Remembering Patricia Reich: How Coaching Came to the Business School Space

The coaching world lost a beautiful presence and powerful voice with the passing of Patricia Reich this past week.

I first met Patricia in the early 2000s at a careers conference. She made such an impression on me at the time—engaging, thoughtful, sharp as a tack, impeccably dressed, and that gorgeous red hair!

She was an early-adopter of coaching, enrolling in our career coach training program while it was still in its infancy in 2003. Fast forward to 2008, and I received a phone call from her. The gist of it went something like this:

  • Patricia: “Susan, I’m now at Georgetown University at their business school. I want to talk to you about doing some coach training here.”
  • Susan [with some trepidation]: “Sounds interesting, Patricia, but I know nothing about the MBA space.” 
  • Patricia [calmly confident]: “That’s okay, Susan—you know coaching. I know the MBA world. I’ll guide you.”

And guide me she did. Not long after that, her Associate Dean Doreen Amorosa and I presented at MBA CSEA on the success that Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business had experienced by adding coaching to its career services approach.

With much credit to Patricia’s vision, 10+ years later, business schools around the world have followed that lead. She integrated coaching in her most recent role, as well, while serving as Assistant Dean and Executive Director of the Office of Career Services at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

The entire coaching industry has mushroomed because of early-adopters like Patricia, with 25,000+ ICF-credentialed coaches world-wide now. Patricia spotted the trend early–and expanded it into the many corners of her world.

Aside from her professional vision, I will most remember Patricia for her giftedness for making connection. A few years ago when we were preparing to co-present at a conference, I was going through a painful transition as an empty-nester.

Our daughters are about the same age, and for years, our professional catch-ups always started with “before we get down to business, give me the daughter update!” And so I was expressing to Patricia what a poignant and tear-filled time it had been for me to send my only child off to college half a continent away.

As she listened, off of her tongue rolled the most heartfelt and apropos words: “A mother’s tears water the garden of her child’s life.” That phrase soaked my soul with comfort.

Surely there are tears now being shed by the many, many lives she touched. And I trust that they will water and grow something significant and beautiful, in remembrance of Patricia.

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