Patricia Margaret Sterns

January 30, 1952May 6, 2018
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Patricia Margaret Sterns left this Earth to take her place among the stars on May 6, 2018. She was the personification of elegance, intelligence, and charm. She was born in Phoenix in 1952, the daughter of aviation pioneer Lawrence P. Sterns and Mildred D. Sterns, and the granddaughter of Arizona pioneer farmers Ed and Gerti Barbaras. She graduated from Arizona State University in May 1974, with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and a minor in Fine Arts, and obtained a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Arizona in May 1977. She was a member of the State Bar of Arizona, and practiced with her husband, Leslie I. Tennen, in the firm of Sterns and Tennen for more than 35 years, with a focus on space law. She served for many years as a Judge Pro Tempore of the Superior Court of Maricopa County, primarily on the family law bench. She was admitted to practice before the United States District Court, and the United States Supreme Court. She was elected as a lifetime member of the International Institute Of Space Law (IISL) in 1978, and served as a Director until her colleagues voted her to hold the lifetime position of Honorary Director. She was a full member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), and an associate of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR). She published more than 50 articles and book chapters in legal, scientific, and technical journals on the subject of space law, both alone and in collaboration with her husband and distinguished space authorities, on topics including planetary environmental protection, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), commercial uses of space, and living and working in space. She was co-editor of Private Law, Public Law, Metalaw, and Public Policy in Space, A Liber Amicorum in Honor of Ernst Fasan (2016). She was a co-recipient, as a chapter contributor, of the Social Science Book Award, International Academy of Astronautics in 2011. She served as a judge in many international Moot Court Competitions, and frequently participated in and lectured at numerous national and international symposia, workshops, colloquia, and congresses throughout the world. She served as co-chair for sessions of the IISL colloquia, and scientific sessions of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) and World Space Congress. In 1998, she was the co-recipient with her husband of the IISL Award of Appreciation. Her firm was the first institutional member of the IISL, the first law firm to be elected to membership in the International Astronautical Federation, and annually sponsors an award for the Best Oralist of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition. She attended the Third United Nations Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III). She was a frequent lecturer, consultant and advisor on space matters to both private and public organizations, on the state, national and international levels. Shortly before her passing, she was the recipient of the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. Her biography was included in Who’s Who in Aviation and Aerospace, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in America. She is survived by her husband, sister-in-law Dena Tennen, brother-in-law Cory Tennen, friends around the world, her feline companions Ophelia and Valentina, and her menagerie of peacocks, chickens, a cow, bees, and farm cats at the Bar E Ranch. She loved to ride her horse Magi, and traveling the world. A memorial service will be held on May 18, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. at A.L. Moore-Grimshaw Mortuary. An online book of remembrance has been set up at In lieu of flowers contributions in her memory can be made to a charity of choice.


  • Lawrence Paige Sterns, Father (deceased)
  • Mildred Dorothy Sterns, Mother (deceased)
  • Leslie I Tennen, Husband


  • Celebration of Life

    Friday, May 18, 2018


Patricia Margaret Sterns

have a memory or condolence to add?

Tanja Masson-Zwaan

May 13, 2018

Patty and I met at my first IISL Colloquium in 1986 in Innsbruck and I was immediately struck by her personality, intelligence, eloquence and elegance. In the more than 30 years that have passed since that first encounter, we have built a wonderful friendship and worked together in close collaboration marked by mutual respect, genuine interest and sincere appreciation of efforts. During my time as Secretary and then President of IISL, between 1991 and 2016, Patty was always supportive and cooperative, full of life and fun-loving. I fondly recall our "young lawyers dinners", which she insisted we have each year, even when we were no longer that young...:) She was proud to serve on the Board of IISL between 1999 and 2007, and thereafter as Honorary Director, and during those years she contributed greatly to the work of IISL, including the Manfred Lachs moot court and the organisation of the annual Colloquium.
I will remember her as a beautiful person in every aspect, and will cherish warm memories of her never faltering dedication to the Institute she loved so much, and of our warm friendship. She is finally free from pain and suffering, and I know that she will shine more brightly than ever among the stars in our universe and beyond.

