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When I Think of Pat: A Tribute to Patrick J. Carr

By Gayatri Patnaik

Patrick J. Carr

Patrick J. Carr, Associate Professor of Sociology and an Affiliated Professor to the Program in Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, passed on April 16, 2020. I had the privilege of being Pat’s editor on Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America that Beacon published in 2009. He coauthored it with sociologist Maria Kefalas, who is also his wife, and I loved working with this duo immediately. They were an immensely talented and vibrant couple. Pat was warm and intense and tended to be quieter than Maria, who was equally warm with a vibrant presence and who more frequently shared her thoughts. What I noticed about Pat right away was how perceptive he was, how he was totally without pretense and someone who certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly.

Hollowing Out the Middle had an unusual genesis. With funding from the MacArthur Foundation, in 2001, Pat and Maria moved to Iowa to understand the rural brain drain and the exodus of young people from the countryside. They met and followed “stayers” who tended to be working class; there were college-bound “achievers,” and also “seekers” who headed off to war to see what the world offered. Finally, there were “returners” who eventually circled back to their hometowns. Pat and Maria were struck that the adults in the community played a pivotal role in the town’s decline by pushing the most talented young people to leave. With blurbs by Thomas Frank and William Julius Wilson, the book was timely and impactful. For years, Pat traveled all over the Heartland to give keynote addresses on rural brain drain and redevelopment. Pat appeared on NPR to talk about Hollowing Out the Middle and his other books, and his work has been featured in various venues, including the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, the Root, Huffington Post, and The Atlantic

When I think of Pat, I also think of The Calliope Joy Foundation, which he and Maria founded in 2013 and named after their youngest child. Their daughter, nicknamed “Cal,” was diagnosed with late-infantile onset metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD) at age two. A rare, serious, and progressive genetic disease, MLD currently has no cure. Pat was a passionate patient advocate for Cal and for other children with MLD. Since 2013, he and Maria and their two older children, Camille and PJ, have sold 45,000 cupcakes and raised nearly $800,000 to support families and to champion MLD research. Maria will be sharing their experience in a forthcoming book Beacon will be publishing next spring called Harnessing Grief: A Mother’s Quest for Meaning and Miracles.

Today, I find myself thinking so much of this extraordinary couple and of this special man who meant so much to so many people. He’s left an amazing legacy and will be profoundly missed.


About the Author 

Gayatri Patnaik is Associate Director and Editorial Director of Beacon Press. Previously an editor at both Palgrave Macmillan and Routledge, she has been at Beacon Press over fifteen years and has published authors including Imani Perry, Cornel West, Kate Bornstein, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and Jeanne Theoharis. She acquires in US History, with a focus on African American History and race/ethnicity/immigration, and began Beacon’s award-winning “ReVisioning American History” series. Gayatri occasionally signs memoir, began Beacon’s LGBTQ series, “Queer Action/Queer Ideas,” (edited with Michael Bronski) and developed books in “The King Legacy,” with Joanna Green, in a series about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Follow her on Twitter at @gpatnaik1