In one of her last emails to me, Patty wrote that I shouldn’t “over-thank” her. I’d thanked her for supporting an application and written with good news. She said I’d earned it. I knew that I hadn’t earned it alone—she had helped. Patty was always self-effacing. She worked to make others feel confident and heard. She was feminist in the important sense of thinking beyond herself, thinking of ways to pass along what she had to others. For me, this quality was encapsulated in her expression “onward.” Sometimes it also seemed a defiance of academia’s bureaucratic obstacles. She reminded me of my PhD adviser, Cathy Portuges, who shunned academia’s “old boy’s network.” Patty shunned the egotism of academics who defined themselves by their institutional credentials rather than by their contributions to making things easier for people without connections.

I first met Patty in 2004 during a phone interview for a...

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