Patricia St. Lawrence, associate professor emerita of genetics, died Oct. 23 of lung cancer at her home in Orinda. She was 74.
A native of New York City, St. Lawrence came to Berkeley in 1959 as the first woman faculty member in the Department of Genetics. She eventually became chair of the department from 1987 to 1989 and retired in 1991.
Specializing in the biochemical genetics of fungi, St. Lawrence made early contributions to understanding genetic suppressors, that is, mutations in one gene that moderate the effects of a mutation in a second gene.
Throughout her career St. Lawrence was a fervent advocate for minority and especially women's rights. She was a major contributor to the first Academic Senate studies that led to improved hiring and promotional opportunities for women and minority faculty at UC Berkeley. She also was a founder of the Berkeley Faculty Union in 1967 and served as its president in the 1970s.
As an officer of the University Council, American Federation of Teachers, she lobbied for the passage of legislation to enable University of California faculty to see their personnel files in due process disputes over tenure and job discrimination, a policy subsequently adopted by the university.
"Of all the faculty concerned with fair treatment at Berkeley, she was the most dedicated, energetic and effective in pursuing grievances," said David Brody, former University Council president and professor emeritus at UC Davis. "Her commitment to fairness stemmed from her integrity and her view of a dedicated academic."
After retiring St. Lawrence continued her efforts on behalf of women in academia, and took an active role in supporting the ultimately successful fight to reverse a decision denying tenure to mathematician Jenny Harrison in the mathematics department.
"I shall always be enormously indebted to Pat for her friendship and support," said Harrison, now professor of mathematics. "She was a mentor to me...and a true comrade in arms...."
An outgrowth of the Harrison Support Group is WAGE (We Advocate Gender Equity), an organization which is dedicated to achieving gender equality in faculty hiring and promotion practices in the entire UC system, and now at other universities in the United States. St. Lawrence was one of the original founders of WAGE and was chair of the group at the time of her death.
Born in New York City, she attended the Brealy School before enrolling at Bryn Mawr, where she obtained her AB degree. St. Lawrence received her PhD from Columbia University in 1952 and pursued postdoctoral research at Stanford before moving to Berkeley in 1959.
St. Lawrence is survived by a sister, Sheila Lewis-Crosby of Northern Ireland, and a brother, William St. Lawrence of Florida.
A memorial service will be held Monday, Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. in the Faculty Club.