A tribute to Joye Patterson

By Jon Stemmle

Earlier today, an email went out to the J-School community announcing the passing of Joye Patterson. I first met Joye in 2008. It was that year that one of Joye’s former students, Russell G. Smith II, established the Smith/Patterson Science Journalism Fellowship and Lecture Series in her honor. As the steward of the Fellowship and Lecture Series, I was in regular contact with both Russ and Joye (both pictured below) as we discussed upcoming speakers and the first crop of Fellows. I vividly recall that every time I called Joye’s house, she was never home. Instead, her husband, Bill, would answer the phone and let me know that she was out at Tai-Chi or volunteering or some other activity.

Joye Patterson and Russ SmithAs I got to know her over the years through the Smith/Patterson work, it became clear to me that although she was an octogenarian, she was one of the most active, vibrant people I had ever met. She often attended our events and was always a pleasure to talk to. Whenever possible, I made sure that our Fellows had an opportunity to talk with Joye. It gave the students a chance to meet this woman who had such an effect on her students as one of the first (if not THE first) science journalism professors in the nation and a mentor of the highest caliber.

One of these meetings happened several weeks ago with our current Fellow, Shraddha Sankhe. The purpose of the meeting was twofold. It was the chance for Shraddha to meet the person who had inspired the Fellowship as well as an opportunity for us to tell a little bit of Joye’s story to the world through a Q&A to be posted on our blog. Although I had known Joye several years, I had no idea about how she had come to Missouri and become a science journalism professor. However, Joye was also one of the most humble, unassuming, yet brilliant people I have known.

This wonderful Q&A is posted here. I encourage anyone who wants to be inspired, to learn about the history of science journalism, or to get to know the story of an amazing journalism pioneer to read this blog post. Joye was a gift to the Missouri School of Journalism, and I know I speak for so many of us, when I say that her spirit will be dearly missed. We at the HCRC are deeply honored to work with the talented students in the Smith/Patterson Fellowship and are proud to continue a small part of her legacy.

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