Renee Chenault Fattah (left) and Pat Gatling at the Kennedy Summer School conference in New Ross, Ireland

Credit: Cameron Chanault

A First-Year Friendship Lasts Forever

They met first day of freshman year, fall 1975. Their memories of that initial encounter differ, but the outcome—an enduring friendship of 50 years—remains the same.

Patricia Gatling, A&S '79, recalls seeing Renee Chenault Fattah, A&S '79, from across the campus and rejoicing. "I saw a Black woman, she saw a Black woman, and we both said 'Yay!' because there weren't that many of us at the time," she says.

Chenault Fattah, on the other hand, says the meeting took place in the AMR 1 basement during a tour of the radio station. "Five minutes after meeting her, I knew we were going to be friends," Chenault Fattah says. "In addition to liking each other right off the bat, there was a shared common sense of who we were." It solidified later that week when Gatling was hospitalized with blood clots and Chenault Fattah visited her every day. "She was there when I needed her," Gatling says.

They credit Johns Hopkins University with nurturing creative thinking and their desire to engage in lifelong learning. The journey has taken Gatling from a law career (a criminal prosecutor in the office of the Brooklyn district attorney) to human rights work (chair of the Human Rights Commission of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Engr '64) and back to law again, in private practice. Similarly, it has taken Chenault Fattah from law to 25 years as news co-anchor at WCAU television in Philadelphia, to directing the nonprofit Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, and now to voter engagement, encouraging Pennsylvania citizens to get out to vote for Democratic candidates in November.

"I look back at my Hopkins years and they are indelibly linked to my friendship with Pat," Chenault Fattah says. "I can't separate the two. Every time I think of Hopkins memories, Pat is there."

Their bond has survived any number of challenges, both personal and political, over the past half-century. In 1978, they both slept on the Supreme Court steps overnight waiting for the decision in the "reverse discrimination" case of Allan Bakke, a white male rejected by the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine. "We just talked all night about how this was going to impact our lives," Gatling recalls. "Renee and I always shared causes. This was our first. Now it's politics and Biden and abortion rights and climate."

Both credit Hopkins with instilling the belief "that learning never stops, and we should continue to reinvent ourselves," Gatling says. "We do that for each other. We reinvent ourselves and what happens to us in life. We support each other and that keeps the relationship new."

Posted in Alumni

Tagged friends for life