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Dr. Rhonda A. Patterson Scholarship Fund

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Remembering A Beloved Hilltopper

Rhonda Ann Patterson was born September 19, 1965 in Carthage, Missouri to Ronald Ray and Patricia Ann Patterson. The family, which included an older sister, Elizabeth, moved to Kansas City where Rhonda’s younger brother, David, was born and then settled in St. Louis, MO. Rhonda graduated from Pattonville Senior High School in 1983, then graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, earning a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Animal Sciences, in 1987.

Rhonda entered the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, MS set on earning her Master of Science with a study of echolocation in marine mammals, specifically dolphins, working in conjunction with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, MS and the United States Navy in San Diego, CA. Unfortunately, the dolphin she was working with became ill and died. Rhonda was advised to direct her studies towards a doctorate thereby skipping the Master’s program.

Ms. Patterson earned her Doctorate of Microbiology with specific interest in Immunology from Southern Miss in 1998. Her research was extensively with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and the U.S. Navy, helping them diagnose diseases in their dolphins and determine strategies to produce antibodies to protect them in their high stress work environments in oceans throughout the world.

As a member and officer in the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine (IAAAM), Dr. Patterson traveled extensively including trips to Australia and New Zealand. Recognized for her expertise in working with marine mammals, she was called upon to present papers at conferences in Holland and Portugal as well as sites throughout the United States. Additionally, she collaborated with the research staffs of The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, AK.

Dr. Patterson began teaching at Western Kentucky University (WKU) in the Fall 2005. During her tenure at WKU, she taught classes in the biological sciences on South Campus as well as on Main Campus. Barren River Area Safe Space recognized Dr. Patterson and her students in March 2009 for collecting hundreds of cell phones and chargers for their recycling program to help victims of domestic violence. This was an ongoing project that meant a lot to Dr. Patterson. She was instrumental in establishing the Women in Transition (WIT) program to assist nontraditional female students which provides computer resources and scholarships to its members.

In her late 20s, Dr. Patterson was diagnosed with Essential Tremors which typically involves a tremor of the arms, hands or fingers but sometimes involves the head, vocal cords or other body parts during voluntary movements such as eating and writing. Although only fifty-one when she passed away, Dr. Patterson had experienced increasing difficulty resulting from the tremors which were unsuccessfully treated with medication. So despite the fact that she obtained the KY Department of Agriculture's approval of her mini-farm, equipment and sheep to use for producing anti-bodies necessary in her research, this dream had to be abandoned when the tremors affected her manual dexterity. Teaching was always her first love, and now she focused all her knowledge and energy on her students.

Some of the comments from students include, “Thank you so much for being a fantastic biology professor. . . Thank you for your patience, passion, and willingness to help. . . I didn’t have Dr. Patterson but many of my friends did, and said that she was a terrific teacher, always willing to help, was patient and kind. . . She will be greatly missed.”

Dr. Patterson passed away on May 19, 2017 at her home in Brownsville, KY. Besides her mother, Patricia Streng, she is survived by her sister, Elizabeth Schneider (Steve) of Kansas City, MO; brother, David Patterson (Vickie) of Austin, TX; four nieces, Erin Zimmerman (Tim), Meredith Schneider, Marilyn Robinson, Priscilla Robinson; and one nephew, Ian Schneider.

Please pay her gifts forward in your lives!     




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 Last Modified 7/13/17