Getting to Know … Patti Reali-Santoro

Member Patti Reali-Santoro is on the Branch board, serves as secretary and has just taken on the role of Public Policy Chair. She received the Member Making a Difference Award at our annual June Dinner.

Patti grew up in Trenton, New Jersey in what was then an Italian neighborhood with her parents and three sisters, her Italian Nonna and extended family. She did ballet for 14 years and studied music and singing for about eight years and went to local Catholic schools. When it came time to extend her studies beyond high school, she chose Georgetown University in Washington, DC where she studied American Govenment and Economics and a boat load of history, English Lit and Romance languages. Her first jobs were in D.C. where she started out in journalism for the Washington Bureau of the Financial Times of London and moved on to public relations, and marketing communications for high tech companies in the communications industry. She has lived in Philadelphia, Doylestown, Jenkintown and Holland in Pennsylvania, and now she and her husband Peter call Yardley home.

Before she was married, Patti lived in Rome, Italy, where she worked for and agency of the United Nations—Food & Agriculture Organization—as an editorial consultant and writer. She speaks Italian fluently, is comfortable in French, and can get by in Spanish as well. She spoke fondly of her time living in Rome and what an interesting experience it was to live and work in a different country and culture—albeit one in which she had much familiarity having spent summers there as a child and in her teens.

Patti will be married for 28 years this coming October. She has one daughter and expects to be a grandmother next year sometime in March. The way she met her husband was fascinating. They both worked for the same cable technology company in Hatboro, PA. She was in public relations and marketing communications, while he ran the software department. She had to write an article about his technology program and they routed for opposite basketball teams during the Georgetown vs. Villanova NCAA final in 1984.

In her spare time, Patti goes to the Newtown Athletic Club for yoga and pilates, and also likes to ride her bicycle. Reading and music are also very big in her life. As to favorite books, Jane Austen and the Brontes are high on her list, and blues and jazz music as well as rock are always on her playlists. She attends concerts as frequently as the budget will allow. Patti enjoys a mix of subjects: history, fiction, mysteries, John LeCarré and Daniel Silva. Patti loves Italian cooking—her family in Italy was in various aspects of the food business and her grandmother was a world-class cook. She loves cooking Italian food for large groups.

She has a varied background and long history in a number of different professional positions. She was in journalism for six years. She was a researcher and staff writer for the Financial Times. She held press credentials for the Washington Press Corp and was a frequent attendee to the White House press room, Congressional hearings and State Department briefings. (She met Karl Rove at the 19980 presidential nominating convention when she covered the Young Republicans.)

What attracted Patti to AAUW? She very much values AAUW’s dedication to supporting women’s educational, ecomomic and health issues and overall goals for advancement of equity in many areas of life. Fran Strickberger was instrumental in introducing her to our organization. It was Fran’s husband, Hal who had seen Patti’s husband’s advertisement for computer support that brought the two couples together and subsequently they became good friends.

Patti is dedicated to learning new things, keeping up with politics and world events, keeping up with technology developments and practicing her Italian. She describes herself as a very quiet and introverted child and not naturally social, but her selection of a career in journalism and PR was a way for her to be more outgoing by asking people to talk about themselves and various topics, which helped her to be more comfortable in many difference social settings. She is happy at home, reading a book and listening to music, but just as willing to attend events and meetings with people she doesn’t know so well. As a result, she now describes herself as an “ambivert”, someone who can be extroverted and introverted at different times, depending on the circumstances.

What makes Patti happy? She loves to bring people together to share food and music and good times and to experiment with trying new recipes. She shared a very poignant story of cooking a big Thanksgiving dinner for family members and how the chicken soup she made was so perfectly reminiscent of her grandmother’s recipe that everyone just paused, sighed and remarked it was just like “Nonni’s cooking.” Needless to say, she misses her grandmother dearly. People who are ill and suffering with cancer makes her very sad.

One of her biggest pet peeves is bad grammar and usage. Right on, Patti!

How does Patti describe herself? She likes to think of herself as “no nonsense person who kicks butt when necessary” but she is really a softy at heart and very generous and loyal person, so kind of like chocolate-covered cherries—hard and crunchy on the outside and soft and tasty on the inside.

Patti has known pain and suffering. She has had a bone marrow transplant (because of leukemia), and she is a breast cancer survivor. The bone marrow transplant was “life defining.” Her fervent wish is universal healthcare for all. Her deepest and strongest wish is for the eradication of cancer. Patti knows firsthand of what she speaks.