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Patricia (Pat) Croft (?–1995)

by Shirley Purchase

Pat Croft, long-time Editor of the Australian National University Press, died on 29 July 1995 after a short illness.

Pat was an Arts graduate of the University of Sydney. Various publishing houses played a part in her training as an editor, an occupation with which she had a natural affinity through her love of and respect for the English language. Pat came to Canberra in 1955 and joined the staff of the six-year-old Australian National University as a publications assistant in the Registrar's Office. Shortly after this she became Publications Officer in the Research Schools of Pacific Studies and Social Science. In this capacity she initiated scholarly publishing by the ANU. At first Pat and her small staff worked with Melbourne University Press which handled production and distribution of the books. But in 1967 an independent Australian National University Press was established under the directorship of William Wood from Chicago. Pat declined to apply for the position of Director: an editor was what she was, and an editor she intended to remain. She was nevertheless Acting Director on a number of occasions during the next 12 years.

Pat Croft' s contribution to scholarship at the ANU from the 1950s until her retirement in 1979 was incalculable. During her time as Publications Officer and Editor of ANU Press, some 450 books were published and the best possible editorial and production standards were achieved. It was Pat herself who developed and maintained the character of the Press. Scores of young (and often more senior) scholars had cause to be grateful to Pat for the patient care she gave to their manuscripts, the advice on communication and presentation, the coercing of the best product from sometimes indifferent beginnings. She had an eye for a good prospect, and would seek out and suggest possible books, coax reluctant authors, and often help to shape their work into a more publishable form. The following quotation from the citation presented at the graduation ceremony in April 1980, at which Pat received the degree of Master of Arts, honoris causa, gives some idea of the professionalism with which Pat went about her work: "Her devotion to the arduous task of making good books better — and, even more difficult, of making some poor books good — has been remarkable. She has never hesitated to subordinate her own interests to the imperative of maintaining the highest standards for the Press, at the sacrifice not only of her leisure but also of her health".

Former members of the Press staff all attest to Pat's kindness and nurturing qualities. She was an enthusiast for the ANU Press and its future, and involved us all in her enthusiasm. It was a bitter blow when, in the late 1970s, the University no longer saw the Press as a viable entity. After so many years of hard work and loving care, ANU Press became a part of the Robert Maxwell empire.

At her funeral on 1 August tributes were paid to Pat's generosity as a friend, to her wit, to her directness and honesty, to Pat the gardener and lover of books. Pat Croft had a loving family and a lot of friends. She will be missed by all of them.

Original publication

Citation details

Shirley Purchase, 'Croft, Patricia (Pat) (?–1995)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 July 2024.

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