Patricia Whittlesey Hagen was born in Lafayette, Mississippi, on August 15, 1948. Her parents, Daniel and Barbara Whittlesey, were graduates of the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry and operated a local family dental practice. Patricia’s older brother, Oliver, died in 1967 in a car accident.
As a child, Patricia was often left to her own devices. Her parents spent most of their time at work, entrusting Patricia’s care to her older brother. While teachers remember Patricia as a “sweet, terribly shy model student,” Oliver was rambunctious and outspoken, with a spotty academic record and a history of detentions. In spite of their differences, the two siblings remained close and both attended Mississippi State University in Starkville.
Oliver’s passing in the middle of Patricia’s freshman year would forever change her life. After falling into a deep depression, she took a leave of absence from school and returned home to recuperate. A year later, Patricia returned to Mississippi State, changing her major from pre-medicine to philosophy.
In 1972, she went on to pursue a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Michigan. Shortly after her graduation in 1978, Patricia returned to Mississippi, where she had been offered an assistant professorship at Millsaps College. In 1979, mutual friends introduced her to Edward Hagen at a dinner party. Unable to resist the advances of the charismatic young lawyer, Patricia accepted Edward Hagen’s proposal six months later. The two had their only child, Audrey, in 1980.
The Hagen family moved to Oxford in 1992 when Patricia accepted a professorship at Ole Miss. A year later, Edward began the first of his many political campaigns.
The constant pressure of campaigning, moving, as well as the disappointment of having to quit her job may have contributed to Patricia’s alcoholic tendencies. A magazine article on this issue raised a small scandal in early 1999, though the magazine in question quickly retracted the article, some say due to political pressure from Edward Hagen.