday games -- all long before this type of thing was common. When they finally saw the value of the site and took it in-house, they hired 47 people to do the work the 3 of us had done.

My favorite quote from those days came from something that became a bit of a in-joke. A client once asked her about some technical issue and she replied, "We can do that, can't you Ron?"

After Michaels, we worked on a variety of other small projects, but the first dot-com bubble was drawing to a close. When the bubble burst, new work got increasingly hard to find. I took a position in Bell Helicopter's eBusiness group and Pat re-focused her talents on print advertising. We continued to stay in touch, although our schedules and respective family responsibilities made those get-togethers less frequent.

The last several years of Pat's life she taught graphic design at TCU, where she was a popular lecturer. Despite ongoing health issues she never seemed to loose her sunny outlook. The academic world has lost a great source of wisdom.

Her design sense was a reflection of her personality: witty, stylish, and full of fun.

Good night, Patsy Bob. We'll miss you.