Patricia Schiller, a lawyer for the NLRB during the 1950s, and later for Legal Aid in Washington, who left her practice to develop better ways of solving marital problems than divorce, and went on to become internationally famous as the founder of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) and an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Howard University College of Medicine where she taught doctors, nurses, and those associated with patients' intimate problems, died on Friday at her home in Palm Beach. She was 104. Her son, Jonathan Schiller, said the cause was simply old age. Ms. Schiller, known to all as Pat, had been working at Legal Aid preparing couples seeking divorces. As she told her daughter, Louise, "They really didn't know what a marriage was." In order for her to improve her work with these clients, and seeing the limits of the adversarial process in law, she enrolled at American University as a candidate for a Master's degree in Psychology. She attended classes at night and worked full time during the day. While studying at home, she often asked members of her family, including her husband of 60 years, Irving Schiller, to take the practice tests psychologists need as one of their tools. During the day she taught English at Alice Deal Junior High where the original Miss Manners of the Washington Post was one of her students. Pat was active in Jewish life at Temple Sinai with her family, including serving a term as President of the Sisterhood. Once she had her degree, and with a fresh understanding of the problems teenage girls faced as their bodies matured and they became sexually active, she began to discuss with friends and colleagues in the District school system the possibility of establishing a unique venue where girls, and, she insisted, their partners, would spend time in academic classes and also spend time learning how to be parents. The influential women she worked with included Mrs. Robert McNamara, Mrs. W. Willard Wirtz, and Mrs. Arthur Goldberg. They first established the "Widening Horizons" summer program to improve literacy and expose junior high and high school students to the possibilities of work and the cultural life available to them in Washington's free museums. From there, the group expanded its ideas of what volunteers could accomplish in the schools. Mrs. Schiller began to imagine a collaborative environment where group sessions with an emphasis on interpersonal relationships for young pregnant junior high and high school students might be a way to reduce dangerous abortions, then common, and ensure a continuing educated work force for Washington. In the 1950s and 60s, if a Junior High or High School student became pregnant, she was forced to drop out. With no diploma, she would be left out of the middle class work force, and be limited to low wage service jobs. Without a grant from the socially progressive LBJ administration, the project would be doomed. Eventually, after a long wait to secure a grant from HUD, and help from friends, the first school in the country which took pregnant young woman and both educated and nurtured them through their high school diplomas, was established. Pat Schiller continued her ground-breaking work with the young women by becoming the school psychologist. This was the Webster School, 1963-67, part of the District of Columbia School System. For this she received the Advanced Pacesetter Award from the President's National Advisory Board in 1970. From this experience Ms. Schiller became curious about how parents and doctors communicated the facts and, to her, very importantly, the psychology of relationships that coincide with sexual activity. After meeting Dr. John Clark, Dean of the Howard University College of Medicine, they began talks on how to improve the medical education of OBGYN students. Pat convinced Dr. Clark that their practices would improve if they learned how to talk to patients about the psychology within dysfunctional sexual relationships, as well as about the physical functions of their bodies. Dr. Clark became a mentor for Mrs. Schiller's ideas within the College, and at medical conferences. Their families socialized frequently on Martha's Vineyard in the summers as well as in Washington. She taught at Howard for 30 years. In 1967, in a spare bedroom in her house, and without a staff, Pat began to expand her ideas about teaching doctors, nurses, clergy members and teachers her principles about how to teach sex education, and counsel patients in need. With a loan of $1,000 from her personal funds, and with a $500. gift from the DC philanthropist Phillip Stern, she began with a mailing announcing the group's first annual conference. One year later AASECT held its first summer institute at the University of Massachusetts. Later Conferences took place all over North America from Charlotte, NC to San Francisco, and Calgary, Canada. These conference teaching sessions led eventually to a certification program for national and international professional practitioners in the field of sex education. Pat also worked with Masters and Johnson to establish legal guidelines and professional ethical standards for therapists. She never stopped being a lawyer she was fond of saying. AASECT encouraged research, publication and dissemination of their materials to professional educators. Her close colleagues and advisors included Dr. Paul Gebhard and Albert Ellis among others. Her work influenced the careers of many AASECT members, and many people began to re-think their approach to the subject of sex education, including the Archdiocese of Washington for which she prepared a curriculum for high school students. She worked on curriculum development for Baylor Medical School, Houston, Texas, the University of Chicago, the University of California, Berkeley, the Andover School, Andover, Massachusetts, the Gunnery School, Connecticut, and the John's Hopkins Medical School program in "Training Physicians in Family Planning, Sexuality and Fertility". Soon the high quality of the conferences put Pat Schiller's name before international professionals in the field. She gave courses and participated in conferences from the 1970s through the 1990s. The countries she went to included Jerusalem and Haifa, Israel, Cyprus, India, Egypt, Venezuela, Mexico, Columbia, Taiwan, Japan, Sri Lanka, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands and France. Each conference usually had a specific theme based on local professional interests. In Haifa, for example, the focus was on people with disabilities. These were conducted through the International Council of Sex Educators and Parenthood, ICESP, based at American University in Washington, DC. Where she also worked as Director of the Center for Guidance and Counseling. Pat was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1914 into a family of Socialists. She was proud of this heritage which drove her social conscience to help humanity. She received a Juris Doctor degree from Brooklyn College, and a Master's degree in Psychology from American University. She wrote two books, Creative Approach to Sex Education, 1973, Association Press, which was translated into Spanish and Italian where she re-affirmed her group-centered approach to therapy. Her second book published in 1981 was The Sex Profession-What Sex Therapy can Do. She was the author of over 90 articles published in professional journals. In 1943 she was married in Texas to Irving Schiller who at the time was a First Lieutenant in the Army. They had met two years before at a lawyers' luncheon in Washington, DC. They eventually settled in Washington, only moving to Florida permanently in 1990. They also had a home on Martha's Vineyard. Pat Schiller is survived by her daughter, Louise in Oakland, CA, her son, Jonathan of Washington, DC and New York, five grandsons and four great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held in September on a date to be determined.
Published in Palm Beach Post from Jul. 3 to Jul. 5, 2018.