“I’m from Pennsylvania.” That’s all I’d said when the gorgeous blonde sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Me, too!”

“I’m in the speech and drama department.” I got another, “Me, too!”

That smile could have stopped a war. She became my best friend right then and there, but how could I have guessed that she would also be the one who would shove me toward my true calling? Spoiler alert: It wasn’t becoming a Tony-winning actress.

We met in the living room of our dormitory during the Day #1 gathering of freshman girls, sitting several rows deep, giggling our names, and sharing the basics of our lives.

Right after “me, too,” I had this feeling I wanted to share more than the name of my hometown with Patti. As it turned out, we also shared a love of peanut butter and jelly, cheese and crackers, and cafeteria cake with orange frosting. Sounds gross, but we couldn’t get enough.

Here’s how she changed my life.

My ego had been scarred–and I mean that nun had taken a fillet knife to my confidence–by a high school English teacher who gave me a C on my essay about taking a bath. I was too na├»ve to know that warm water, lavender bubbles, and a loofah might not appeal to a Sister of St. Joseph. At least, not in a literary sense.

I swore I’d never write again unless a grade depended on it. And then Patti, who had become features editor of our college newspaper, told me I would be the new sports editor. The first female sports editor. She didn’t ask me, I don’t think. She told me.

My mind definitely said, “WTF. If Patti thinks I can do this, maybe I can.”

I won a national award for a sports features article that year and a voice in my head–a contralto like Cher–sang, “Go write, baby!”

Patti built a career as an award-winning journalist. Among other key accomplishments, she broke the fascinating backstory of Andrew Wyeth’s renowned collection The Helga Pictures. She also gently got inside the troubled mind of mass-murderer Sylvia Seegrist.

I ended up writing a lot of articles, books, and blog posts. No Tony on the mantle, but I do have paper on my bookshelves. And it means more to me than any trophy.

Patti is my mentor, my hero, and BFF.