This story is reprinted with permission from the University of Alabama at Birmingham
According to Michael Patterson, who graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1986, the money he earned throughout his life is not his. Patterson, administrative manager of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, views all the income he has accumulated as a way to help other people.
“There’s only so many cars you can buy or so many houses you can buy,” he said. “I really don’t see it as my money. I see it as community money, and trying the best you can to help the community you live in.
With this mentality of giving back in mind, over the past two years Patterson has donated $100,000 to establish two scholarships that will support students at the Collat School of Business.
“Michael Patterson’s generosity will have a lasting impact on underrepresented students in business school,” said Eric P. Jack, Ph.D., dean of the Collat School of Business. “It not only helps cover the financial cost of their education, but also provides mentorship to these students, which is priceless. We couldn’t ask for a better example of our alumni giving boldly to ensure others can reach their potential.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Patterson moved to his parents’ native Alabama when he was 11 years old. After starting college elsewhere, Patterson transferred as a junior to UAB.
“It was exactly what I needed at the time,” Patterson said. “I needed to focus a little more. My teachers were very supportive and very engaging. With the support of my advisors and teachers, I took on a tight schedule to graduate on time. They helped me all helped.”
During his freshman year at UAB while majoring in accounting, Patterson secured employment through the UAB Cooperative Office at Blue Cross Blue Shield.
“I didn’t know the difference between Blue Cross and Red Cross,” Patterson recalls with a laugh. “It shows how young I was.”
He worked 20 hours a week at Blue Cross while maintaining a demanding course load. In 1986, he graduated on time and, in four years, a goal achieved.
“My career is beyond my wildest dreams of where I could go,” Patterson said. “So, I wanted to give back. I realize how my story and my success really started at UAB.
In 2020, Patterson chose to make his first donation of $50,000, establishing the OE Johnson Endowed Scholarship, which supports students at the Collat School of Business. It is named after his beloved grandparents, Oliver and Ethel Johnson, and honors his grandfather’s unwavering commitment to education, even when society at the time did not allow him to reach the education he dreamed of.
“He was one of the few black men of his generation that I even knew had gone to high school,” Patterson said. “A lot of people stopped at eighth grade. He loved education and encouraged his children and grandchildren to be educated. When it comes to the name [of the scholarship], I thought of him. He didn’t have the opportunity that I had, or that kids today have. It was a good fit for someone who valued education and knew the difference it could make in their life.
In 2021, Patterson donated an additional $50,000 and created the Patterson Family Endowed Scholarship, designated specifically for an underrepresented student at the Collat School of Business.
“I thought, ‘If you did one, maybe you can do two,'” he said. “If you can help one, you can help two students.”
Both scholarships are part of the Blazing the Way Scholarship Program, a unique partnership that allows UAB students to not only receive a substantial scholarship so they can put financial concerns aside and focus intensely on their studies, but also to establish a lasting relationship with the stock market. benefactor – including career advice, mentorship and networking opportunities.
Inspired by the first recipient of the OE Johnson Endowed Scholarship, Cecily Mason, Patterson notes that her impressive story inspires her to eventually start a third scholarship.
“It’s my way of encouraging young people today who really want to go to college, but just can’t afford it,” he said. “Going to college is an expensive business.”
Read more about scholarships at UAB here.
Patterson hopes to help students who, as he once did, may feel like outsiders. UAB is a place where an outsider can thrive, he says — a place with a spirit not found at other universities.
“UAB is a special place for me,” he said. “The support I got wasn’t just from the teachers, but from the counselors — everyone. I’m just grateful. As soon as I entered the campus, people were there to help me. There’s a spirit of helping, supporting, you can do it, encouraging – for me, I know I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t transfer to UAB. That was the dividing line for me. I’m so glad I went there.
Patterson’s hope for the recipients of the two current scholarships? First, to graduate from UAB. And when they find jobs, Patterson hopes they’ll also think of ways to give back.
“If it’s not at UAB, then maybe another community they live in,” he said. “I want them to be role models for each other, to learn from each other, to graduate, and to give back in their own way, wherever they live.”
To learn more about supporting the Collat School of Business your way, contact Brad Whisenant at email@example.com.