Born and raised in Dallas, Pat Patterson’s vision of who and what she could become was shaped by remarkable parents. She entered the workforce as the women’s movement was beginning and emerged as a shining star – a trailblazing, glass-ceiling-breaking, determined force who champions causes that make a difference.
“I think that between what my mother told me and what I learned at Hockaday and Smith was the idea that you can do anything you put your mind to. And that was not what other young women were hearing in the 1950s. They were hearing that some man is going to come along and take care of you and you’re going to be so happy. So just keep yourself pretty. Nothing wrong with that. You just can’t count on it one hundred percent.”
“Daddy had grown up on a farm and seen grinding poverty before the Depression started in the rest of the country. Steinbeck dustbowl stuff – banks would come and take away the chickens and pigs.” Ms. Patterson said.
“He worked to support the family while my mother went on to get her Masters in English from SMU,” Ms. Patterson explained. “This was in 1929 when most women were not going to college. The idea of a woman getting her Master’s Degree was almost unheard of. In those days, the Dallas schools would not hire a married woman. But she got a job teaching at Hillcrest and later became principal there. She put daddy through medical school.”
With Berta’s career in place, Cecil could pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. Because of his delayed start, he spoke with the dean of Baylor Medical College (still in Dallas at the time) hoping to accelerate his admission.
“Daddy explained, ‘If I go to college, I’ll be almost 40 before I start practicing,’” Ms. Patterson said. “The dean told him, ‘Fine. If you will study French, German, and chemistry and pass these courses at SMU, then we’ll let you in.’ French and German were needed because a lot of the medical textbooks had not been translated.”
“My father had a large and successful gastroenterology practice along with Dr. Milford Rouse in the Medical Arts Building downtown – a magnificent building that was built by Dr. Cary. They had three floors and daddy was Chief of Staff at the hospital there,” Ms. Patterson said.
Dr. Rouse was awarded the Foundation’s prestigious Ho Din Award in 1944. Dr. Edward H. Cary co-founded Southwestern Medical Foundation in 1939 and served as a far-sighted, visionary leader. Dr. Cary later founded Southwestern Medical College. “Daddy thought Dr. Cary hung the moon. He had the greatest respect for him.”
Dr. Patterson was a member of the Southwestern Medical College (the precursor to UT Southwestern) faculty when it was founded in 1943 and was the first physician in Dallas to use the endoscope.
The first iteration of the endoscope was the semi-flexible gastroscope. “Daddy used it to extract foreign objects and treat cancer with radium. He was the first person to teach it in Texas.”
"I wake up grateful every day to Southwestern."
Ms. Pat Patterson
“When daddy died, he had the largest collection of gastroscopes in private hands. Dr. Will Lee helped me sort them all out and many of them are on display in the UT Southwestern library. They tell the story from their use in the late 1930s in Europe all the way to the pill cam.”
The introduction of the fiber-optic endoscope in the 1950s dramatically reshaped the field, and Dr. Patterson stayed at the forefront of the change. For more than 40 years, he shared his knowledge and skills with students at UT Southwestern, while donating one-third of his practice to charity care for indigent patients.
“I remember he’d come out of Southwestern too tired to drive home and mother and I would come and pick him up. And then she would get up very early the next day and drive him to the hospital or to teach his courses at Southwestern.”
For many years, Cecil and Berta Patterson worked to help the medical school grow.
“He and my mother were instrumental in bringing Dr. Seldin to Dallas. They were both very involved with the school. They were charged with entertaining Dr. and Mrs. Seldin when they came to Dallas to check things out in 1951. I can remember very clearly my father saying that if Don Seldin came to Dallas it would put UT Southwestern on the map. And Dr. Seldin’s significant contributions were the first thing that really grabbed national attention for the school.”
Ms. Patterson graduated from Smith College in 1960 and went on to get her MBA in finance from Columbia Business School in 1970.
“I was eight years out of college when I went back to school to get my masters. I was married at the time and we were living in New York. I remember walking in to register and a man coming out asked me, ‘Why are you coming here? You’ve already got a husband.’”
"I can remember very clearly my father saying that if Don Seldin came to Dallas it would put UT Southwestern on the map."
Ms. Pat Patterson
“When I started at Columbia there were maybe 40 women in a student body of hundreds. I had a wonderful finance professor,” she recalled. “He got me interested in investment banking. We had to write a paper for his class and I chose a small subject,” she said, smiling, “‘The Future of Investment Banking.’ My professor called senior executives at the major investment banks and they saw me.”
