WRC Distinguished Alumna Award Recipient 2013
Patricia Okahashi was a passionate learner and feminist, earning two degrees, BA in Psychology from the University of British Columbia and BA in Women’s Studies from the University of Calgary. She used her academic knowledge in combination with her capacity to assess psychosocial situations to promote justice for women when she was coordinator of the Women’s Resource Centre in the 1990s and later, for persons with disabilities at the Vocational and Rehabilitation Resource Centre and then, the Calgary Scope Society and the Disability Action Hall.
She was the embodiment of resilience. For most of her adult life, she endured scleraderma and lived with increasing pain. She remained innovative but practical, knowing how to develop projects to keep the Centre financially afloat. She gave all who entered the Centre personal attention and made it a place of safety, laughter and companionship. She showed leadership in organizing events such as the Dec. 6 Memorial Ceremony, marches, the Dollar Doughnut Days, and a walk-about in MacEwan Student Centre to support lesbians. In her final years, she struggled with cancer. She maintained an excellent sense of wry humour and persistently challenged societal inequities, developing innovative projects such as her last one, a film about artists with disabilities. She never gave up, always finding a way out of the funding and space crisis that beset the Women’s Resource Centre.
She demonstrated her compassion for others through her pursuit of research and fair policies for women and persons with disabilities. Even when her own ill health resulted in early retirement, she continued to assist the Disability Action Hall and to volunteer in the community. She was always ready to give her time, her heart and her strength to help individuals and to change oppressive societal practices. Most importantly, she modelled a commitment to justice, inspiring others to join her in seeking respect and dignity for everyone.