Johnna's Articles

A Special Daily Resource Shared by Kerry Ruff

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021




Frederick Douglass Patterson was born on October 10, 1901 in Washington, DC to Mamie Lucille and William Ross Patterson. He was named after Fredrick Douglass. Sadly, he was left an orphan only at the age of 2 when both of his parents died from tuberculosis. He would move in with his sister Bessie who dedicated her life to ensure he received a good education. She sacrificed half of her $20 monthly salary to enroll him in the private elementary school of Samuel Huston College. Frederick studied in the Agriculture Department at Prairie View A&M University in Texas. This motivated him to enroll at Iowa State University where he earned a doctorate degree of Veterinary Medicine (1923) and a Master of Science degree (1927). Dr. Patterson was the only African American working at the veterinary clinic at Iowa State and that is where he learned an important lesson regarding race. He is quoted saying “how people feel about you reflects the way you permit yourself to be treated. If you permit yourself to be treated differently, you are condemned to an unequal relationship.” He later earned a Doctorate of Philosophy in Veterinary Pathology from Cornell University in 1932. Dr. Patterson taught veterinary medicine at Virginia State College for 4 years while serving as the Director of Agriculture. At the age of 33, in 1935, Fredrick found himself as the third President of Tuskegee Institute where he was previously the head of the veterinary division and the director of the School of Agriculture. Dr. Patterson was the President from 1935 to 1953 and during his time, he transformed the Institute into a full-fledged university with graduate programs that still exist to this day. He founded the School of Veterinary Medicine which has graduated about 75% of the United States black veterinarians. He also spearheaded the University’s engineering and commercial aviation (flying) programs which uniquely situate African Americans and Tuskegee University in a position to provide highly skilled interns in an emerging field of flying. By 1944, Patterson also founded the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), which administers 37 private historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) throughout the United States and administers 10,000 scholarships every year. To date, the UNCF has raised over $3.6 billion dollars since its start in 1944. Dr. Patterson’s leadership gained him national recognition and he earned an invitation to serve on President Harry S. Truman’s President’s Commission on Higher Education from 1946-1947. This commission was responsible for the shift in American college education away from European concepts and towards equality of opportunity. These new developments helped advance the community college network. Dr. Patterson founded an non-profit Robert R. Moton Memorial Institute to improve the recruitment and management processes of HBCUs and he worked as the director of Phelps-Stokes Fund from 1958-1969 where he improved education services for youth of all disadvantaged backgrounds. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan awarded Dr. Patterson the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. To recognize the impact Frederick had on college education, especially in the African American community, UNCF established the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute in 1996 and it researches the educational issues facing African Americans from preschool to adulthood. Dr. Frederick Patterson’s legacy continues to live on to this day. Today we honor the man who made a way of excellence for generations to come. Thank you. Happy Black History Month


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