Retired Chico State counselor, psychologist Aldrich ‘Pat’ Patterson dies at 66

Diana J. Smith

CHICO — After 31 years of service to Chico State, former counselor and psychologist Aldrich “Pat” Patterson retired following the conclusion of the 2014 school year. In his 31 years at Chico State beginning in 1983, Patterson helped countless students seeking guidance in the Chico State counseling center, now called the WellCat Counseling Center.

Patterson was one-of-two licensed African American psychologists in Northern California. He was the lone Black counselor at Chico State in his time with the counseling center, something the Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts at Chico State Tracy Butts said is a huge void that has gone unfilled.

On Jan. 15, Patterson died at the age of 66, Chico State said in a release. The cause of death is unknown at this point, according to Chico State Media Relations Coordinator Sean Murphy.

Patterson is survived by his wife Chela Mendoza Patterson, who retired after 34 years at Chico State in December as director of the Early Outreach and Support programs.

Patterson and his wife both made their presence known to all minority students at Chico State, advocating for students of color. Professors like Butts would send students to Patterson for specific needs, often just needing someone to listen.

“I think we’ve all sent students to Dr. P who were experiencing things, or saying ‘I don’t know that I want to go there because I have opinions on telling certain people certain things,’” Butts said. “I’d say, ‘you know who you need to see? Dr. P.’”

Patterson taught psychology courses to undergraduate as well as graduate level students.

He helped lead the Summer Bridge program at Chico state to help incoming freshman feel more prepared for the school, often speaking to students about his journey in higher education. Mentorships between Patterson and students often began here.

Patterson was a part of the Black Faculty and Staff Association at Chico State, the Black Student Success Retreat, Black Graduation amongst other organizations and events at Chico State.

Butts, who teaches African American, American and multicultural literature at Chico State, called Patterson’s death a gut punch. He was the first African American person she met when she moved to Chico 20 years ago to teach at Chico State, and Patterson immediately invited her to lunch. As fellow Black faculty, he wanted her to know that he was there for any help she needed or anything that arose.

“Not that other deaths don’t inspire a lot of sadness or what have you, but that one sort of hit differently. In part because you always would think of Dr. P as just being so full of life,” Butts said. “You know that he had that joy of life in him. He was funny, but also the man would just move people.”

He was instrumental in starting programs such as the Men of Honor, now named the Men of Chico, which “aims to empower, guide, and support men of color at CSU, Chico,” according to its website. Students from the semester-long program attend workshops on professional attire, résumé building and interview preparation before attending a career fair at Chico State.

However, despite the many programs Patterson was a part of, the WellCat Counseling Center is where he will quite possibly be missed most.

“He’s very intelligent; he’s very wise; he has a million connections in the community and on campus; he’s likeable; he’s extroverted; he’s one of the funniest people I’ve met,” said Lana McKnight, who’s worked at Chico State as a psychologist since 1998. “He loved Muhammad Ali, and he was bigger than life in a lot of ways. I miss having that collective wisdom.”

McKnight said Patterson was on the team that interviewed her for her position 22 1/2 years ago in the counseling center. Since then the two had become good friends.

“I cried my eyes out when I found out,” McKnight said. “Disbelief. I was in shock.”

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