Association for Women Geoscientists
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Association For Women Geoscientists Announces:
2003 Outstanding Educator Award Patricia Kelley
Seattle, Washington, November 3, 2003

October 3, 2003

Dr. Patricia Kelley will receive the 2003 Association for Women Geoscientists Foundation (AWGF) Outstanding Educator Award at the AWG breakfast to be held at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Seattle, WA on November 3, 2003.

"Her door is always open, as is her home for pizza." This student comment is typical of the letters of support for this years Association for Women Geoscientists Outstanding Educator Awardee, who combines passion and compassion as she looks for every opportunity to stir curiosity in her students and to teach them about the earth. Dr. Patricia Kelley, Professor and past Chair of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Wilmington. A paleontologist, her interests include the modes and rates of evolutionary change and origin of macroevolutionary patterns, which she investigates using Coastal Plain mollusks. In addition to being an inspiring and passionate educator Dr. Kelley is senior author of over thirty refereed papers, past-president of the Paleontological Society, the mother of two children and has been married for almost thirty years.

Dinosaurs were the key to Dr. Kelley's childhood interest in paleontology. At the age of seven her parents gave her a book about dinosaurs and shortly thereafter she was a frequent visitor to the dinosaur hall at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Some of her pictures were even hung in the museum.

Like so many early dinosaur lovers, though, Dr. Kelley didn't make the connection between dinosaurs and a career in the earth sciences. Fortunately, her undergraduate advisor at the College of Wooster, Richard Osgood, was a paleontologist. Seeing a space in her schedule, he suggested she take a geology course. As many of us who have had a similar experience can attest, that first exposure to college earth science was a life changing experience.

After completing her undergraduate degree, she entered Harvard with a NSF pre-doctoral fellowship, receiving a Ph.D. under Steven J. Gould, four years later. She credits her scientific development to Gould who taught her to question scientific dogma and to always look for the anomaly. Surprisingly, he was also responsible for introducing her to the joys of teaching.

From Harvard she began her teaching career in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at the University of Mississippi. She was the first and only woman in the School of Engineering, surrounded by engineers who had no clue about what a paleontologist does. To deal with this isolation, she turned to colleagues across the country for encouragement, developing relationships that enriched her life and career. Two colleagues in particular stand out. Anne Raymond, now at Texas A&M University, and Dr. Kelley were students together at Harvard and have remained friends and colleagues through the years. Thor Hansen, at the Western Washington University, has been a friend, collaborator, and co-author for the past fifteen years.

Unlike many academics who spend their careers at a single institution, Dr. Kelley has been on the faculty at three different universities. After two years (1990-1992) at the National Science Foundation as Program Director for Geology & Paleontology and Geological Record of Global Change, she accepted the position of Professor and Chair of the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at the University of North Dakota. In 1997, she left ND to accept the position at UNC at Wilmington and has just stepped down from being departmental chair.

Dr. Kelley has managed to combine her impressive professional career with a rich family life. In graduate school she married, Jonathan, a seminarian. Dr. Gould admonished her that, that she must not be content with "baking buns for the congregation."

Fortunately, her husband's seminary supervisor, a woman, had the same idea. She had been one of the first women ordained as a Presbyterian minister, and convinced the couple of the importance of serving as role models for double-career couples. Realizing the difficulty of securing an academic job, Dr. Kelley's career was the primary one for this two-career couple. He r husband accepted whatever church pastorate was available within commuting distance of the university. Their two children were born when they lived in Mississippi; Timothy, three years after Dr. Kelley began teaching, and Katherine just after tenure. Despite their busy lives and thanks to the flexibility of academic and pastoral careers they managed childcare and in the process raise two self-reliant and self-confident children. Her advice to couples trying to combine a career and family is to go for it, but it's not easy. "Make sure the rest of the family share your goals and are willing to work with you on them (or at least make allowances for you). Realize that there will be conflicts - you may not publish as much as you wish, and you may miss some special events in your kids' lives (I missed prom night for a Paleontological Society Council meeting!) but if you are all working together, they'll understand." Now, with the children almost grown, the Kelley's have made some domestic changes. Her husband is now enrolled in a graduate program in pastoral counseling/psychotherapy in Manhattan.

Dr. Kelley's passion for teaching comes from interactions with her students and the opportunity for her to continue to learn. She loves to see students taking a course to fulfill a science requirement become engaged in paleontology and the transformation students undergo during their college career. "It's hard to imagine a career that would allow me to use my talent and have so much fun at the same time."

AWG is proud to recognize Dr. Patricia Kelley with the 2003 AWGF Outstanding Educator Award. Please join us at breakfast on November 3 to honor this truly outstanding educator and inspirational role model.



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