Pat McBride with her art (Courtesy of Pat McBride)

An artist for more than 40 years, Pat McBride ’81 found that her most meaningful depiction was not made to be hung and admired, but to protect human lives.

Pat came to IUP from Beaver County and initially majored in English at the recommendation of her brother, John McBride ’69. “Whatever you do, you have to be able to write,” he had said. But, while taking a course intended for art majors, Pat ended up in the Fine Arts dean’s office with her professor, John Dropcho, and signed on for art. From there, she was immersed in painting classes with Ned Wert ’58, classical drawing with James Innes, and, perhaps most memorable, laboring amid a cloud of charcoal dust while Paul Ben-Zvi yelled to his students, “Bigger, better, faster, more!” Pat said, “Often when I’m working now, those words run through my mind.”

After college, Pat married criminology graduate Larry Gleisner ’82, whom she had met at a party her junior year. When Larry took a job with the FBI, they moved to Alexandria, Virginia. Soon, Pat joined Larry at the bureau, applying at his urging for an illustrator position in the special projects division. There, she was part of a team whose members ranged from photographers to woodworkers. They would create visuals for trials (before the dawn of advanced computer graphics) as well as tools to assist with investigations, such as a golf club with a built-in microphone for surveillance. “It was a really neat, creative experience,” she said.

Her main tasks were drawing composites and touching up photos—adding or removing facial hair or glasses, for example—to keep up with the changing appearance of at-large criminals.

Pat McBride with her FBI work from the '80s

In the spring of 1984, Christopher Wilder, known as the Beauty Queen Killer, was wanted for abducting and killing several young women in a cross-country spree, although he was also a suspect in many other brutal murders dating to his teenage years. In the FBI’s photos, Wilder had a beard; Pat’s task was to recreate his likeness without one.

“He was posing as a photographer and luring these young women with a promise of modeling contracts and that sort of thing,” Pat said. “I thought, ‘Man, if I could nail this [likeness] to save even one person . . . ’”

After Wilder was killed that April in a struggle with New Hampshire police, no new photographs surfaced, and Pat was left to wonder how close to reality her illustration had come.

When Larry became a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, he and Pat left the DC area and had two children, Carolyn and Matt. Larry’s work required frequent moves, and Pat would get involved in the local art scene and sometimes take on picture-framing jobs to help get her own paintings framed.

After they settled in Pinehurst, North Carolina, Pat joined the artists at Eye Candy Art Gallery & Framing in nearby Southern Pines and began painting out of a “real-life studio” above the gallery.

Recently, she was selected as a featured artist for a plein air festival near the coast, and in the fall, she’ll have a two-woman show. On the 70th anniversary of the FBI’s Most Wanted, Pat received a commemorative coin for her contributions in the special projects division.

Eventually, she indulged in an online search for images of Christopher Wilder. She found that her illustration had been “dead-on.”

“I came across a photo, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s him,’” she said.

“I always wondered if I got it and if I helped anybody,” she said. “I never heard that, but at least I did finally get to see.”

Learn more about Pat’s art at

—Elaine Jacobs Smith