Retired counseling center psychologist Aldrich “Pat” Patterson, who served the University for 31 years, passed away Friday, January 15. He was 66.
Born January 29, 1954, in Los Angeles, he graduated from Daniel Murphy High School and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology from University of California, Irvine, and a PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Maryland.
In 1983, Patterson accepted a staff psychologist position in the Counseling Center at Chico State. Fondly known as “Dr. P,” he spent the next three decades counseling and teaching; enriching the University’s support for underrepresented students, staff, and faculty; and inspiring, mentoring, and motivating thousands of first-generation and low-income students to not give up on their dreams.
Former faculty member Nena Anguiano, director of Butte College’s MESA program, said she will be forever grateful to Patterson. One of her fondest memories of him dates to early in her career, as he encouraged her to complete her master’s thesis—meeting with her every week, making suggestions, and enticing her with a personal reward when she finished.
“The thing is, my story is one of thousands. Each one unique, each one important, each one life-changing. Pat was a game-changer—a ‘Master Dream Igniter’ in words and actions, always bringing his best to help others benefit from his gifts,” she said. “The world is a better place because of Pat. The lives he touched and shifted in the direction of their dreams cannot be counted with a simple multiplier.”
Patterson’s former students and colleagues offered a refrain of sentiments about his charisma, intellect, creativity, and originality, and the incredible value of his contributions to the campus community.
“Dr. P was like a bright shining light when he arrived onto the Chico State campus. It was obvious, early on, that he was going to be a positive addition to our campus community,” said Christopher Malone, retired associate director of the Educational Opportunity Program. “Dr. P loved his work, and the people he worked with loved him.”
Each year, Patterson would start the Summer Bridge program with a motivational speech, and then give study skills and time management workshops and mentoring opportunities for as many students as possible. His message was a personal one, having been told himself when he applied to college that he would not be successful—and going on to graduate in the top 10 percent of his class.
“Dr. P had a passion for helping students to ‘learn how to learn,’” Malone said. “It wasn’t just the fact that students would seek him out, Dr. P made it his mission to seek out students who might be having a rough time with their college experience.”
During his tenure on campus, Patterson helped start Men of Honor, a student organization for Black men, and wrote the Men of Honor Code. He also taught psychology courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and led popular study skills workshops that were widely shared through the Student Learning Center and Regional & Continuing Education.
Krystle Tonga (Sociology, Political Science, ’11), associate director of the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center, still remembers the first time she met Patterson, when she was a student attending his Summer Bridge workshop on “10 Factors of Success.” His ability to connect to students like her was incredible, she said.
“He was in tune with his emotions, compassionate in his approach, smooth and powerful,” she said. “He is a prime example of excellence and, for me, one of the first people who made me feel I was meant to be here.”
Alumnus LaMar “YoHan” Vinson (Information and Communication Studies, ’94) was similarly impressed when first meeting Patterson during Summer Bridge in 1989. The lesson Patterson shared of the incredible power of education combined with intelligence has stuck with him for his entire life.
“Dr. P.’s honesty was refreshing and helped create the fuel I needed to power ‘what I could be,’” Vinson said. “To me, it wasn’t ‘just another summer,’ it was my introduction to CSU, Chico, and I am evidence of what responsible impact can do for a young kid from Oakland wanting more than an excuse to fail. Dr. P. was instrumental in my discovery and continued search for reason, growth, and purpose.”
With an incredible sense of humor, Patterson was guaranteed to generate laughs, but he was also an amazing speaker who delivered presentations that were both engaging and motivational, said Cecilia Santillán-Robles, (Sociology, ’93; MA, Psychology, ’98), director of Early Outreach and Support Programs.
“I recall every time after his presentation, he would have a line of students waiting to speak to him, to thank him, to ask for his contact information so they could speak to him again,” she said. “He had a positive impact on so many of our students by sharing his personal story and his words of wisdom. Many of our students were so moved by his story that it encouraged them to succeed in college. Dr. P wanted them to know if he could make it through college, so could they.”
Patterson was one of the first people to reach out to Tracy Butts when she arrived as a professor in 2001 and made her feel welcome on campus. Now the dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, she said he was well-read in the field of Black studies, up to date on Black popular culture, and a sharp dresser with great dance talents. They became lasting friends, and he was always an inspiration to her.
“When news of his passing circulated amongst the Black alumni group, many of the alumni recalled turning to Dr. P, who for many years was the lone Black psychologist in Counseling and Wellness, to help them deal with a host of issues ranging from grief counseling, imposter syndrome, to test-taking skills—one of Dr. P.’s areas of specialization,” Butts said. “Many of the alumni recalled a saying for which Dr. P is known amongst Black faculty, staff, and students, ‘You can’t soar with eagles if you’re running with turkeys.’ That was his way—outgoing, personable, funny, and fun-loving.”
In addition to his campus commitments, Patterson also operated a private practice, where he specialized in phobias and anxiety disorders, as well as psychotherapy training and consultation. For many years, he was one of just two Black licensed psychologists in the North State, and clients would often travel significant distances to be seen by him.
Patterson retired from the University in 2014, at which time he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Conversations on Diversity and Inclusion committee. In retirement, he continued to work in private practice and stayed in touch with many former students who continued to share their struggles and dreams with him.
Patterson is survived by his wife of 43 years, Chela; daughter Alisa; son Alex; mother Siddie; sister Karen Garrett; and many loving brothers- and sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, and god-children.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks memorial contributions be made in his name to the Association of Black Psychologists, of which he was a Life Member, and designate your gift “In the memory of Aldrich Patterson, Jr., to support student attendances at ABPsi national conferences.”
The University flag will be lowered Wednesday, January 27, in his memory. Due to the pandemic, services will be private.