Charlie Patterson

I recently attended a memorial service for one of my first mentors in this “development world”, Charles W. Patterson, III, or “Charlie” as he was known to most. Charlie was the Vice President for Advancement at Guilford College, which was my first foray into higher education development. Charlie took a chance on me then, a 36-year-old with limited development experience. Charlie was a class act with a solid reputation across the higher ed field holding positions at Meredith College, University of Richmond, UNC- Greensboro, Wake Forest University and Guilford College. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.

I hadn’t seen or spoken with Charlie for a few years and during the service, the pastor reminded all of us of the unique qualities Charlie possessed… mostly his caring, considerate and loving demeanor. I was reminded of his patience, his tenacity and his willingness to help wherever he was needed. Sure, he taught me about moves management, major donors and development operations, but he also made a profound impact on me with his leadership and the way he carried himself at all times. A man of integrity, grit and determination – he always reminded us that “it can be done”.

As we were driving over before the service, I shared with Bill Crouch an Edgar Guest poem which Charlie had all of us on his advancement team memorize and recite during the end of the “Our Time in History” campaign at Guilford College. I pulled out a copy that I have carried around in my portfolio for about 15 years, through interviews, major donor meetings, work sessions, conferences, etc. I’ve often pulled it out, and though I can’t recite if from memory any more, its words still ring true to my heart.  In honor and memory of my mentor and friend, I want to share it with you:

It Couldn’t Be Done

Somebody said it couldn’t be done

But he with a chuckle replied, that maybe it couldn’t

But he’d be one who wouldn’t say so ‘til he tried.

So, he buckled right in and with a bit of a grin, if he had any doubting he hid it,

And he started to sing as he tackled the thing that couldn’t be done and he did it.

Somebody said you could never do that, at least no one ever has done it.

But he took off his coat and he took off his hat, and the first thing we know he’d begun it.

With a tilt of chin and a bit of a grin, without any doubting or quitting,

He started to sing as he tackled the thing that couldn’t be done and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done, there are thousands to prophecy failure;

There are thousands to point out to you one by one the dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle right in with a bit of a grin, just take off your coat and go to it.

And start to sing as you tackle the thing that couldn’t be done and you’ll do it!

Thank you, Charlie, for leading, encouraging and teaching all of us that IT CAN BE DONE!

You’ll certainly be missed, but rest assured your legacy will not only live on through your family, but to the many development professionals whose lives you touched over the years! And even though I never got the chance to tell you, your impact on me will last a lifetime! Rest in peace my friend!