SEAS honors the passing of Patrick C West
Patrick C. West, age 74, died at his home in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, on April 13, 2020, after numerous health struggles. He was born in Minneapolis in 1945 and raised from the age of 5 by his aunts Elizabeth and Edith West when his parents were not able to care for him. He attended the University of Minnesota High School and then the University of Minnesota, where he received his BS and MS degrees in 1967 and 1969, respectively. From 1969 to 1971 he completed his Conscientious Objector Service in San Francisco, California, working with teens and young adults with disabilities. West also met and married his first wife, Susan Stern, in 1969. They were together for 30 years.
In 1971 the couple moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where West attended Yale University and earned a PhD from the School of Natural Resources and Department of Sociology in 1975. West and Susan's daughter, Heather, was also born that year. West taught at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay from 1974-1977 before joining the faculty at the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE), now the School for Environment and Sustainability, where he served for 23 years.
A tenured associate professor, West earned the distinguished title of Samuel T. Dana Chair of Outdoor Recreation in 1989. He served as director of Camp Filibert Roth and taught a wide range of courses including Environmental Natural Resources and Behavior, Integrated Field Studies, Social Impact Analysis, and Integrative Problem Solving. Mentoring dozens of graduate students during his tenure, West was well-respected by his peers and students and was an early champion of environmental and social justice curriculum development at SNRE.
West was a strong advocate for disability rights at the University and served on the Council on Disability Concerns. In his research, writing and praxis, he was strongly committed to social, economic, racial environmental, and Native American justice. His work included research on toxic fish consumption among indigenous and African American communities. He conducted research supporting measures to reduce risk to African American anglers from toxic fish in the Detroit River. He also consulted with the U.S. EPA Office of Environmental Justice to develop stronger fish consumption advisories for marginalized communities.
Other significant projects with Native American Tribal communities included supporting research with the Havasupi Reservation in the Grand Canyon and five summers (1996-2001) working on programs with the Ojibwe Village of Inger on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. The project involved a summer education program for Native youth to plant raspberry patches and build gardens for Tribal community development.
Among his many students and colleagues, he will be remembered and cherished for his commitment to justice and the environment, as a prolific Weberian scholar, a loyal friend, a creator of projects that made real change for real people on the ground, and a committed lover of nature, wilderness, recreation, and the outdoors, especially the lake country in Minnesota. After his retirement from the University in 2000, West moved back to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, where he had spent his summers as a child. That year he also married Sally Becker and was with her until she passed away in 2011.
In his retirement West continued his writing and advocacy on a variety of justice issues. He formed the Windago Justice Project and Press, was involved with the local progressive caucus, the Unitarian Universalist Chapel, Earth Circle, and started a meditation group. At the time of his death West was working on a memoir as well as a new book on climate change. For the last dozen or so years of his life, he faced a variety of challenges with his health.
In 2014, Patrick married Claudia (Madison) Seymour and the couple lived on Cotton Lake in Rochert, Minnesota. In 2017 the couple moved back to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, where they lived happily together until Patrick's passing.
Read more about West in his obituary on Mlive.