A Variety of Experiences – Pamela Bussey ’79

A Variety of Experiences – Pamela Bussey ’79

Interviewed by Mateo Vazquez ’21 

MV: What were you involved with at Trinity?

PB: When I was there, which was 1975 to 1979, it was a much smaller community. I was involved with TCB (Trinity Coalition of Blacks). And I was also the president of the Trinity Coalition of Black Women. It was important for me to be involved with the surrounding community, so I tutored at one of the local schools and I was involved with UACO (Upper Albany Community Organization) which was in the north end of Hartford which was a primarily African-American community.

MV: So you got to work within the community and help out with tutoring as well?

PB: Absolutely. College should be about having a variety of experiences. You’re there to study, but if you don’t broaden your experiences then I think you’re missing out. In spring semester of my junior year, I studied away at American University’s Washington Urban Semester program.

MV: You were really involved. I love hearing that community part. My freshman seminar was a two semester program where we did community service work within the non-profits in Hartford.

PB: It really gives you a greater appreciation of how lucky you are and how grateful we should all be that we are given an opportunity that a lot of people don’t get. Growing up in Philadelphia, I felt I had a responsibility to share my skills and my knowledge with the greater or the surrounding community. That’s how I’ve lived my life.

MV: So how did you transition from Trinity to an assistant buyers position?

PB: My senior year at Trinity I applied to various law schools. And did not get into any of them. Oh my gosh. It was probably the first time in my academic career that I had not succeeded at something. So I went back home to Philadelphia and applied for a position as an assistant buyer at John Wanamaker and got it. Then, in an interesting twist of fate, I reapplied to one of the schools that rejected me the year before, which was Temple University. I had a personal interview, and did my best to dazzle them. That’s why I got in the second time. The summer after my first year I went to the University  of Ghana Law School where Temple had an exchange program. I had a blast there! There were students who hailed from all over the world as well as Trinity students from Ghana who were home for the summer, and I became friendly with so many.

MV: What kind of program did the law school entail?

PB: When I went to the University of Ghana, I was interested in comparative analysis. Trying to understand the differences between our system of law and that of Ghana as a former British colony, as well as African traditional law. And, honestly, it was a way for me to increase my GPA because I had regrettably failed Civil Procedure and I had to take Civil Procedure over, but it was worth it. It could have been worse!

MV: After law school did you end up practicing law? I saw you had taken the Pennsylvania Bar?

PB: YesI had to take the bar exam 3 times, I think, before I finally passed it. I was in good company because the late John F. Kennedy Junior didn’t pass the New York bar the first time either. Eventually I expanded my search, and became an insurance adjuster for State Farm, handling liability claims.

That was part of what I did  in Pennsylvania where I handled slips and falls, which are personal injury claims. For a time, I had a law practice with Temple law classmates -Battle Bussey & Garrett, where I practiced family law and personal injury.  From my time as an insurance adjuster, I became proficient in handling homeowner and commercial claims.

I approached my supervisor at the time because I wanted to go on what’s called Storm Duty, which involved traveling to areas in the US where there had been a natural disaster, like a hail storm or a tornado. I think I surprised him, because he had a certain perception of me as a black female lawyer. But the first place I went on Storm Duty was Austin, TX, where there had been a hail storm. I spent six weeks there, and acquitted myself quite well. I still have some of the letters from homeowners I assisted. My supervisor looked at me differently after that! I continued doing that after I moved to Florida. About ten years ago now we had three hurricanes that hit central Florida. They opened a hurricane mediation center where I was able to put my skills and expertise to work as a Florida certified Arbitrator and Mediator.I own a business, Bussey Arbitration and Mediation Services, LLC.

MV: Do you find yourself using your political science or international cultural studies degree?

PB: Yes, because I was a double major, political science and intercultural studies. My father was in the military, so at a young age I got to live everywhere, including Germany. It’s probably why I love to travel. But poli sci came into play a lot for me in the last political cycle. In 2017 I was appointed to the Orlando Sentinel Advisory Opinion Board and I wrote some articles about some of the controversial topics, like the Charlottesville incident and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee. My poli sci and legal backgrounds were useful for that. It’s an exciting time for someone like myself because we’re a global society now. What happens in another part of the world impacts what happens here in the US.

MV: I agree. One of the first things we did in my public policy and law major was sit down and go through the Constitution.

PB: Then you’re already heads and tails above most people who either have never seen it don’t understand how it works and understand how the amendments came into being. Being a poli sci major gives you a basic understanding of how things are supposed to happen.

MV: Was there any class in particular that stood out to you?

PB: There was a professor James Miller who taught in the Intercultural Studies program who included a diverse selection of books and selections from authors of color that was very enriching to the courses he taught. My Trinity memories are good. I was unique I think in that I didn’t just focus on what was happening on campus but also got involved off campus.

MV: I’m in a minority myself and I think that helped me get into Hartford and understand the city a lot better.

PB: My perspective is that because we are a minority we bring different skills and a different mindset to the whole college experience. Part of the experience is to figure out what you want to do and how to be true to yourself. And how to balance that with the expectations of your family and your community.

MV: I appreciate that perspective. Can you tell me more about RAPID?

PB: Yes, I am on the Board of Directors and RAPID stands for Reliable Advocacy for People with Intellectual Disabilities. I have a friend who’s Haitian and her daughter has some type of learning disability that was never properly diagnosed. Her daughter is about 30 now and she’s is concerned about what will happen to her when she and her husband die. She doesn’t think it’s her son’s responsibility to take care of his sister. She initially created a foundation. Later, along with some other parents that she met through activities like the Special Olympics, RAPID, a non profit was created and I’ve enjoyed teaching them and sharing with them about my travels. My life has been enriched because of my association with them.