Paula B. Poorman, age 56, a founding member of the UWS LGBTQ Inclusivity Initiative and a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, was killed in an accident on Interstate 90 on June 27, 2007. Almost all who worked with Dr. Poorman in the University of Wisconsin System knew her as P.B.
P.B. and her life partner of 19 years, Susan Simmons, lived in Madison. P.B. was filled with joy and light and cared for all people in her life, whether it was her partner, family, friends, colleagues or her students. She was exuberant and inspired and encouraged excellence of all those around her.
P.B. grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and Bakersfield, California. She began her college career at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois where her father was president of the college, earning an associates degree. She earned her bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University, her master's degree from Mankato State University and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Colorado State University. P.B was a faculty member for 11 years in the Psychology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where she was recently promoted to full professor. She loved to teach and loved encouraging students to go further than they ever thought they could with their education. She was the author of Microskills and Theoretical Foundations for Professional Helpers. Her scholarly work focused on underserved populations and issues of powerlessness and privilege. Her research on domestic violence and oppression has been published in numerous professional articles and presented at state, regional and national conferences. [Click here for more information about her research.]
P.B. played an instrumental role in the foundation and development of the LGBTQ Inclusivity Initiative. She was a member of the Steering and Research Committees at the inception of the Initiative. P.B. took on the daunting task of investigating various campus climate research models and made the initial contacts with Susan Rankin regarding implementing a system-wide campus climate study. P.B.’s initial research has resulted in the UW System funding a pilot project for five UWS institutions to implement the Rankin Campus Climate Study beginning in the fall of 2007. P.B. was a strong voice in the Initiative, rallying members with humor and determination to continue with advocacy when things looked bleak, and cajoling and urging the administration to continue moving further in its support of LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff. Her legacy to the state of Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin System and the LGBTQ community is immeasurable. She will be deeply missed.
A scholarship has been established in P.B.'s honor. Memorials may be sent to the UW-Whitewater Foundation designating the P.B. Poorman Scholarship Fund, 800 W. Main St., Whitewater, WI 53190.The Inclusivity Initiative will be establishing an annual award honoring a UWS faculty, staff or student for excellence in their advocacy, research or service efforts on behalf of the LGBTQ community. A memorial tribute to P.B.’s work in the Inclusivity Initiative with testimonies of some of her colleagues can be found below. Please feel free to add your memories of P.B., how she touched your life, how she impacted your work, or what she contributed to the LGBTQ community. [Click here to e-mail your memories.]
P.B. Memorial Tribute
Paula B. Poorman, known lovingly as “PB” by her friends and colleagues, was a professor of psychology at the UW-Whitewater and was a founding and very active member of the Inclusivity Intiative. She generously dedicated her time to improving the lives of the LGBTQ students, staff and faculty at the University of Wisconsin by organizing with governance bodies on issues such as domestic partner benefits, spearheading efforts on projects such as the “climate study,” making presentations on LGBTQ issues at our statewide conferences, publicizing our initiatives on her campus, and supporting our efforts in every way. For her students and members of the Inclusivity Initiative, PB was truly a living example of what it means to be “out” as a lesbian, who engaged actively in LGBTQ causes and spoke up without fear on unpopular issues. Her willingness to take on difficult issues with integrity and honesty will be an immense loss to her campus and to the UW System Inclusivity Initiative. PB was a very loving and caring human being. Most people who met PB only once would say that they really liked her. Those who knew her well would say that her personality shone and made her easy to know and love. To say that we will all miss PB dearly is an immense understatement. Few words can express the significance of her loss to our community.
UW System Administration
LGBTQ Inclusivity Director
I met PB Poorman at the first LGBTQ Inclusivity Initiative meeting. She was such a whirlwind of ideas and energy. I remember her being so ready to get things moving in support of queers in the UW System. It was clear at that meeting that she was tired of waiting for the powers that be to recognize what needed to be done. Her boundless energy, humor, and determination made her a driving force in the development of the LGBTQ Inclusivity Initiative. There are too many things that she did for the initiative for me to list, but there are two which I most admired. One was the impact she had on getting a campus climate study developed for the UW System. PB initiated the investigation into possible campus climate research models. Her research and discussions with Dr. Susan Rankin resulted in the UWS Campus Climate Study pilot project starting this Fall. The second is her humor. PB was a very funny woman. Her humor could be very warm and welcoming. It lit up every room she entered. Throughout all the Inclusivity meetings, I remember the twinkle and smile she would get when strategizing how to get something done in the face of one or more obstacles. She had a joy for life that was infectious. But like the chocolate covered orange rinds and hot tamale candies she loved so much, the sweetness could also have a bite. She could be wickedly funny. I loved her for the way she used her humor in the service of social justice. As an advocate and spokesperson in many of the Inclusivity meetings, she used her sharp perspective and wicked humor to skewer pomposity, arrogance, oppression, and ignorance. It kept many of us going when we could have just as easily given up. I admired her work and felt blessed by her friendship. We will not easily find another such powerful voice for queers. She will be sorely missed for all that she brought to our lives and to our work.
