Patterson bequest to benefit Northwestern music program

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Patterson bequest to benefit Northwestern music program

Northwestern Foundation Release
January 16, 2009

Helen Patterson has been described in many ways. Attractive, independent, giving, caring and a firecracker. She was very opinionated and never afraid to tell you what was on her mind. With that being said, it was no surprise when she passed away that she had specific plans for her estate. It was simple. She wanted half of her estate, which was more than $100,000, to go to the Northwestern Oklahoma State University Music Department. Patterson wanted to help the program that gave her so much joy.

Rick Cunningham, attorney for Patterson’s estate, said that sometimes he might guide a person to where they could give. He tries to lead them to give locally because the impact can often times be greater in the local community. This was not the case with Patterson, she knew exactly where and who she wanted to have her estate.

“She specifically wanted it to go to the music department,” Cunningham said. “She was very interested in music at Northwestern.”

One of Patterson’s long time friends, and caretaker in the end, was Fayetta Accord. The two women did quite a few things together. They attended every music event at Northwestern, specifically the symphonies, and they loved to go dancing.

“Every Saturday night at eight, we would go out to the Moose Lodge for their dances,” Accord said. “Helen sure did love to dance.”

Dancing and attending the music events are what kept her going. Before she passed, Patterson had a bad stroke that pretty much kept her from doing any of the things she loved.

“It was hard for her to not be able to get out and go like she used to, but nevertheless, Helen was a great person to be around,” Accord said.

Dr. Mike Knedler, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern, said that the public relations aspect of the music department has made Northwestern visible to the community, much like athletics, and he said it’s never known who might be attending these events and how many lives are being touched.

“We are very grateful to her and her estate for making this happen and for thinking of us,” Knedler said. “Hopefully, this will set an example for others to follow. I think the fine arts program is right on the verge of moving to the next level, and the Patterson bequest will help us do that.”

Patterson’s legacy will be carried on through the music department in many facets. The University has added this money to the Oklahoma State Regents Endowment Fund Program and the money will eventually be matched dollar for dollar. When matched by the state Northwestern will have another endowment of more than $200,000 that directly supports the music department. It can buy equipment, instruments or software, provide performance opportunities for the students, hire guest conductors or musicians and send students on trips or instructors to conferences.

Knedler said the bequest will promptly benefit the students and will allow some needs to be met that were not originally in the budget.

“I am kind of jealous because I taught for 22 years in the music department, and we had to work with limited resources,” Knedler said. “Now, with the Patterson gift and the Donovan Reichenberger gifts, it is going to help bring us up to where we need to be.”

Skeeter Bird, Northwestern Foundation CEO, said he wished he had had the opportunity to meet Patterson. After talking with her friends he thought she would have been a great deal of fun.

“During tough economic times like these, we understand that folks may be unable or insecure in giving to the University,” Bird said. “Many folks worry about not having enough to live on, yet most people can learn from Helen Patterson’s example by making a plan to give in their will. We will never forget her.”