Most of us tiptoe cautiously through life, sticking within the boundaries proscribed for us by family and society. BSR’s prolific contributor Patrick D. Hazard, who died April 30 in Weimar, Germany, spent 88 years gleefully violating boundaries and pushing his envelope in all sorts of unpredictable directions.
This peripatetic professor was born in Battle Creek, Michigan and schooled by nuns, but he soon forsook his parochial/provincial roots to earn a doctorate in that most undisciplined of disciplines, American Civilization. In the ‘50s, Patrick wangled himself a Ford Fellowship in New York and then a job as TV editor of Scholastic Teacher magazine. That led him to Penn, where he persuaded the American Civ department to let him create a new course on The Mass Society and write the first curriculum of Penn’s new Annenberg School for Communication. After a year in Honolulu, where he launched the Institute of American Studies at the University of Hawaii, he returned to Philadelphia to spend 20 years teaching American literature, film, and media at Beaver College (now Arcadia University).
Just when he seemed to have settled down, in 1982 Patrick kicked over his secure academic position at age 55 to launch a second career as a freelance cultural critic. Happily for me, Patrick’s career change occurred just as I was revamping the Welcomat (now Philadelphia Weekly) from a pedestrian Center City neighborhood newspaper into a freewheeling forum for the exchange of ideas. At the Welcomat — and subsequently at the Philadelphia Forum and Broad Street Review — I assumed that our pages would be filled with the scintillating prose of bright, courageous, passionate, authoritative people who were burning with something to say and yearning for the sort of outlet we could provide. Patrick was one of the few who met that definition and took full advantage of the opportunities.
Over the next 30-plus years. he wrote literally hundreds of articles for these three publications — 87 for BSR alone over the past nine years — many of which reflected his joy in sniffing out affordable cultural riches around the globe. (One of my favorites was a travel piece in which Patrick described how he took maximal advantage of an Air France one-month unlimited domestic flight pass by hopscotching almost daily to every conceivable airport in France, from Lille in the north to Toulouse in the south and even to Corsica in the Mediterranean.)
Exactly how he supported himself all that time remains a mystery to me. But that question doesn’t seem to have concerned him as much as making the most of his allotted time on this planet.
Patrick’s voracious cultural appetite was matched by an intellectual fearlessness. In 1990, he triggered a protest demonstration at my office with a deliberately provocative Welcomat essay in which he faulted many AIDS victims and abortion recipients for failing to exercise more control over their bodies and said he didn’t want his tax dollars to pay their medical bills. It was a flawed argument, to be sure — but by articulating what many others were merely thinking, he stimulated an important public dialogue.
Even when Patrick wasn’t submitting articles, he would pepper me with letters and email messages about my columns and other BSR essays. In many respects, he epitomized the notion of what intellectual exchange is all about.
In his late 70s, when most people have long since retired, Patrick moved to Weimar, Germany, and married a German woman. In his early 80s, he sired a son. Why move to Germany? Why start a new family? I imagine Patrick would reply: Why not?