Marion Patterson left her mark on the University of Idaho as one of the first students to earn a master’s degree in physical education through distance learning, a feat she completed in the 1970s, before the university had an established distance-learning program.
“I was on the Moscow campus for just one semester, and then wrote my thesis from Kansas,” Marion said. “This was back when everyone had to handwrite, type and mail documents to their advisor, who made comments and returned the process. People today are amazed that I was able to successfully complete the thesis work this way. U of I proved to be flexible. Dr. Cal Latham, who was my corresponding professor from the physical education department, was outstanding in this.”
She worked with College of Natural Resources (CNR) faculty member James R. Fazio and what is now known as the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences (CEHHS) to pilot an outdoor education program.
Marion ’77 and her husband, Richard “Rich” Patterson ’71, live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Since graduating from U of I, Rich used his fishery degrees from CNR in various seasonal positions in Alaska, providing data about the impact of the Alaska pipeline on fisheries, and Marion has led environmental programs over the years. She applied her basic movement sciences background (health, physical education, recreation and fitness training) in various positions, including public education.
The Pattersons have two children, Daniel Patterson and Nancy Patterson '06, '09. Nancy earned her bachelor's degree in Spanish, Latin American studies and international studies from the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences and her master's degree in resource recreation and tourism from CNR. Rich and Marion continue to make annual gifts to the university and have also included U of I in their estate plan to benefit the CEHHS Excellence Fund and CNR's Excellence Fund.
“Our means are modest,” Marion said. “We would love to give the university millions of dollars, but we can’t. However, the endowed fund we created will generate an annual cash stream to help Idaho students forever — and we’re proud of that.”
As an executive director in charge of fundraising for a privately funded nature center for 39 years, Rich has seen firsthand the need for donor support.
“Generous donors supported my salary, family and organization,” he said. “I believe strongly in giving back.”
While attending U of I, Rich had a Rotary Foundation Scholarship from the Rotary Club in New Jersey and had a monthly stipend from the Army. Their daughter, Nancy, also received scholarships to support her studies at U of I.
“We are strong believers in education,” they said. “Helping future students who may be struggling financially warms our hearts.”
Article by Joshua Nishimoto, University Advancement