“I ended up getting an ‘A’ on the paper,” she said. “I sent them each a lovely letter thanking them, and when I graduated I called them to ask for interviews.”
She graduated in the top five percent of her class, but not one of them agreed to interview Ms. Patterson.
“They said, ‘What would the clients think if we sent you by yourself? What if we had to travel together? What would our wives say? They’d throw a fit!’ Basically they told me, ‘We can’t have you dealing with anything that matters.’”
“1969, which was my middle year at Columbia, was at the time that lawsuits first tested the “on the basis of sex” portion of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion).
“I came in just as the women’s movement was gaining momentum. Citibank wanted to find women with senior management potential. I got the second highest salary of my graduating class to go work there,” she said. “And later when I went to Goldman Sachs in Dallas, I was the first woman in the company to call on a client by myself. I had 219 companies in Texas to call on and spent five years doing that. In 1980, I had a very good year and decided that was it. I was a single mom, and I was ready to get off the airplanes.” Ms. Patterson founded Patterson Investments, a real estate investment company, in 1981.
She continued the Patterson family legacy helping UT Southwestern by establishing the Berta M. and Dr. Cecil O. Patterson Chair in Gastroenterology.
“Daddy retired in 1975 and Don Seldin spoke at his retirement. It was the most magnificent talk you ever heard. Daddy died in 1993. I called Dr. Seldin and asked if he would be willing to do the same speech at the funeral he’d made at daddy’s retirement. He said, ‘Of course.’ He spoke without any notes. I think he even breathed in the same places. It was just amazing.”
In 1999, Ms. Patterson was asked by Southwestern Medical Foundation to join The Heritage Society – the UT Southwestern/Southwestern Medical Foundation legacy giving society.
“Honestly, it was an easy decision. I had already put them in my will,” she said. “My own doctors have been extraordinary. I wake up grateful every day to Southwestern. Over the years, I’ve seen many Southwestern doctors. I am particularly grateful to Dr. Al Roberts and, after his retirement, Dr. Steven Leach. They have been my internists and have quarterbacked my experience and care.”
“Pat has inspired me from the moment we met."
Kathleen M. Gibson, President, Southwestern Medical Foundation
Ms. Patterson’s long list of memberships includes the Council on Foreign Relations in New York; Texas Philosophical Society; and Charter 100 in Dallas. She serves on the Boards of the Cox School of Business at SMU and the Tower Center at SMU. For three years, she was Chair of the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Ft. Worth. In 2000, she was appointed to the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. From 2000-2005 she was the bank’s Deputy Chairman.
Her time and talents have contributed enormously to UT Southwestern. She co-founded the Carolyn P. Horchow Women’s Health Symposium – UT Southwestern’s signature health care educational program for women. She also served on the campaign committee to build Zale Lipshy Hospital, the UT Southwestern Board of Visitors, and continues to be a member of the President’s Advisory Board and the UT Southwestern Circle of Friends.
“Pat has inspired me from the moment we met. Her impact is deeply felt across our community and her energy and passion continue to guide us forward. She carries on an important legacy of accomplished parents with great talent combined with humanity, which they modeled. Dallas is exceedingly fortunate to have attracted and kept such visionaries in our midst. We are better because of Pat and her lovely family,” said Kathleen Gibson, President of Southwestern Medical Foundation.
“All of us at UT Southwestern are deeply grateful to Pat for her advocacy, leadership, and continued support.”
Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President, UT Southwestern
“By co-founding the Women’s Health Symposium with Carolyn Horchow, Pat has helped bring women’s health issues to the forefront in our community,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “All of us at UT Southwestern are deeply grateful to Pat for her advocacy, leadership, and continued support.”
Roughly a decade after the women’s movement began, philanthropy directed or co-directed by women first began to emerge as its own distinct movement. Women like Pat Patterson helped lead the way for countless women to become engaged, taking leading roles in philanthropy as donors, fundraisers, and nonprofit leaders.
“To me, it was work hard, make your grades and your dreams will be realized. And that’s what I’ve told my own girls. Both are happily married to great men and have children. One has her masters from Columbia Business School and the other from Stanford Business school.”
What would she like people to know most about her?
“I’m a mother with two daughters and I have five grandchildren. I reared my girls by myself without financial support. They’ve turned out to be amazingly fine people,” Ms. Patterson said. “My family is my most important achievement.”