IN MEMORIAM: Pat Kearney, Student Housing Leader

Patricia Ann Kearney, retired Student Housing leader who received the honor of having a residence hall named after her, died Nov. 23 of ovarian cancer at her home in Sisters, Oregon. She was 77.

“Today we lost a leader who helped shape our department,” Mike Sheehan, associate vice chancellor of Student Affairs, said in a message to Student Housing and Dining Services.

Patricia Ann Kearney headshot

In her 28-year UC Davis career, 1974 to 2002, Kearney was involved in every aspect of Student Housing. Her leadership expanded over time as she assumed many roles within the Division of Student Affairs, ultimately serving as the executive director of Student Housing and Financial Aid. 

Patricia Kearney Hall opened in 2006 as part of the Tercero Phase 1 expansion — a project in which she was involved from the start. In fact, she played an integral role in conceptualizing and developing much of the current stock of campus housing, including the Segundo and Tercero expansions (residence halls and dining commons) and the Colleges at La Rue, according to her biography on Student Housing’s Kearney Hall webpage.

Innovation in residential life

“She championed such innovations as the development of academic theme programs and academic advising centers within the residence halls,” the biography states. “She deeply valued the role of education, student development and cultural competence within the environment of living-learning communities.”

She is also credited with building one of the most diverse and innovative residential life staffs anywhere in the country. “One of Pat’s core values was enhancing education, awareness and representation around diversity and social justice,” Sheehan said, noting how she integrated this value into her work at UC Davis and beyond. She was involved in many national associations, including the American College Personnel Association, or ACPA, serving as its president in 1988-89. The ACPA has drafted a memorial resolution recognizing Kearney’s contributions at the national level.

Sheehan said Kearney played a key role in developing Student Housing’s Department Commitment Statement in the mid-1980s. “That document was further refined and eventually adopted by the campus to become our UC Davis Principles of Community,” he said.

'Touched the lives of many'

“I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Pat directly,” Sheehan said. “I often think of her as I sit in ‘her office.’ As we move forward with the development of new communities, new programs and our diversity, equity and inclusion programs, I think of Pat. She had a great journey and touched the lives of many.” 

Her Student Housing biography concludes: “Her skills, commitment to and passion for this university resulted in the provision of safe, professionally administered, educationally stimulating and supportive living-learning environments for some 5,000 students each and every year of her 28 years of campus service.” 

Kearney, a native of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University and a Master of Arts degree from Indiana University, and had completed doctoral work in higher education administration at Oregon State University. She worked at university campuses across the country, spending the majority of her career at UC Davis.

Active in retirement

Kearney had spent most of her retirement in the Sisters area, located amid the Deschutes National Forest in western Oregon. She devoted much of her time to the Deschutes Land Trust as a naturalist guide and a member of the finance committee.

She was a volunteer at Central Oregon Community College, serving on both the budget and audit committees, and served as president of her homeowners association and president of a local noise abatement group, in addition to other community activities.

She traveled widely throughout Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe and North America. 

Kearney is survived by her partner/spouse, Carol Wall, who served as vice chancellor of Student Affairs from 1995 to 2001, also of Sisters; and brother, Michael Kearney of Florida and South Carolina.

No memorial service was planned. Remembrances may be made in her name to the Deschutes Land Trust or another nonprofit organization of the donor’s choice.

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