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Counselor retiring after 31 years of service

Ernesto Rivera

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Aldrich Patterson, commonly referred to as “Dr. P.,” is retiring from Chico State after 31 years as a counselor for the Counseling and Wellness Center. Photo credit: Ernesto Rivera

When Aldrich Patterson asked for a letter of recommendation from his Catholic school vice principal, the letter read, “To whom it may concern, Aldrich Patterson will never make it at your university.”

He ripped the letter up. Years later, he graduated in the top 10 percent of his class at UC Irvine.

Now, “Dr. P.,” a counselor for the Psychological Counseling and Wellness Center, has made it his mission to inspire, mentor and prepare students to become successful.

Patterson reflects on his final semester at Chico State before retiring rewarding because in his 31-year career, he knows he accomplished his mission.

He’s seen more than 6,000 students and has helped them deal with a vast variety of personal issues.

“We have a responsibility to look after the children of someone else,” he said. “I don’t see myself as a baby sitter, but as a person who’s keeping an eye on someone else’s child — I would want someone to do that for my kids.”

Patterson’s drive is as expansive as his work. In his 62-semester career, he’s been an instructor for the Educational Opportunity Program’s summer bridge program, has given keynote speeches for first-year convocations, worked with diversity programs across campus and taught classes in the School of Education.
He’s also given online lectures for Regional & Continuing Education on preparing for finals and study skills.

For his accomplishments, Patterson was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Conversations on Diversity and Inclusion award ceremony on Wednesday. He was praised for his work on diversity and inclusion across campus and the special relationships he’s formed with students that have helped them succeed.

“We already know that students do well in college when they have a connection to someone, when someone sets expectations for them that are high,” he said. “We know they do well when someone shows interest in them.”

Patterson, one of the two licensed black psychologists in the north state, believes that diversity plays a special role in education.

“You have to have experiences with other people to open your mind,” he said. “This country was designed for all people, not for some people.”

While people like Patterson have made huge contributions to the university’s inclusiveness, there’s still a lot more work to do, he said.

“Until we have an equal number of people that are represented in society in college, then the system’s not working,” he said. “If the university was doing their job, there would be a more diverse faculty.”

One way he suggests doing that is by developing programs to inspire and help students of color become leaders of the university. Patterson has had tremendous success helping black and latino students understand their potential.

 

“That’s my role,” he said. “Make sure that they’re safe and they develop skills and will make them better when they leave.”

Mimi Bommersbach, also a counselor, has worked with Patterson for 13 years.

“He’s a bit of an institution,” she said. “When he came here 30 years ago, he decided this is where he was going to spend his career and make it his mission to make sure students are successful.”

Patterson has gone above and beyond to make sure he can accomplish that, she said. He mentors students outside of work, he goes to the graduations and supports people in the community

“During his lunch hour, he goes down and sits on a bench, rather than sitting inside,” she said. “He always goes out and gets a pulse of what’s going on campus. He’s a great observer. That’s why he’s a very insightful colleague.”

But Patterson’s influence won’t leave Chico State the day the last box leaves his office. People will have the chance to say their goodbyes and pick his brain one last time at his retirement celebration.

His one last piece of advice he can give to students is to collect their winnings.

“They’ve been given the lottery of an opportunity to get an education that will change their life,” he said. “To give anything less than their best would be to sacrifice their gift and opportunities.”

Ernesto Rivera can be reached at [email protected] or @ernestorivera on Twitter.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Counselor retiring after 31 years of service”

  1. Amy on January 11th, 2016 9:22 pm

    I was significantly influenced by Dr. P as an undergraduate at CSU Chico. Because of his powerful encouragement, I went far further in my educational career as well as my personal life goals than I ever would have otherwise. His sincere support of his protégés has surely made a tremendous impact well beyond Chico, California, and even the US. This brilliant man has a heart of gold (not to mention a priceless sense of humor). This article is much appreciated.

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Counselor retiring after 31 years of service