In 1966, Patricia Knowles was awarded the first MA degree in dance from Florida State University. She joined the dance faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1973 after teaching at the University of Georgia, where she implemented a dance major program, and at Eastern Michigan University. At the University of Illinois, she served as department head, graduate program director, and producing director for department concerts from 1977 until her retirement in 2001, dividing her time between administration, teaching, choreography/performance, and service. Chief among her administrative accomplishments were the design and implementation of the MFA degree program in 1981, extensive revision of the BFA curriculum, and expansion of the general education dance program. She established a floating artist-in-residence position, developed the department's performance component into a significant cultural resource for the university community, planned and acquired two dance facilities, and initiated international ties with dance programs in Taiwan and Australia.
Her service to the profession includes leadership in the American College Dance Festival Association, the Council of Dance Administrators, and the National Association of Schools of Dance, for which she served as president (1998-2000) and chair of the Commission on Accreditation (1994-1997). She has been a program reviewer/consultant for the National Association of Schools of Dance since 1984 and continues to serve in that capacity. Knowles was the recipient of the 2005 Alma Hawkins Award for Excellence in Dance Education, awarded by the Council of Dance Administrators. She resides in Urbana, Illinois.