Jimalea Patterson has always been an Oklahoma State University fan. After meeting her husband, Kenny, during her time at OSU, to her daughter graduating from OSU, to attending grandparent university with her grandchildren, she bleeds orange in the best possible way.
After her husband passed in the summer of 2016, her ties to OSU shifted as she wished to honor her late husband. Patterson and Burck Berry, an OSU Foundation employee, began discussing the opportunity to create a scholarship in her and Kenny’s name.
“The Patterson’s have been involved at OSU for many years,” Berry said. “Jimalea has a great passion for education and what it can do to change lives. Our mission at the OSU Foundation is to unite donor passions with OSU’s priorities. I can’t think of a better way for Jimalea, her family and OSU to remember Kenny. I hope more follow in their footsteps.”
Patterson knew this was the right step to honor Kenny and to continue changing lives for the better.
“He showed me that this scholarship could let me celebrate Kenny’s life by giving someone in need an opportunity for an education,” Patterson said.
Patterson is a retired teacher from Guthrie Public Schools, but now teaches men in a correctional facility in Oklahoma City, working to help them pass the high school equivalency test.
“As I have become more experienced in teaching incarcerated adults, I learned that men with felony convictions have few good choices when they leave prison,” Patterson said. “Most of my students have families they want to rejoin and support, but because of restrictions resulting from conviction, they know that will be difficult.”
Patterson knows that one option available for these men is higher education. By receiving their high school diploma, they can create more opportunities for themselves in higher education, and this can help them get and keep good jobs.
Knowing that higher education can be expensive, Patterson’s scholarship, in memory of Kenny, is awarded to a male or female with a felony conviction the opportunity to study at OSU in the College of Arts and Sciences; an opportunity that might otherwise be unattainable due to sheer price of higher education.
When she began her journey teaching these men, she knew that she might not receive the positive feedback she usually had from her high school students, but realized this assumption was wrong.
“Over and over I have watched men of all ages and types begin to learn and become confident, goal-oriented and happier people,” Patterson said. “They are often surprised and energized by their own success. They talk of being good examples for their children.”
Her program has touched the lives of so many, and now Patterson will continue to create more opportunities for these men and women through this scholarship.
“Since the first man earned his high school equivalency, we have posted laminated copies around the room,” Patterson said. “New students always look with big eyes around the room at the more than 50 diplomas. They see evidence that many others have succeeded in this classroom, and they begin to believe that they might also.”
The Kenneth D. and Jimalea Patterson scholarship will be awarded this spring in hopes of giving someone deserving another chance.