In Memoriam: K. Patricia Cross

Celebrating the life of a scholar, advocate, coach, mentor, expert on higher education

Pat Cross standing in front of a quilt made from many of her college regalia hoods
quote from Pat Cross that teaching cannot occur without learning

Professor Emerita K. Patricia Cross, an expert on adult education and teaching in institutions of higher education and Berkeley School of Education’s first David Pierpont Gardner Endowed Chair of Higher Education, passed away in May 2023.

Known as Pat to her friends, she was among the earliest researchers in the 1960s interested in understanding how colleges could better serve students who at the time were described as “new” and “non-traditional” college students because, when assessed solely on academics, they weren’t at the top of their high school class.

"Undaunted, Pat Cross broke through the glass ceiling holding back female scholars in the 1970s," said BSE Professor Bruce Fuller, who remembers Cross fondly.

"She helped grow California's robust network of community colleges, envied by other states and nations and she shaped early opportunities for Black and Latinx youth, pushing for pedagogical innovations, novel ways to embrace all young people.

"Today, people might couch it in the context of social justice. Pat Cross didn’t have a label for it. She saw the importance of humane, inclusive outreach to a rich diversity of new students," Fuller said.

At a time when policy makers and academic leaders were focused on expanding higher education’s capacity for access, Cross pushed for examining the quality of learning.

"Pat resisted the idea that these new students must adapt to the dominant methods of instruction, insisting, instead, that colleges and universities share the responsibility for their success, developing approaches that matched and met the needs of new learners," wrote the late Russell Edgerton in a letter announcing the launch of the Cross Archive, a digital library hosted by San Francisco State University.

"It made no sense to help students get into college without also creating the conditions for their success," wrote Edgerton, a fellow researcher with Cross and former Director of Education for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Alumnus and education professor Andrew Furco EdD ‘97, who had Cross as an advisor, described her as "dedicated and supportive mentor who steadily guided us to optimize our potential."

"So many times, I’ve reflected back and have wondered, `Where would I be today had it not been for Pat’s mentorship and steady hand to guide me all those years ago?,’" Furco wrote in a Facebook post upon hearing of her passing.

"When other ‘advisers’ at the time (early 1990s) told me not to pursue research on service-learning (SL) because SL was ‘just a fad’ and there was ‘no evidence that it is beneficial to anyone,’ and who insisted (and almost convinced me) that writing a dissertation on service-learning would ruin my career, Pat believed that a dissertation on the emerging topic of SL would make for an intriguing and valuable study," said Furco, a professor of education at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Cross had a distinguished career as a university administrator (Assistant Dean of Women, University of Illinois and Dean of Students at Cornell University); researcher (Distinguished Research Scientist at Educational Testing Service and Research Educator at The Center for Research and Development in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley); and teacher (Professor and Chair of the Department of Administration, Planning, and Social Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education).

She served on the faculty at Berkeley, first in 1966 until the early 1980s, and then returned in 1988, eventually retiring in 1995.

Throughout her career and continuing into retirement, Cross remained dedicated to higher education through speeches, papers, books, and her personal philanthropy. She established BSE’s first scholarship based on teamwork rather than a topic, the Professor K. Patricia Cross Collaborative Scholarship.

"Pat Cross's philanthropy — like her research, teaching, and mentoring — reflected her deep commitment to enhancing the higher education classroom experience. Through her giving as well as in her writing, she worked to stimulate improvements in policy and practice," said Professor Emerita and former BSE Dean Judith Warren Little.

In 2017, Cross was recognized for her generosity to the university and named as a Builder of Berkeley. These visionary philanthropists, whose total lifetime giving reaches $1 million or more, are celebrated for their role in creating the greatness of the university by having their names etched on the granite walls of the Builders of Berkeley monument outside Doe Library.

The $10,000 Cross Collaborative Scholarship has funded groups of BSE students researching topics ranging from charter schools to culturally responsive teaching to K-12 school districts enforcement of enrollment boundaries.

The scholarship allowed alumna Huriya Jabbar PhD ‘14, an associate professor at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California, to examine with Marialena Rivera PhD ’16, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin and Leah Faw PhD ‘22, the phenomenon of “district hopping,” in which parents use the address of a friend or relative in order for their children to attend better schools.

"We were motivated to respond to and situate the criminalization of Black mothers enrolling their children in public schools — at the time of our scholarship, one of these mothers was charged with grand larceny," Jabbar said.

For another trio, Sepehr Vakil PhD ‘16, kihana ross PhD ‘16, MA ‘11, and David Philoxene PhD ‘16, they were able to continue a participatory design project in collaboration with students and teachers at Oakland Technical High School. Together with their partners, they created and examined how intergenerational collectives of teachers and students opened up new modes of discourse (and created new structures) focused on examining local dynamics of racial equity, belonging, and opportunity in the school.

“In a practical sense, the Cross scholarship provided the necessary resources to support our work,” said Vakil, an associate professor in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. “Perhaps even more significantly though, it carried profound symbolic weight as an affirmation that studying the teaching and learning of racial equity and identity with marginalized students is worthy of careful design, investigation and study.”

Vakil and ross eventually married and Philoxene remains a dear friend. “The collaboration goes on,” Vakil said.

Cross’s legacy continues at The K. Patricia Cross Academy, which provides free resources for teachers looking to strengthen their practice.

"Pat had a formidable career, dedicating her life to improving higher education through scholarship and philanthropy,” said Elizabeth F. Barkley, executive director of The K. Patricia Cross Academy. “One colleague observed that she had a genius for making a difference, spotting trends and then framing them as concrete choices that pointed the way to policy changes.”

pat cross sitting with Berkeley colleagues Guy Benveniste and Paul Heist

Cross with Berkeley colleagues Guy Benveniste and Paul Heist (circa 1989) 

Cross with former Dean Prudence L. Carter

Cross with former BSE Dean Prudence L. Carter (2017)

Dr. K. Patricia Cross — Legend & Legacy

From The K. Patricia Cross Academy

AWARDS (partial list)

  • Recipient of 15 honorary degrees
  • Leadership Award, American Association of Community and Junior colleges
  • Outstanding Service Award, Coalition of Adult Education Organizations
  • Outstanding contributions to the improvement of instruction, National Council of Instructional Administrators
  • Academic Leadership Award, Council of Independent Colleges
  • E.F. Lindquist Award, American Educational Research Association
  • Sidney Suslow Award, Association for Institutional Research
  • Howard Bowen Distinguished Career Award, Association for the Study of Higher Education
  • Voted one of “the most influential voices” in higher education, Change Magazine poll (1975)
potrait of Pat Cross

Cross in the library in the School of Education (circa 2014)

Pat Cross talks with former BSE program director Dan Zimmerlin

Cross talks with former BSE program director Dan Zimmerlin (circa 2015)

Dr. K. Patricia Cross — "Reasonable Adventurer"

From The K. Patricia Cross Academy


The American Association of Colleges and Universities sponsors the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award, which recognizes graduate students who are committed to academic innovation in the areas of equity, community engagement, and teaching and learning.

The K. Patricia Cross Academy provides free instructional videos and other resources on how to implement high-impact, evidence-based teaching techniques that improve all students' learning; and document student learning in ways that provide the information teachers need to improve their teaching as well as assist them in their efforts for hiring, tenure, and promotion.

 The Cross Archive, a digital library hosted by San Francisco State University, has more than 200 of Cross’s speeches available for download.

For inquiries about making a contribution in memory of Professor Cross, please contact or (510) 643-9784.