Marji Harris/Staff Photo Illustration
Chance meeting brings couple together at Pierce
35 years later, visit back to campus recalls their meet
November 3, 2017
Dennis and Patricia Balls stopped in recently at Pierce for a visit to see who is still at the college and what might have changed since Patricia graduated 30-plus years ago.
Then Patricia McKinney, she had one goal in mind in the 80s: get an associate’s degree in business management. The other degree — known as a “MRS degree” — that many women were getting in the early 80s had no appeal to her at all.
All Dennis Balls wanted to do at that time was visit a friend in the area. He was just laid off from General Motors in Detroit and had no job prospects on the horizon. But his friend was busy with classes, so he told Dennis to come hang out on the campus.
As fate would have it, Patricia said she was walking up the stairs leading to the cafeteria just as Dennis was starting to head down.
He said saw Patricia first and made sure that she would have to see him over her armload of books. “I just really liked her smile and wanted to get to know her better. It wasn’t until that I met her for dinner later that I realized she was a bit taller than me,” he said.
At first, Patricia said was not that impressed, it was just another guy trying to keep her from her classes. But she said stopped and they started talking.
They found that they mutually enjoyed each other’s company, she said, and she did not mind too much the distraction Dennis brought to her studies.
Some months later, on his birthday, he was called back to work at General Motors. Because she wanted to stay in Washington to finish her studies, they decided a long-distance relationship was worth the extra effort.
However, once she graduated from Pierce, she said she decided she could get her bachelor’s degree at Northwood University in Midland Michigan. She graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2013.
Patricia said they married about a year later and she made Michigan her home, continued her business career and he stayed on at General Motors.
Dennis said he will be retiring from General Motors soon and Patricia said she still has ties to the South Sound area, so they are looking forward to traveling and reconnecting with old friends.