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Professional Obituary for Patricia Searles-Kelly

Written by Leda Nath
Professor of Sociology and Criminology, UW-Whitewater

          Patricia Searles-Kelly, Professor Emeritus of Sociology,
UW-Whitewater, passed away the morning of August 26, 2019.
Patti received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and
began a career in 1982 at the University of Wisconsin at
Whitewater. She was well-loved by her colleagues and achieved
great respect as a researcher, teacher and leader for her
department.  She exhibited warmth with professionalism
through independent and collaborative work which made
significant impact in feminist sociology, and was popular
among students for her teaching methods, recognized in
her Excellence in Teaching Award presented in 1995 by the
College of Letters and Sciences.
          Patti was ahead of her time in fostering a workplace
that included flexibility for employees to balance work with
family and other non-paid work aspects of life. This was made
clear to me in 2002 when in my first weeks as a tenure-track
assistant professor, I became pregnant. She immediately
dissolved my fears and fostered a workplace of support,
including a flexible teaching schedule. Her forward-thinking
approach while Chair of the department also exhibited trust
in all her colleagues and created an open and low-stress work environment while maintaining high department expectations to achieve our many duties in whatever way served our unique personalities. Under her leadership, the department held a culture of mutual respect and support for one another. 
          Besides her leadership, she contributed greatly to the knowledge around gender and sexual violence. On the cutting edge, she provided some of the foundational work on acquaintance rape, the reform of rape law, and the feminist critique of pornography. This also included the interface between gender studies and criminology. Her research resulted in the publication of several co-authored books including Feminism and Pornography, Rape and Society: Readings on the Problem of Sexual Assault, and Crime, Justice, and Society: An Introduction to Criminology. She also co-authored countless peer-reviewed articles on feminism, gender and sexual violence in top journals including Gender and Society, Social Science Quarterly, Sociological Focus, Women Studies Quarterly, and Criminal Justice Review.  Her work informed law and society, in particular through her publications in Women's Rights Law Reporter and Law and Society. Her role was important in the evolution of feminist sociology.
          Her dedication to her research also informed her pedagogy, including her very popular gender classes, where she was on the cutting edge of transforming the concept of "sex roles" to "gender.” She also introduced focus on LGBTQ issues, and contributed greatly to the Women Studies program in the College.
          Finally, in a university department where she was the only woman for many years, she became the first tenure-track and tenured women, and remained the only one for many years. Her example paved a path for many women to follow. Today, the department reflects the gender make-up Patti would describe as balanced.
          She lived a fulfilling life in all professional regards, and personally as well. On June 3, 1990, Patti married Steve Kelly. They met while ballroom dancing in 1989. They enjoyed many happy years together, including in several Nutcracker Ballet productions in Madison, WI as the General and his Wife. 
          A visitation for family and friends will be held at CRESS FUNERAL HOME, 3610 Speedway Road, Madison, on September 5, 2019, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. with a brief service at 6:00 p.m.  Donations to the Alzheimer's Association in lieu of flowers would be appreciated by her family.ribbons. He will be missed but remembered fondly.                            

Professor Emeritus Patricia Searles-Kelly