Beyond the Blackboard with James Patterson

Dec 2, 2013

It is hard to get to know an instructor from just sitting in the classroom and listening to lectures. Only after you have the opportunity to ask personal questions do you find out about the individual beyond the role of teacher. Dr. James Patterson, who teaches Texas and U.S. History for Southeast College, is the next person to be interviewed for the Beyond the Blackboard series.

Patterson was born in San Antonio, Texas to a father who served in the Air Force and a mother who, for a time, ran the complaint department for a local Sears store. His family moved several times during his youth including such places as England, Maryland, Taiwan and San Angelo, Texas. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in Angelo State University where he majored in government with a minor in history. After graduating and finding very little employment in the area, he enrolled in Angelo State’s fledgling master’s degree program. Patterson completed the program in twelve months and became the first person at that university to earn an advanced degree.

By this time, Patterson had been playing bass guitar for various local bands, earning enough money to fund his college expenses while living on his own. He got a nice break when the most successful band in San Angelo needed a bass player. They already had national success with the song, “Last Kiss” (Oh where, oh where can my baby be?). Patterson played with this group for six years but the concerts and dances started to “dry up” around the time of the movie Saturday Night Fever ushered in disco and ushered out live bands.

Patterson taught 8th grade for several years with Houston ISD, but found that not all the students were serious about learning. He found a mentor at HCC who taught him a formula for getting out of the 8th grade. That formula was to start teaching part-time for HCC immediately and to begin building his teaching resume. Simultaneously, Patterson was to enroll in grad school at the University of Houston and begin working on his doctorate. As opportunities permitted, he was to attend or present at various academic workshops. It took him six years to complete the doctorate since he was teaching full and part-time, as well as playing in a band several times per week.

Patterson related that he has been working for HCC since the 1980s and was part of the transition team that helped to create the Southeast campus. The team started with very limited resources and had no idea how successful a campus at 6815 Rustic would be. They staffed and budgeted on hope and faith. One of the things they had in their favor was a state-of-the-art (PC-based) computer lab (the other colleges used the MAC platform). Southeast quickly became the technology-oriented college. Patterson was involved with distance education even before there was an Internet. The college offered a few classes known as “computer modem classes.” This was very low-tech, but a good place to start. He had the opportunity to work as the Chair for distance education and began working toward moving the college from “computer modem” delivered courses to Internet delivered courses. Although Patterson teaches face-to-face classes as well, he always tries to teach as many online courses as possible. He strives to make his online courses as complete and intuitive as possible, and with all of the changing software and technology, that is a career-long process.

Patterson and his wife married in 2002 and between them they have five adult children and six grandchildren. Some live in the Houston area and the rest live on the East Coast.


Q: Your biggest influence is …?
A. Jesus Christ. My favorite Bible verse is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; Think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

Q. When you are not at HCC what do you like to do most?
A. I like to play acoustic guitar or bass guitar, ride a bike and play with the grandkids (not all at the same time). Currently, I play bass in a dance band and also perform as a solo singer/guitarist in various churches and at an Italian restaurant.

Q. Your students/colleagues would never believe it if they knew …?
A. I have written and recorded two albums in the “techno” genre, under the band name, Crosstronic.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. I have some peeves but I don’t keep them as pets.

Q. If you were stranded on a desert island, you would bring …?
A. My wife (smiling). If that were not allowed, I believe I could keep my sanity for a long time with a Bible and an acoustic guitar (with extra strings).

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