A native of The Quiet Corner, State Representative Pat Wilson Pheanious was born in Willimantic and moved to Ashford when she was 5. Following graduation from E. O. Smith in 1968, Representative Wilson Pheanious earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Connecticut (UConn). Representative Wilson Pheanious attended two graduate schools at UConn at the same time earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW) and Juris Doctor (JD) in 1981. With the completion of her law degree, Representative Wilson Pheanious was admitted to the Connecticut Bar in Windham County that same year.
State Representative Pat Wilson Pheanious would then go on to found and direct the Center for Child Welfare Studies and taught at the University of Saint Joseph (then Saint Joseph’s College) for 7 years. She was tenured at the rank of Associate Professor of Social Work. For an additional 10 years, Representative Wilson Pheanious served as a trustee at the university. Throughout the representative’s career, she has continued to teach adjunct classes at University of Saint Joseph, Eastern Connecticut State University, and Southern Connecticut State University in addition to summer programs at UConn.
Following her roles at the University of Saint Joseph, Representative Wilson Pheanious moved to the Department of Children and Youth Services (now Department of Children and Families (DCF)) where she served for three years as the Statewide Director of Protective Services. While at DCF, Representative Wilson Pheanious served a representative to the state in settling the case of Juan F. v. O’Neil. During the case, Representative Wilson Pheanious helped to write the Juan F. Consent Decree and monitored the federal court judgement over the course of 18 months.
In 1992, State Representative Pat Wilson Pheanious moved to the Department of Income Maintenance (now the Department of Social Services (DSS)) where she served as the Director of Administrative Hearings and Appeals. In 1995, she transitioned into the role of Regional Administrator for Region 4 before becoming DSS Commissioner in 1999, serving until 2007.
After retiring from state service in 2007, the representative moved to Denver, Colorado where she would serve as Director of Human Services for the city and county of Denver for 3 years. Upon returning to Connecticut, Representative Wilson Pheanious served as Interim CEO of a Community Action Agency in Norwalk. She would retire again in 2013 before deciding to run for state office; she was elected to her first term as State Representative for the 53rd Assembly District in 2018.
The daughter of Lt. Col Bertram Wilson, a decorated Tuskegee Airman who fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, Representative Wilson Pheanious has tremendous respect and admiration for the women and men who serve for our country. Her father was designated as Ashford Connecticut Home Town Hero in 1985. Through the Guilford Historical Society’s Witness Stone Project, the representative learned that her 5th great grandfather, Sharp Rogers, fought as a free man in the 6th Connecticut Regiment during the Revolutionary War.
Representative Wilson Pheanious raised one son, Cheo Coker, as a single mother. Cheo, a noted screenwriter, now lives with his wife and the representative’s three grandchildren in Seattle. In 2008, the representative married her husband Robert Pheanious.