Patricia Clements, who grew up in Wilkie, Saskatchewan, says that learning and teaching were in her blood from the beginning and that she was following in her mother's footsteps. After a year at the Saskatchewan Teachers' College in Saskatoon, she took on her first teaching assignment: a Grade Five class in North Battleford.
In 1960, she packed her bags for Edmonton and began a long relationship with the University of Alberta. In the Honours BA program in English she was taught by brilliant, exciting professors, including Henry Kreisel and Wilfred and Sheila Watson. She graduated with a passion for literary study, and with the Governor General's Gold Medal and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for graduate work at the University of Toronto. There she studied with Marshall McLuhan, who was then working on the implications of his idea of the "global village" that is created by electronic communication.
Dr Clements' second teaching job took her, as an English language assistant, to a a small town on the coast of Brittany, and a year later, she went, on a Commonwealth Scholarship, to Oxford University, for doctoral studies on modern English and French literature. In 1970 she returned to the University of Alberta as an assistant professor of English.
She became widely known and immensely respected for her work as an educator, as well as for her role as an equal rights activist. Like many contemporaries, she was a feminist: "We wanted equal opportunities for women," she says, "in society at large and in the University in particular. And we wanted women to be taken seriously as students, as professors, as leaders."
On January 1, 1989, her voice became far stronger, when she was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Arts, the first woman to hold this position. During her ten-year term as Dean, Dr Clements spoke widely on the necessity of the liberal arts in a science society and on the situation of women in the professoriate. Women were still poorly represented in Canadian universities, and the U of A was below the national average. Few women were hired and few promoted to the higher ranks or to major administrative positions. Dr Clements saw her appointment as an opportunity to make a difference on this question. She was successful here, as she was in other areas. The Faculty of Arts developed an employment equity plan that became a basis for the University's plan. About half of new appointments in Arts during her deanship were women, and several became Department Chairs or Associate Deans.
Research and graduate studies were priorities, too. She backed major projects, such as the Prairie Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration and the Mental Lexicon Project in Linguistics, and the Faculty established research institutes in Public Economics, Medieval and Modern Studies, and Popular Music, in addition to the Parkland Institute. Two notable initiatives were the Faculty of Arts School in Cortona, Italy, and the pioneering Master's program in Humanities Computing.
Always a lover of the written word, Dr Clements did her own research in literature. She wrote on the place women have had -- or have not had -- in literary history. Jointly with Virginia Blain, of Macquarie University, and Isobel Grundy, then at the University of London, she published The Feminist Companion to Literature in English, 1990. The first reference book on women's writing in the various international traditions in English, it was named an Outstanding Reference Book by the American Library Association.
Dr Clements was also Founding Director of The Orlando Project, which, with a $1.4M grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, launched an experiment in the integration of literary history and digital technology. Like The Feminist Companion, it is collaborative: Susan Brown, of the University of Guelph, Clements and Grundy led a team of literary scholars and computing scientists, senior professors and graduate students. In 2006, Cambridge University Press published this pioneering work online, as Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. A dynamic website (www.cambridge.org/orlandoonline), it makes years of scholarship on literature accessible online. It won the Outstanding Achievement Award of the Society for Digital Humanities.
Dr Clements has served on various professional bodies, notably the Board of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Science Advisory Board of Health Canada. She was elected President of the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada in 2000.
Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1991, Dr Clements was awarded the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 and an Honorary D.Litt. by Brock University in 2005. In recognition of her work as Dean, the family of the Honorable Lois E. Hole, late Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta, donated a grand piano to the Music Department. In 2006, colleagues organized a national conference to celebrate her career and achievements as first woman Dean of Arts.