July 07, 2008

Endowment celebrates life of Patricia Pace

by Greg Scott


CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An SIU Carbondale graduate with a passion for students, performing arts and scholarship is being honored through an endowment established in her memory at the Southern Illinois University Foundation to benefit students and faculty of the University.

The Patricia Pace Memorial Endowment Fund has been developed to enhance the Patricia Pace Performance Festival, which will be hosted by SIU this fall. The festival, originally organized by the late Patricia Pace at Georgia Southern University in 2000, will alternate annually among three institutions -- SIU Carbondale, Louisiana State University, and Georgia Southern. Patricia Pace passed away at age 48 in 2000. Shortly after her death, colleagues named the festival for Patricia; which has been held at convention sites and sponsored by various universities, including Georgia Southern. This past winter it was sponsored by LSU.

Tom Pace, a retired SIUC professor in the Department of Speech Communication, says the endowment, named in his daughter’s honor, will cover expenses for students and faculty in the Department of Speech Communication who travel to the festival when it is held at one of the alternate locations. The endowment will help offset festival costs when Southern hosts the event.

“Patti very much believed in getting artists, teachers, scholars and theater professionals together so they could learn from each other,” he says. “This was the impetus behind Patti’s dream of instituting this festival.”

Pace, who served as Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Speech Communication for 20 years, points out that Patricia was reared in an environment that valued higher education. Patricia’s mother, Sue Dezendolet, is also a retired professor who taught in the Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences and served as an Associate Dean in the Graduate School at SIUC. Later, she became a provost at Sangamon State University (now the University of Illinois-Springfield) and Columbus State University in Georgia.

Tommye Pace, Tom’s wife, says, “Patricia was such an integral part of our family. She was truly a role model to our younger children, Jennifer and Brad. This endowment is a fitting tribute to Patti and her devotion to young people.”

Tom and Tommye Pace worked with SIU Foundation officials to establish the endowment. Tom Pace says in the event the festival is discontinued, funds will be used to provide scholarships to undergraduate or graduate students in Performance Studies within the Department of Speech Communication. The awards will be referred to as the Patricia Pace Memorial Scholarships.

“Patti’s professor friends and students were and continue to be committed to keeping her dream alive,” Tom says. “I hope this encourages others to follow suit and contribute funds to this effort.”

Patricia Pace was a Professor of Communication Arts, Director of Theatre and Director of Performance at Georgia Southern University. Pace authored several scholarly articles, reviews, and chapters, including numerous seminal pieces of scholarship in the national Text and Performance Quarterly. She initially joined GSU’s faculty in 1985 as an assistant professor and served for a time as a visiting professor at LSU.

Additionally, Pace authored and directed original and adapted performance productions, directed a number of children’s stories for the stage, including “Peter Pan” and “The Wind in the Willows.” The multi-talented Pace appeared in various productions and was an accomplished scriptwriter.

Community service was also important to Patti. She compiled and directed a historical drama performed on three separate stages for the bicentennial celebration of Bullock County -- home of Georgia Southern University. She also directed and presented programs in the Atlanta area benefitting HIV knowledge and research.

A Carbondale native, Pace attained her Ph.D. from SIU Carbondale, and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Sonoma State University in California. At the time of her death, Pace was on a research sabbatical working on a book-length project that included a critical analysis of the image of children in a variety of media. The initial chapter of Pace’s project was completed by her husband, Richard Flynn, an English professor at GSU and a noted scholar on children’s literature. It was published in the September 2002 journal, The Lion and the Unicorn.

Tom Pace says Patricia, who began her doctoral studies at Northwestern, completed her work at Southern in part because she had been influenced by Marion Kleinau, an SIU Carbondale faculty member from 1959-1990. Patricia attended high school summer workshops that Kleinau conducted on campus and subsequently, Kleinau directed her dissertation.

Kleinau fondly remembers her understudy participating in these summer workshops.

“Patricia was a lovely, bright and wonderful kid. I remember her performing in one of our productions as well,” Kleinau says. “She was just wonderfully creative and a charming person and I am pleased that the endowment will move Patti’s dream forward.

“Festivals of this sort are valuable; you get a number of ideas because they bring people in from different places,” she says. “And when we host it ourselves, students will have the responsibility of ensuring its success. That is a tremendous learning experience.”

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and CEO of the SIU Foundation, says the endowment is a fitting tribute to Patricia Pace.

“While I did not have the privilege of knowing Patricia, I could tell from my conversations with Tom and others Patricia had a deep and extraordinary commitment to her profession and the students she touched on a daily basis. She was a true educator and scholar through and through,” he says. “This endowment in her honor will support students and faculty with aspirations of thriving in the area of performing arts for several years into the future.

“We are grateful to Tom and Tommye Pace, and everyone who has stepped up to assist in this endeavor.”

Patricia’s brother, Tom III, is a 1978 SIUC, Perkins School of Theology, and Drew Divinity School graduate. He is Senior Pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston. Her younger sister, Jennifer Wittman, a two-degree graduate of SIU, is an English instructor at California State University at Stanislaus. Patricia’s younger brother, Brad, a Washington University and Loyola Law School graduate, serves as regulatory counsel with the Food and Drug Administration in Bethesda, Maryland. She is also survived by five nieces and a nephew.

“Patti was in some of my classes at SIU as a performance studies student. Few persons have had the privilege of teaching their children; especially in a graduate program,” Tom says. “I’m thankful for the opportunity and truly blessed that we are able to establish this endowment in my daughter’s memory.”