Patty A. Coleman, 55, who used her Bryn Mawr College education to become an acclaimed social worker, died of cardiac arrest Nov. 2 at the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. She lived in Winterport, Maine.

Her brother, John M. Coleman of Moorestown, said she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1982.

Despite that, the Maine chapter of the National Association of Social Workers named her the state's Social Worker of the Year in 1998.

And in 1993 and 1994, she was a consultant to the President's Committee on People With Disabilities.

Born in Concord, Mass., Ms. Coleman was a 1971 graduate of Friends Select School in Philadelphia.

A 1976 graduate of Kirkland College in Clinton, N.Y., she earned her master's degree in 1980 and her doctorate in 1989, both in social work at Bryn Mawr College.

Ms. Coleman taught in the social work program at La Salle University from 1984 to 1989, first as an instructor and then as an assistant professor.

At La Salle, she was acting director of the social work program in the 1985-86 school year, a Pew Charitable Trust Faculty Fellow in 1986-87, and director of the women's studies program in 1988-89.

"My dad was president of Haverford College from '67 to '77," Ms. Coleman's brother said, during which he "took a sabbatical and worked in blue-collar jobs, including being a garbage man in Maryland . . . [and] a roughneck on an oil-drilling rig."

John R. Coleman's

Blue-Collar Journal: A College President's Sabbatical

was published in 1974.

"We learned at the dinner table that in order to live a good life . . . you have to get out in the community and make things happen."

Her brother said that Ms. Coleman led the presidential campaign for Democrat George McGovern in heavily Republican Delaware County in 1972.

And, he said, "she was overtly gay, in a straight family, at a time when gay was considered sociopathic."

She helped set up a center in Philadelphia that led in reaching out to sexual minorities, he said.

She was diagnosed with MS before she turned 30. "Some would have reason to retire or surrender," he said.

"She saw it as a reason to step on the gas."

While teaching at La Salle, she returned to Bryn Mawr to get her doctorate, she told her brother, " 'to ensure that the kind of organizing I believe in will live on.' "

Ms. Coleman moved to the School of Social Work at the University of Maine in 1989. She helped set up its master of social work program and was an associate professor there until her retirement in 1998.

For the National Association of Social Workers, she was a member of the national competence certification commission from 1993 to 1997 and from 2000 to 2003. She was a consultant to that organization's inquiry into alleged violations of standards from 1993 to 2000.

For the Academy of Certified Social Workers, she was chairwoman of its examination review committee from 1993 to 1997.

Besides her brother and father, Ms. Coleman is survived by her mother, Mary Irwin; a brother, Stephen; a sister, Nancy; seven nieces and nephews; and her partner, Ann Blumer.

A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the First Congregational Church, 35 Church St., Brewer, Maine.