The legacy of Joe Patterson ’69 will live on at Lawrence University through an endowed scholarship in his name, funded by classmates, teammates, family, and friends who witnessed his generosity and strength during and after his time on campus.

Contributors rallied to raise more than $100,000 to endow the scholarship following Patterson’s death in August 2022 at age 74.

The scholarship will be celebrated when Patterson is honored prior to the Oct. 14 Homecoming football game at Banta Bowl. An All-American football player at Lawrence, Patterson’s No. 71 will be retired.

Joe Patterson poses in his football uniform during his senior year.
Joe Patterson's No. 71 will be retired at a ceremony at the Banta Bowl before the start of the Oct. 14 Homecoming football game.

“When Joe passed away, I knew how important Lawrence was to him, but also how important he was to Lawrence, past and present,” said Patterson’s wife, Mary Mattke ’71, who will be in attendance for the Homecoming ceremony. “I really wanted to make sure that he had a legacy there that honors what he did to make Lawrence what it is today.”

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Patterson was much more than a star football player. He was an influential student who became an influential alumnus—supporting and advocating for students of color at every opportunity. He stayed closely connected to Lawrence—he was a frequent mentor and donor and served a term on the Board of Trustees—while finding great success as a New York real estate entrepreneur.

Throughout his life, Patterson would always credit Lawrence as a foundation and a force that shaped him; he was grateful for the opportunities he had and the challenges he overcame, Mattke said.

“He would want others to have that experience he had, an experience that you couldn’t get anywhere else,” she said.

Friends and family said Patterson’s legacy is defined by his unrelenting humanity. He listened compassionately to others, and he lives on in the countless lives in which he made a difference. The scholarship is both a celebration and continuation of that legacy.

Mark Breseman ’78, a senior principal gift officer in Lawrence’s Office of Advancement, has long worked with donors interested in establishing endowed funds. He called the speed for which this one came together—$100,000 contributed within about six months—nearly unprecedented. The final $40,000 was raised in less than a week when friends came together to push it over the goal line.

“People were so passionate about Joe and what he meant to them that they were willing to get out there and do it themselves,” Breseman said.

Tim Young ’70, a lifelong friend and close teammate of Patterson’s on the field, said he was driven to help because of Patterson’s influence throughout his life. It’s about paying it forward.

“We want to inspire people to do the same for other Lawrentians,” Young said.

While the scholarship will begin in Fall 2024, providing $5,000 annually for deserving students, Mattke contributed an additional $5,000 for a one-time scholarship this year. The recipient of that scholarship will be introduced at the Homecoming football game.

For Mattke and Patterson’s legion of Lawrentian friends, it will be the culmination of an emotional journey.

“When this started, it was just a dream and a prayer, and now it’s a reality,” Mattke said. “It really is all these other people; it wouldn’t have happened without them. It just moves me to know there are so many people who love him.”