Patricia Graham: A Sort of Obit

August 29, 2023

On August 13, 2023, the Department of Global Humanities, Institute for the Humanities, and Graduate Liberal Studies program lost Patricia Graham, a valued member whose years of tireless dedication to and passion for the humanities contributed to what the Department and its units are today. While the news brought deep sadness to all those who knew and loved Trish, we would like to celebrate her extraordinary life rather than mourn its shortness, as she had wished.

Patricia Graham, née Kilsby, was a working-class kid, born in Haney, BC, in 1954. She distinguished herself in high school, and developed radical political views and a taste for literature that led her to Simon Fraser University. According to her, she also ran a really fast 100 yard dash. She majored in English literature, receiving her BA in 1977. She considered pursuing a doctorate in either London or Moscow, but first stayed at SFU to complete her MA. She married a fellow grad student, Brian Graham, and they would have two boys, Julien and Nicholas. 

While working, raising kids, and living in Vancouver’s oldest Coop where she played a very active part, she managed to complete her MA under the supervision of Jerry Zaslove in 1989. Her thesis, on two working-class novelists, written under the intellectual influence of György Lukács, entitled DH Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe: From Critique to Critical Despair, won an award at SFU. 

Working closely with Jerry Zaslove, she went on to take a position as program administrator for the Institute for the Humanities from 1991 to 2011. She was responsible for day-to-day operations, assisted with funding initiatives, finances, publicity, and the organization of public events, including a human rights conference on “Madness, Citizenship & Social Justice” in June 2008, and edited and contributed to the Institute’s publications. Additionally, she wrote some excellent short stories and taught a few courses in the then Department of Humanities, while later assuming duties in Graduate Liberal Studies. 

For those who worked with her at the Institute, in the words of one of those she mentored in the nuances of the Institute and the University, Alan Whitehorn, she was a guiding star. Grounded, practical, passionate, a loyal friend, and most of all a loving mother to two men and grandmother to two girls, it can actually be said that she was loved by all. 

When she retired with her partner Wayne Knights, they lived a bucolic existence on Pender Island until cancer destroyed her life. She was a force that will be missed both personally and institutionally. Venceremos, Trish!