Statesville native Dr. Bob Patterson was honored earlier this month with the Excellence in Agriculture Award from the Tobacco Farm Life Museum. This award is given annually at the Breakfast with the Commissioner event held during the Southern Farm Show.
Patterson’s educational journey began as a freshman in soil science at N.C. State University in 1957, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He then went to Cornell University for a PhD in agronomy. He 1968 he joined NC State’s faculty as a professor of crop science. Since that time, thousands of students have gone through his courses at N.C. State and abroad.
“I can guarantee that this fairgrounds could be filled with students, researchers, friends and community members that have been lucky enough to call Dr. Patterson professor, friend, coach, mentor or colleague,” said Commissioner Troxler. “He demonstrates what it means to be a lifelong learner, educator, mentor and role model. I am thankful for his leadership and continued service to agriculture.”
Last year, the UNC System honored employees whose careers spanned more than 50 years. Patterson was included in this group. When asked about his most treasured memories, he reflected on meaningful conversations with former students.
“Knowing that my former students believe their academic and research work has been sound preparation for their life’s journey is extremely meaningful to me … that they feel, with sincerity, that the time they invested in my courses, internships, and graduate programs have empowered them to be able to accomplish their career goals in satisfying ways.”
Patterson taught countless ag leaders in North Carolina and nationally. His passion in the classroom developed their passion. Patterson has taught courses on crop production, weed management, global sustainability, biology and countless more. His honors and awards include numerous outstanding teaching awards and other honors.
In 2015, the Bob Patterson Interdisciplinary Studies Fellows award was created. This award honors one graduating senior that exhibits generosity, empathy, humility, open-mindedness, creativity, altruism and gratitude. All of which we can agree are characteristics of the award’s namesake. He also helped found interdisciplinary teaching at N.C. State in the 1970s when he began teaching World Population and Food Prospects.
We asked a few of Patterson’s former students that now work with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services about their time at N.C. State University in his class.
“The most important thing I can think of about Dr. Patterson is that there is no one who cares more about or has more concern for the well-being of their students than Dr. Bob Patterson. I had his World Food and Population class and another Crop Production class. He strives to make sure that he gets to know students, where they’re from, their professional and personal goals, what their passion is for their future. I am so glad that he is still at N. C. State and now my daughter can also get to know him and experience the kindness and compassion that comes from his genuine concern for his students.”
– Georgia Love, regional agronomist
“The class I had with Dr. Patterson was UNI 323 – World Food Production and Population. What I recall off the top of my head is the image of Dr. Patterson leaning against the wall at the edge of the chalkboard holding his coffee cup somewhat looking out into the open air of the classroom pontificating the story that he is sharing with the class about his tobacco missions in Zimbabwe. Dr. Patterson was a believer in students and gave much of his time mentoring the next generation of agricultural leaders.”
– Weston McCorkle, agricultural programs specialist
“I was a student of his as an undergraduate and was also a lab TA for him a few semesters in graduate school. Dr. Patterson is a North Carolina institution. His enthusiasm and care for his students is the stuff of legends. The very first conference I ever attended was the student section of the American Society of Agronomy in Seattle, Washington sometime around 1992. Dr. Patterson was at the conference and insisted on renting a van to drive us students up in the Cascade Mountains while we there. I’ll never forget the time he would take to provide us that experience, even with his busy schedule. We learned a lot about agronomy from him, and even more about life and how to treat everyone with decency. Along with thousands around North Carolina, I am blessed to call him a friend.”
– Sandy Stewart, assistant commissioner