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Karl Patten, Jr.

The campus community mourns the passing of Karl Patten, Jr., who died on Sunday, April 16, 2017.  After 41 years of service to the University, Karl retired as Professor Emeritus of English in 1997.

Born February 28, 1927, in Beverly, Massachusetts, Karl was the son of the late Karl Watson and Elinor (Noble) Patten. He was married on December 31, 1947, to the former Isabelle Cameron, who predeceased him.

Karl graduated from Salem High School and earned a B.A. from Williams College and a Ph.D. in English literature from Boston University. While at Bucknell, he taught courses on subjects as diverse as Dante, James Joyce and silence. He founded the film studies emphasis within the English Department and ran the Hilltop Film Series for many years. He was the co-founder of the literary journal “West Branch” and longtime co-host of the annual West Branch Poetry Festival at Bucknell. He was a widely published poet, and his most recent book appeared two months before his 90th birthday.

An ardent and outspoken advocate for human rights, Karl was the co-founder of the Lewisburg Prison Project, and he led the Lewisburg Chapter of the ACLU for more than 25 years. He was quite generous, avidly tithing to causes devoted to the betterment of the world community. He achieved this by living an intentionally frugal life.

Karl loved music, especially vintage jazz. He possessed a magnificent appreciation for and knowledge of the visual arts. His love of baseball was truly awe-inspiring; he knew the batting average of almost every major league player for half a century.

Karl is survived by two sons, Christopher C. Patten of Monterey, Massachusetts, and Thomas N. Patten of Watsontown; a sister, Sally Davis, of Palm Desert, California; two grandsons, Zachary T. Patten of Needham, Massachusetts, and Penn Hastings Patten of Watsontown; a granddaughter, Helen Hastings Patten of Watsontown; and two great-grandchildren, Lukas and Simona Patten of Needham, Massachusetts. He was predeceased by a daughter, Elisabeth, who died in infancy.

A memorial service in celebration of his life will be held at 1:30 p.m., June 10, 2017, in the C. Willard Smith Library of the Vaughan Literature Building at Bucknell University.

Members of the Bucknell community are encouraged to visit our In Memoriam Site at and share personal notes of sympathy and remembrance with others.

On behalf of the entire Bucknell community, I extend our deepest sympathies to Karl’s family, as well as to all who knew him at Bucknell.

John C. Bravman

2 Responses to “Karl Patten, Jr.”

  1. jcooper says:

    In 1967, Karl was one of the founding members of the Saturday noon Peace Vigil that met on the corner of 3rd and Market, Lewisburg, and continues active to this day. For decades, he was responsible for bringing the signs for the group, retiring only in the mid-2000’s. He was a valued and resourceful member of the Vigil, ever providing witty and pungent commentary in abundance.

  2. delgado says:

    Rest in Peace! Requiescat in pace. A good human being.