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Contact: Christine Payton Sept. 16, 2009
(337) 482-6397, payton@louisiana.edu
Dr. RickelsDr. Patricia K. Rickels, professor emeritus of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and director of the Honors Program for 28 years, died last night.

Rickels was well-known at the university, having been on the faculty since 1957. She retired in 2007 after 50 years of service. Dr. Pat, as she was known throughout campus, helped found the Honors Program in 1970 and became director in 1979.

“ Dr. Rickels was a beloved member of the faculty and was an inspiration to us all,” said Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL Lafayette president. “Throughout her life, she mentored students with a strong passion to see them succeed and worked tirelessly for social justice and understanding throughout the community. She will be sorely missed by the thousands of lives she touched.”

Rickels earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington in 1948 and received her master’s and Ph.D. from LSU in 1951 and 1961, respectively. She taught in the military program in the Panama Canal Zone from 1949 to 1952 and did postdoctoral work on Negro Literature and Culture at Southern University during the summers of 1968 and 1969.

She pioneered courses in folklore and African American literature in UL Lafayette’s English Department and was an accomplished scholar in these areas. Rickels co-authored with her husband Milton, the book Seba Smith and Richard Wright and edited the book 1776-1976: 200 Years of Life and Change in Louisiana.

Among her articles and book chapters are “Memories of Lead Belly,” “The Folklore of America,” “Some Accounts of Witch Riding,” “The Folklore of Sacraments and Sacramentals in South Louisiana” and “Lafayette Politics and the Black Citizen.”

She was a co-editor of Louisiana Folklore Miscellany, and for many years she worked on The Dictionary of American Beliefs and Superstitions, which was published in 1997.

The Louisiana Endowment of the Humanities honored both Pat and Milton in 1990 as Louisiana Humanists of the Year. Previously, the couple had received the LEH Special Humanities Award.

They were recognized for their contributions to the humanities and also for their longtime work for civil rights, particularly on the Louisiana Council on Human Rights.

She served as president of the Council and held other positions throughout the years. The Council named her Humanitarian of the Year in 1975.

In 2001, Rickels was one of eight college faculty members nationwide to be profiled in a special issue of College Board Review on “Heroes of a Different Kind: Inspiring Students to Succeed.”

Most recently, she was interviewed extensively for a documentary about John Kennedy Toole, author of A Confederacy of Dunces.


Document last revised Wednesday, September 16, 2009 4:01 PM

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