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Former UA journalism professor dies at 83

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Courtesy Jim Patten | The Daily Wildcat Photo of Jim Patten, retired former head of the University of Arizona journalism department.

Jim Patten, reporter, editor and former head of the school of journalism — and one of the people responsible for starting a movement to save the school in 1994 when it was under threat of shutting down — died June 8 of complications related to lung cancer. He was 83 years old. 

Patten’s time at the UA stretched from 1983 to 2000, where he began as a professor. He would assume the role of head of the department in 1991. It was soon after that UA administration announced closure plans for the department. 

Then Patten stepped in and organized a group of like-minded teachers, students and alumni.

"Journalism alums from all over the country flooded the UA president's office with protest letters," Patten said in 2016. "The president called me once to ask if I could discourage the letter campaign. Fat chance. The press was offended and plainly in our corner. ... Current students joined the struggle, organizing pro-journalism protests and events." 

The department was saved soon after by a vote of 37-3 in the Faculty Senate. In 2008, the Arizona Board of Regents elevated it to the status of a school.

In a UA school of journalism press release, Jacqueline Sharkey, who succeeded Patten as department head in 2000, said Patten "organized the effort that saved the department. Then he led the rebuilding process that resulted in the department again being recognized nationally as a leader in journalism education." 

A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Patten’s first teaching job was at his alma mater, where he taught until 1980. In 1972, the school honored Patten by awarding him the Annis Chaiken Sorenson Award for distinguished teaching in the arts and humanities. 

Patten was also a working journalist, spending time as both a reporter and copy editor at The World-Herald, Arizona Republic, Des Moines Register and Philadelphia Inquirer. 

He is survived by his life partner Iyone Meyer and his three children, Billie Patten Stewart, Mike Patten and Julie Patten.  


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