Pat was born and brought up in East Providence, RI, a first-generation Azorean/Portuguese-American, the seventh In a family of ten children. She attended public schools in East Providence, elementary as well junior and senior high school, and was a member of the first class to graduate from the "new" high school in 1953. She was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to Boston University and received her B.Ed. in 1957, after which she taught fifth grade from 1957-59 and did social service work as a member of a religious community of sisters from 1959 to 1965. She earned her MEd in Guidance and Counseling at Boston College between 1963 and 1965 and, with the grant of a fellowship, her PhD in Educational Psychology and Measurement at Boston College in 1968.

Pat's career as an academic brought her around the world: UR (1968-69)I, Salve Regina College (1969-72), the Educational Research Centre in Dublin, Ireland (1973-1988), and the University of Minho in Braga, Portugal (1992-2003). At the last institution she was a leader of the Portuguese team in a European Union study on environmental education (EE), the other teams being from England, France, and Denmark. In addition to her experience in those countries, she participated in international research congresses in Alaska, South Africa, and the Yukon Territory. She was awarded several research grants from the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, in both EE and school-museum collaborations.

Since her retirement in 2003 and return to RI in 2004, Pat has become an activist on a variety of social and political issues.