Associate Director/EAP Director
University Counseling Center
It is a deep shock to mourn someone like P.B. who was so very much alive. She was someone able to shake me and others out of our complacency, shook us up to look around the world and see what was unjust and unfair, what was in need of change. I knew P.B. through my work with the Inclusivity Initiative or really I should say P.B. made my work at the Initiative possible. When I was given a small cubicle, one might say a closet, out of which to fight for LGBTQ rights, P.B. was outraged at this marginalization of the Initiative. She was an ally who protested, cajoled, and charmed people until I was given a full office complete with phone, windows, and a computer solely for the business of the Initiative. This initial experience with P.B.’s advocacy exemplified our future working relationship and her continuous commitment to LGBTQ rights. For me, she provided a confidential listening ear, a reality check when others said LGBTQ rights were not important, a strong moral compass in a place steeped in bureaucracy, and perhaps most importantly a good swift kick in the pants at times of hesitation. She provided an on-going support that kept both me and the larger Initiative going. P.B. was the person you could call if you needed anything, from creative ideas to a writing partner to bracing encouragement to illuminating advice. Through my growing respect for her and her obvious committed and kind spirit, a friendship grew, one I will always treasure, one that will always be meaningful to me. As demonstration of her faithfulness as a friend, when my leadership of the Initiative ended, P.B. continued her role in my life as a source of support and a wise advisor. P.B. was an instrumental force in the founding of the Initiative. She was there from the start as a strong voice, a fierce advocate of our rights to be recognized in this world. Indeed, P.B. brought to realization one of the primary goals of the Initiative: to get a nationally-known climate assessment expert to conduct a system-wide evaluation of the experiences of diverse people throughout the UW System. P.B.’s expertise on climate assessment as well as her experience creating and conducting a climate assessment at UW Whitewater made her an informed advocate who led us toward the realization of this important goal. Due to P.B.’s years of work, the final steps are now being taken that will bring to fruition a climate assessment this Fall. This achievement epitomizes P.B.’s amazing contributions to our lives: she was a catalyst for change and this change will endure.
Former Director, LGBTQ Inclusivity Initiative
Graduate Coordinator, Special Education Dept
PB Poorman was one of the smartest, most eloquent, and down-to-earth people I ever met. From the very earliest days of the Inclusivity Initiative, when we had exhausting day-long discussions of complex issues and developed ideas to create equity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the University of Wisconsin System, I was always relieved to see PB's hand go up because she had a delightful way of cutting through the rhetorical crap and pushing us on through to the heart of the matter. She had a veritable wellspring of ideas lurking in her brilliant mind and only rarely seemed to lose patience with those who insisted that the status quo was just fine, thank you very much. She offered big and creative ideas for positive change, which she expressed in the plain and simple language of civil rights and justice, almost always with a twinkle in her eye. She knew how to work systems, both academic and political, in order to get the results that she believed we deserved.
PB never suffered fools gladly, whatever their station in life, and she refused to allow the unequal status of lesbians and gay men in the eyes of the law to cower her into being any less than the magnificent woman she was. She was out, she was proud, and she was someone I would have gladly been running buddies with back in the day (way back, when we both could have actually, you know, done some running...). Damn, PB, I will miss you. Thanks for everything.
Campus Community Partnerships
University Health Services
P.B. was a powerful, sincere, and very funny woman. She was always there for the Inclusivity Initiative, no matter how often the meetings - and they were frequent in the beginning - or how short the notice of a need to meet or to get some task done. In the earliest days of the Inclusivity Initiative, when we weren't certain anyone would take this seriously, P.B. helped us to remember to not take ourselves too seriously. Just describing her trip up in the elevator, P.B. would have us laughing 'till we cried. What could have been dreadfully boring policy discussions were enjoyable deliberations because P.B. was there. The next thing that comes to mind is how doggedly she worked to help make sure our review of the literature on LGBTQ people was thorough, accurate, well written, and compelling. She knew her stuff and knew how important it was to convey vital information. We have lost a valuable scholar, a friend who exuded warmth and welcome, and a very funny woman. Her presence enlightened and enlivened our community. Her absence will dim us a bit.
Christine Flynn Saulnier
Founding Director, UWS LGBTQ Inclusivity Initiative
PB was indefatigable. In discussions, PB cut through the rhetoric and stated the issues clearly, plainly. PB didn't let things like the hateful election results of November 2006 get her down - or at least I never saw it. PB often arrived late to Inclusivity Initative meetings, and the odd thing is that PB was the person I always looked for, noted as not being present yet, and - I have no idea why - felt an odd flood of relief to see walking in, apologizing for being late. Then, the meeting could start.
Director, LGBT Campus Center
I first met PB about 6 years ago when she was a keynote at a conference in La Crosse on Domestic Violence. She shared with the conference attendees her research. I was new at UW-L and had not met other UW-System employees that were LGBTQ. I remember feeling fortunate to be at the conference and having the opportunity to meet PB. Our next meeting was through the Inclusivity Initiative. PB was an incredible role model for many of us. I enjoyed her sense of humor and her passion for knowledge and equality. I am sad that UW System has lost this leader, educator, mentor and activist. Thank you PB for all that you have done to move the LGBTQ Community forward in the UW System! She will be missed!
Willem Van Roosenbeek
Director, Pride Center
PB was admired by all she crossed paths with. As a newer professional working on LGBTQ Issues I was blessed to connect with her a handful of times from a telecast on domestic partnership benefits to the most recent UW System LGBTQ Conference. She was dynamic and had an energetic presence that infused and inspired me. She deeply believed in the value of fighting for equality. Her loss will be felt by many. Thank you for all you gave to building and creating community PB, your commitment to activism serves as a model for us all!!!! Peace to all whose lives you have touched deeply.
Office of Student Life
LGBT Resource Center