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Suffolk professor and former department chair loses battle with cancer

By Kevin Jordan
On October 29, 2009

Dr. George Steven Patterson, a professor in the Suffolk Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, passed away this past weekend at the age of 62 after losing his battle with cancer.

Patterson, who served as a professor of general chemistry, as well as freshman advisor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in his time at Suffolk, leaves behind a long career of dedicated service.

Patterson grew up in a small community in Illinois and graduated from Winola High School in 1965. After high school, he attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree and graduated with high honors in 1969. He then went on to Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry before joining the Suffolk faculty in 1974.

In his time at Suffolk, Patterson was a positive influence on colleagues and students alike. Tram Lai, now the Laboratory Coordinator for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, was taught by Patterson during her time as a student at the university.

"He taught me all the skills that I'm using now," said Lai, who considered Patterson to be mentor as well as a teacher and colleague. "He was a great person," she added.

From a colleague's perspective, Dr. William Good described Patterson as "a teacher's teacher," and a man who was "totally professional and easy to work with."

Patterson, who received a national teaching award in 1991 recognizing his resourcefulness and leadership, was nominated for "his patience with students, humanity, ability to explain difficult material, and for the many hours he spends with students," according to a Suffolk University news release.

In addition to teaching, Patterson took on the task of being an academic advisor to incoming freshman chemistry majors. "Advising to him wasn't just about credits and what classes to take," senior Melissa Zajdel said. "It was about looking to the future too."

Patterson was a man who could see the good in people, and his influences reach outside of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department.

"He did a great job teaching chemistry to introductory biology students and the entire department is grateful for his work," said Dr. Peter Burn, Chair of the Biology Department.

Dr. Martha Richmond, who stepped in as Department Chair after Patterson was diagnosed with cancer, described him as "one of the most incredibly organized people in regards to teaching and was a remarkable person."

"He did things because it was the decent thing to do. It was the kind thing to do," Richmond added.

To junior and former advisee Tiffani Trainito he is a man who will be greatly missed. "One could easily tell he was a very caring man," she said. "I still can't believe he is gone."

There will be a memorial service on Nov. 5th at 4:30 p.m. in the McDermott conference room inside Donahue.

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