Jo Cooper Searles, Ph.D.
Jo C. Searles, Professor Emerita of English and Women's Studies at The Pennsylvania State University, has embodied Women's Studies since 1970Ì_and earlier. Born in 1926, she grew up as a tomboy in Minneapolis, bass-fishing in some of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes, joining the Girl Scouts, elected to the National Honor Society, and attending Carleton College in Northfield, MN, where she met future husband Jack.
After moving to the Bay Area, where Jo earned her B.A. in English at the University of California at Berkeley, the couple married in 1948. Their four childrenÌ_David, Carly, Sarah and GordonÌ_born between 1950 and 1956, led her to pioneer a pre-school for them, followed by a two-year sojourn in Brazil where she taught American literature and language, a move to Pennsylvania, and settling in to family lifeÌ_at one point, four teenagers at once!
Simultaneously, she reveled in the academic life, receiving her M.A. in '65 and Ph.D. in '71, both in English. In her Penn State doctoral research on Rhode Island colonist Roger Williams, she was struck by his image that in the New World, 'Truth is a Native, Naked Beauty,' and her primary fields of rhetorical and creative writing, American Literature, and the humanities expanded as she helped to create and establish a Women's Studies program at Penn State.
Jo's publications and conference papers include essays, articles, poetry, translations from Portuguese, book chapters and editingÌ_her emphasis on older women's writings, concerns, and spirituality. She also adventured on lecture tours in Pennsylvania; northern Brazil and Portugal, in both English and Portuguese; attended seminars in Greece, Crete, Jamaica, and Hawai'i; and taught at a Chinese university in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
In her home community of State College, PA, she introduced women's workshops still given there, focused on women's arts, crafts, cultures and Goddess figures, worldwide. Two programs, "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven" and "Rise Up and Call Her Name," became catalysts for both advanced study and ritual groups.
Women's spirituality, her defining passion, includes her Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess certification as Mistress of Wicca and her current title as Honored Crone at the Center for the Sacred Feminine in Tucson. She chuckles, 'As a friend of mine titled one of her books, 'Old Is Not a Four -Letter Word.'' She and Jack, now minimalists and also grandparents to 7 delightful grandkids, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2008.
For over twenty years Jo has been my teacher, mentor, benefactor, and most of all, my closest friend. She has been one of the greatest influences in my life. What a great listener she is. And most importantly, she has taught me to look within myself. Jo has made me a part of the Center for the Sacred Feminine, and for this I will always be grateful.
Jo has an amazing sense of humor that is ageless. When her hips needed to be replaced and her surgeon asked her why she was having the surgery, Jo replied, 'Dancing, of course.' She is beloved by so many women whom she has helped over the years, but especially loved by me. It is an honor and a privilege to put this well-deserved paver in place for her. --Lynn Schlow, Brennan Healing Science Practitioner, State College, Pennsylvania. June 12, 2009.