6/22/2020 English Department

Socrates Citation: Professor of English Patricia O'Hara

English Professor of Victorian Literature, Irish Literature, Baseball Literature, and Creative Writing.  Poet, Playwright, Non-Fiction Writer, Essayist, & Editor. Ware College House Don, Posse Mentor, & Lindback Award-Winning Teacher.

A dear colleague of those senior & junior. A roll-up-your-sleeves kind of colleague. A served-on-every-College-committee kind of colleague. An English Department chair par excellence. A singer and storyteller in the Irish tradition who has had us in stitches and sometimes in tears.

A mother of Brendan and soon-to-be-mother-in-law of Ward.

(While we’re at it) first mom in the English Department. One of the first female “triplets” appointed in 1989, in an all-male, all-tenured, & all-avuncular English Department. (She paid a third of her salary for daycare before F&M had daycare.) Younger colleagues of much diversity honor Patricia’s first-ness. One recalls her telling them to “cherish your colleagues as persons.” Another recalls her chairing the department when its first Creative Writing curriculum was established, when the Writers House was established, and when the department underwent its first external review in ages. She was a model for Chairs to come. The first-person-to-go-to-for-advice about F&M, the profession, style, the arts & food, and dog selection: “A labradoodle? Never heard of it.” Of course Patricia had.

Among Patricia’s first professional accomplishments was a cultural analysis of the Victorian Willow chinoiserie pattern found on 19th-Century ceramics and dinnerware as well as in the literature of this period. Before the academy recognized the importance of colonial appropriation, Patricia did. She expanded post-colonial discourse and enriched her field by editing 19th Century Studies and, for this, she won the Phoenix Award of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals.

At mid-career, Patricia turned to creative writing. Early on, Newsweek published her “My Turn” essay, “Charity Means You Don’t Pick and Choose,” still relevant, often reprinted and often taught. A couple years ago, her play Banned from Baseball premiered at The Human Race Theatre Company. Shakespearean in its exploration of flawed character, Banned from Baseball is dialogic: a dramatic competition between Cincinnati Reds working-class superstar Pete Rose and academic-cum-baseball Commissioner Bartlett Giamatti. Perhaps an autobiographical psychodrama of Patricia’s own blue-collar background and her literary, professional standards, this play knocked it out of the park. It now holds a place in The National Baseball Hall of Fame’s digital collection.

To be a super-star means taking chances. Patricia has. For those who know her, we marvel at her first-generation grit, her life-long resilience, and her self-confidence in the face of statistics and demographics that might stymy the faint-hearted. That twinkle in her eye or that flush across her face knows otherwise: she is all in. Always has been. Always will be.
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