The Doctor Is Still in Your Corner

By: Ashley Allison

Behind every great fighter is a great coach. For Muhammad Ali, it was Angelo Dundee, and for many Chico State students, both past and present, that coach is Dr. Aldrich Patterson.

Patterson, or Dr. P as he is commonly known on campus, is a licensed psychologist. He has worked in Chico State’s Counseling and Wellness Center since 1983. After 31 years at Chico State, Patterson is finishing the academic year and planning his July 31 retirement. Meanwhile, the campus collectively prepares for the absence of a mentor, always in its proverbial corner.

Dr. Aldrich Patterson: headshot
Dr. Patterson, recipient of the Conversations on Diversity and Inclusion,
Lifetime Achievement award, smiles in his office.

From a corner office on the fourth floor of the Student Services Center, Patterson smiles, pointing out pictures of students he’s mentored. The faces smile from wooden frames on wooden shelves, each student a success.

“My passion is to turn kids on to school, to motivate them to achieve, to make them believe that they can do better, that they are better,” said Patterson, proudly gazing at the photos.

Raised in Los Angeles, Patterson knows the struggle many students face when coming to Chico State. Patterson himself was once a first-generation college student and a participant in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP).

“Things could’ve very easily gone the other way for me,” said Patterson, his eyes welling with tears. “That’s why I feel responsible to be a caretaker for other people’s children.”

A University of California, Irvine alumnus, Patterson jokes that he talked his way into the school.

“Luckily for me, I had two friends that got into UC Irvine for academics, and when the recruiter came I begged him to let me in too, which he did,” said Patterson.

With a PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Maryland and a bachelor’s in psychology from UC Irvine, Patterson credits his family and a number of mentors for his academic and professional success.

“I don’t feel like I’m special,” said Patterson. “I feel like I’ve had great parents and benefited from a number of great mentors who went out of their way to help me.”

But it wasn’t all luck and guidance that got Patterson to where he is today; he worked hard to achieve professional and academic success.

“I had to spend hours and hours at the student learning center just trying to teach myself to study,” he said.

Patterson, the Lifelong Coach

Looking toward his bookcase again, Patterson adds that it is because of this hard work and commitment that he feels he is so successful in his work with students.

“A lot of times in here I have to remind students who they are and not to mess up this opportunity they’ve been given to get an education,” said Patterson. “If you want to be a doctor, five hours a week is not going to get you there. Fifty hours will.”

Patterson follows his own advice about putting in the necessary time regarding his own job counseling and mentoring students.

“As educators, we need to show up on Saturdays, we need to have students at our house, we need to visit their families, and we’ve got to be their dads and moms when they need them,” said Patterson.

Patterson goes out of his way to help students, said Christopher Malone, assistant director of EOP and a colleague of Patterson’s since 1983.

“He has a love and passion for those people like the ones that he grew up with,” said Malone. “As long as students are willing to put forth the work, he is willing to help them make the transition and be successful.”

Tony Davis, a one-time mentee of Patterson and counselor at Sacramento City College, can attest to Patterson’s commitment to students. Davis first met Patterson in 2000 at a black faculty and new student reception.

“We spoke on the surface for the first few minutes,” said Davis. “But when I told him I was from LA and my major interest was psychology, we hit it off famously.”

Following the encounter, Davis would frequent Patterson’s office for advice.

“Despite his responsibilities as a professional, he always made time for me to pose questions, seek guidance, and offer his wisdom,” said Davis.

This willingness to listen is something Davis attempts to model in his own career as a counselor. But that wasn’t the only lesson Davis learned from Dr. P, Patterson also became a symbol of success for Davis.

“He was a model that made being ‘a doctor of psychology, PhD’ at an institution of higher education look smooth and attainable for a young man from south-central Los Angeles like myself,” said Davis.

Dr. Renee Lopez, community counselor for the Educational Opportunity Program at UC Davis, even calls Patterson her “lifetime coach.” A Chico State alumna, Lopez met Patterson while studying psychology as an undergraduate at Chico State.

“He was instrumental in my progress toward completion of my master’s thesis project and has served as my mentor ever since,” said Lopez.

Looking to the Future

While Chico State’s Counseling and Wellness Center will surely miss Patterson in the office, Patterson assures that he will still be around.

“I’ll probably volunteer at Chico State to work with Men of Honor, and I might come back to lecture at the Student Learning Center, but mostly I’ll be mentoring,” said Patterson.

Not one to leave his students hanging, Patterson said he’s even offered free counseling after he leaves to those who feel they still need assistance.

So, Chico State students can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Although Patterson is retiring, he is still in their corner, much like Angelo Dundee was for Muhammad Ali.