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Patricia Barthalow Koch '72

Patricia Barthalow Koch '72Dr. Patricia Barthalow Koch’s reaction the first time she visited the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus was right in step with the Three Bears fable.

“I knew it was the right place for me,” she says. “Not too large, not too small—just right!”

A native of Plum Borough, Pa., and the daughter of Nedra Jean and Robert Barthalow, Dr. Koch heard about IUP from a high school English teacher whom she admired, who was an IUP graduate. After her positive reaction to the university, Dr. Koch was admitted and studied for a degree in Elementary Education with a minor in English, graduating summa cum laude in 1972.

“When I graduated, I very much looked forward to teaching, since I had such positive experiences student teaching both in the on-campus preschool and during my two off-campus student teaching experiences in the Fox Chapel Area School District,” Dr. Koch says. “IUP did an excellent job of preparing education majors for the real world of teaching.”

While teaching in the Plum Borough School District, she began to study for a master’s degree in Health Education at New York University, living in New York City for a summer.

During her studies at NYU, Dr. Koch was part of an International Health Education Program in Human Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Life Education, attending Uppsala University in Sweden and Kyoto University in Tokyo, Japan, in subsequent summers, where she says the learning and experiences that she was exposed to in the very different cultures of Sweden and Japan had a life-changing impact on her.

“I became even more passionate about the importance and impact of education on people’s lives,” she said.

“I pursued the topic of human sexuality, marriage, and family life education since it was something that was not being dealt with adequately in most families, schools, and community settings,” Dr. Koch says. “There was a great need for people, especially youth, to be better informed.”

Because of her education and experience with the development of sexuality education curriculum, she was recruited to develop sexuality education courses for Pennsylvania State University, where she then pursued a doctoral degree in Health Promotion and Education. Once she received her doctorate in 1983, she was recruited into a faculty position at Penn State, where she later helped to develop an innovative department called Biobehavioral Health.

“Biobehavioral Health addresses health issues through multiple lenses from cell (e.g. genetics) to society (e.g. public health),” Dr. Koch said.

Dr. Koch has received many honors throughout her career, including the Penn State President’s Award for Engagement with Students in 2012 and becoming an Alumni Teaching Fellow in 2002. She is also a Fellow of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and received both their Beigel Award for Published Research and the Service to the Profession Award. She was also honored by the Plum Borough School District with the Distinguished Alumni Award for Contributions to Humanity in 2009. She is currently the director of the Pennsylvania Learning Academy of Sexuality Education as well as being a professor.

Dr. Koch has been married to Lawrence Koch for 35 years. He is the manager of the Chicago Rivet and Machine Company in Tyrone, Pa. They have two children—Jason, 30, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and Scott, 27, who is a human resource professional and project manager for Career Builders.com in Chicago.

Dr. Koch is justifiably proud of her profession.

“Throughout my career, I have been fortunate enough to develop and teach over 30 different courses at Penn State, mentor countless undergraduate and graduate students, conduct numerous research studies, and work on many school and community projects primarily focusing on the areas of sexual and women’s health and health and sexuality education,” she said.

“It has been an extremely rewarding and personally fulfilling career in which I hope that I have been able to touch the lives of others in a positive way by helping them to overcome the damaging and defeating chains of ignorance.” 

Profile published on 6/11/13

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