Patricia Colleen O’Connell, 74, died at home on December 28th. Known by everyone as Colleen, she was the spouse of Connie Youkon for 42 years. The couple was married in 2014. In addition to Mrs.Youkon, Colleen is survived by her family in Michigan: sister Kathleen Aumann, brother-in-law Fred, cousin Janice, niece Dawne, and three nephews.
Colleen graduated from Wayne State University, and later earned a master’s degree from Goddard College. Colleen moved to Philadelphia in 1976, and taught computer science and programming at Philadelphia Community College. She then worked at the Community Women’s Education Project (CWEP) in Kensington, a nonprofit education organization that addressed the social and economic inequities affecting at-risk families and women. Colleen was an instructor for CWEP computer classes, then became board president, and finally acted as executive director for five years. She mentored and inspired many women through this program. She then served as the executive director of the Private Industry Council for two years, overseeing 60 staff in administering a $43-million grant program supporting skills training and job development.
From 1997-2000, Colleen was the co-managing editor and publisher of the Au Courant, an LGBT weekly publication for the Philadelphia community.
Since 2000, Colleen devoted her time to the Won Institute of Graduate Studies and was currently serving as the Chief Administrative Officer. She embraced her work with a contagious joy and enthusiasm that lifted the lives of the many who knew and loved her. Over 20 years, she helped shape the culture of the institute with her own qualities of diligence, humor, community, inclusiveness, and warmth. Known for her intelligence, integrity, and generosity, she was a mentor to many as she rose through the ranks. Always a champion of justice and equality, she gave a lecture each year to the students on the topic of fat bias in the medical profession, as she urged the institute to always look for ways to be supportive and inclusive to all members of the community. Colleen was instrumental in gaining state approval, and later regional accreditation for the institute, making it the only accredited graduate school in PA to offer degrees in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
Colleen was an ardent feminist and a passionate advocate for women, especially poor and working women. She fought for progressive causes her entire life and was a proud supporter of Planned Parenthood.
She enjoyed traveling, photography, cooking, fashion, and decorating for holidays. Colleen and Connie were well known for their annual Christmas party that kicked off the holiday season, and Colleen’s presence will be greatly missed. Proud of her Irish heritage, Colleen loved the history, mythology, and music of Ireland.
The Won Institute will sponsor a memorial service for friends and family of Colleen at a future date to be determined. The date will be published on the Institute’s website and social media.
Donations in Colleen’s name may be made to Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania.