Jim Patterson named Alumnus of the Year
October 15th, 2007
Louisville entrepreneur and philanthropist James Patterson is the 2007 University of Louisville Alumnus of the Year. The UofL Alumni Association will honor him as such at a ceremony Thursday, Oct. 25, during Homecoming week.
The event will take place at 5 p.m. in Margaret Comstock Concert Hall in the School of Music building, and will be followed by a reception at the University Club, Chancey Center. Both buildings are on Belknap Campus. Nine 2007 Alumni Fellows also will be honored.
The Alumnus of the Year award is the highest honor the UofL Alumni Association bestows. It recognizes graduates who have benefited their community, state or nation through public service. Patterson was selected for the award because of his career achievements and contributions to education in Louisville.
“Jim Patterson is a great friend of the University of Louisville and our efforts to build on our rich history and tradition,” said UofL President James Ramsey.
In 1998 Patterson helped found School Choice Scholarships to help lower-income families in Louisville with private school tuitions. More than 1,000 children in kindergarten through sixth grade have participated, and 85 percent come from families with annual incomes below $12,000.
Patterson gave the lead gift to create UofL’s new baseball stadium, named in his honor. He also supports the UofL College of Business’s Emergency Loan Fund, which provides scholarships for students who face unexpected financial crises, and is a donor to Bellarmine University.
Patterson grew up poor in Louisville and was the only member of his family to finish high school. He earned a baseball scholarship to attend UofL. While at the university, he worked three jobs and was active in the Air Force ROTC. He graduated in 1955 with a marketing degree from the business school.
After finishing his Air Force commitment, in 1959, Patterson bought his first restaurant franchise. Ten years later, he created the first Long John Silver’s, the country’s first fish-based fast-food restaurant.
Patterson started a number of successful businesses, including Gulfstream Petroleu, Chi-Chi’s Mexican Restaurant, Rally’s Hamburgers, AmeriCall Services and First Phone (which merged with Worldcom) and Resource America, a software reseller for medical industries.
He is a member of the College of Business’s Board of Advisors, the Kentucky Derby Museum’s board of directors and the Kentucky Center for the Arts Endowment Fund. In 2002, Patterson received the Horatio Alger Award, which recognizes the achievements of people who have risen from humble beginnings to achieve success, and was named a Knight of Knights by Bellarmine University.