Tanja Masson-Zwaan, IISL President Emerita

Sylviane Sigwald

May 12, 2018

I met Patty for the first time in 1977. It was Autumn and her first stay in Europe to attend a congress in Prague.
We exchanged for a few years but it took us some time to utter first words. Years later, when we remembered that time, we had agreed that after one hour it was as if we had known each other forever and we have always kept this great complicity even miles away one from each other;
We all keep in our heart a memory, some footsteps, the sound of a voice, some laughter...
We will never forget the moments we spent together in Phoenix and in Alsace even in Paris or in Tucson.
Doris & Simone
Family and Friends in Alsace

Nandi Jasentuliyana

May 10, 2018

It is with profound sadness that I learned of the demise of our dear friend and colleague Pat Stern. She was an outstanding space lawyer who made a notable contribution in the field of space law.

Over the years, she has made many outstanding presentations at International Conferences. The papers she authored, often along with Les Tannen, will stand in testimony to her scholarship and commitment to the progressive development of space law and policy.

She made a particularly notable contribution to the work of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL). During my tenure as the President of IISL, she was a pillar of strength to me and the Board of IISL, which she served as a dedicated member. In that capacity, she was always ready to bear any burden to make the work of the organization a success. It was a singular privilege for me to have worked closely with her for many years as fellow members of the IISL.

Pat was much more than an outstanding practicing attorney and a space lawyer. She will be remembered as warm and caring friend, who was always concerned about the well-being of her friends and colleagues.

Though she will be sorely missed by the international space community, she will not be forgotten. The Death being the inescapable destiny of all who are born, one has no cause to grieve. As such, it is time for us to celebrate the life of a caring human being that passed through this earth. May She Rest in Peace!

Nandasiri (Nandi) Jasentuliyana
President Emeritus, International Institute of Space Law
Former Deputy Director-General, United Nations,
Director, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs


May 9, 2018

Patricia is now among the stars, as Les stated. And what a star she is and was! We met at so many of the IISL Colloquia, and often discussed her contributions to the IISL Board or Directors' meetings as well as her papers presented at the IISL Colloquia.

Patti has left an indelible mark in the field of space law, and it is only fitting that she be counted among the stars in the heavens, and on Earth, in space law.

May the Creator of the stars grant peace and fortitude to Les, to Patti's relatives, and may we cherish the sweet memories Patti has left us with.

Sylvia Ospina
IISL Member, and Honorary B/D Member

Sridhara MURTHI KR

May 9, 2018

In my association with the activities of IISL, I had a few occasions to meet or briefly interact with Pat, who made deep impression on my mind with her affable and gentle nature and yet with an unflinching devotion to the Space law development and IISL. These impressions lived in my heart for long long years. She will ever live in our memories, inspiring us through her indomitable spirit. My deep condolences to Les and other members of her family and many colleagues who miss her. My prayers to Almighty to bestow strength to all bereaved and Peace to the noble Soul of Pat.
K R S Murthi,
Vice President IISL
Bangalore, India

Peter Jankowitsch

May 9, 2018

The loss of Patricia will be felt with deep regret by the whole of the international space community to which she dedicated so much of her unbound enrergies, her creative imagination and most of all her warm personality which enligthened and inspired our meetings with her in the many places to which she travelled with us.
Her optimism and her firm belief in the merits of the exploration and peaceful uses of Outer Space was a constant source of motivation for our common endeavours and she will therefore be sadly missed in the future.
Our warm feelings and condoleneces go to all those that she leaves behind and most of all of curse to Les and the rest of her famiy.
Peter Jankowitsch

Pam Preston

May 8, 2018

Sophomore year, English class, West High School:
The class was going to see Romeo and Juliet but needed to provide their own transportation. Mrs. Magnusson asked those of us who needed a ride to raise our hands so someone who had a car could take us. I raised my hand, Patty Sterns came over and offered me a ride.
Patty Sterns! Popular, Smart, Beautiful.

For a person who considered herself to be the “Ally Sheedy in Breakfast Club” type, this was amazing. Since that day, Patty has held a special place in my heart. We were HS buds hanging out and running around (first in her mom’s car and then the green mustang), we lived together for a year while she was at ASU, I spent countless hours with her at the ranch, my daughter and I were in her wedding to Les, she is Godmother to both of our kids, truly my “best friend forever”.

We moved in 1986 and life moved on. She was a very busy professional woman and I was a stay at home mom, raising two kids in a very small town in the Midwest. Distance and life styles may have faded our connection; but, it never broke our bond or changed my feelings for her. I loved her like a sister. And I hope she felt the same.

And, I always knew she was “there”. She may not be there anymore, but she will live on in my heart, the hearts of my family and so many more people.
I love you, Patty and will forevermore.