Judge Cecil B. Patterson Jr. may have retired in 2011, but his legacy as a trailblazer will now continue through Arizona State University law students.
After graduating in 1971 from ASU’s law school, he went on to be appointed the first black lawyer in the Arizona Attorney General’s office, the first black judge for the Maricopa Country Superior Court, and the first black appeals court judge in Arizona.
Now, a scholarship in his name will help the next generation of minority law students.
Patterson was honored Tuesday night at the Beus Center for Law and Society while accompanied by his wife Wilma and many friends, including a former chief justice and an Arizona Supreme Court Justice, Robert M. Brutinel.
The Honorable Cecil B. Patterson Jr. Scholarship will support students’ focus on their education, rather than their tuition. The goal was to reach $500,000 and $100,000 had already been raised with the help of donors, including Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, which donated $25,000.
The first scholarship is anticipated to be awarded in the fall of 2017. The organizers hope to award it every year after that to honor Judge Patterson’s legacy. Number of scholarships and requirement criteria is yet to be announced.
Douglas Sylvester, a dean at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU, introduced Judge Patterson after a reception, during which Judge Patterson greeted many of the people that attended the event and took an endless amount of pictures. Sylvester said the event was one of the easiest events he had organized because of little effort it took to gather the crowd.
“Everyone around town knows Cecil,” he said. “He’s just a genuinely great person.”
Sylvester expressed appreciation toward Judge Patterson for allowing the establishment of the scholarship in his name, and repeatedly complimented him for all the great things that were said of him during the reception. Sylvester said he had “genuine human nature” and “both (Wilma and Cecil) are honoring this law school.”
Law Professor Myles Lynk, the mastermind behind the endowment, spoke on Judge Patterson’s accomplishments and honors through out his career. He listed Judge Patterson’s work in the community and the number of professionals he has motivated over the years.
“He has invested in me, as he has invested in many of us,” he said.
Lynk has been Judge Patterson’s colleague for many years and said he has seen his, “commitment to opening doors for the less fortunate.”
“This was Myles’s way of providing honor and recognition for things he had seen him do in the legal community at large,” said Dr. Wilma Patterson, as she discussed Professor Lynk’s efforts to create this scholarship to honor her husband.
Lynk announced along with the Patterson Scholarship, a room at the Beus Center for Law and Society will be named after the judge.
Judge Patterson expressed his thanks and said he is very proud of ASU. He said he has seen dedication turn into excellence to get [us] to where we are now and said he misses the interaction with the entire crowd.
He ended his recognition saying he would do it all again.
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Correction: March 13, 2017:
An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU. It has been corrected and updated.