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Patterson credits UAB with igniting his success.

Michael PattersonMichael Patterson, Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Legal Officer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of AlabamaThe way Michael Patterson, ’86, sees it, the money he’s made throughout his lifetime isn’t his. To Patterson—Chief Administrative Officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama—he sees any earnings he’s accumulated as a vehicle to help other people.

“There’s only so many cars you can buy, or so many houses you can buy,” he said. “I really don’t see it as my money. I see it as the community’s money, and to try as best you can to help out in the community in which you live.”

In the last two years, Patterson has given $100,000 to establish two scholarships that will support students in the Collat School of Business.

“Michael Patterson’s generosity will have a lasting impact on underrepresented students in the business school,” said Eric P. Jack, Ph.D., dean of the Collat School of Business. “He’s not only helping with the financial cost of their education, he’s also providing mentorship to these students, which is priceless. We couldn’t ask for a better example of our alumni boldly giving back to ensure others can reach their potential.”

Patterson was born in Brooklyn, New York and moved to his parents’ native Alabama when he was 11. He started college at the University of Alabama, but, after two years, realized he was doing, in his words, good but not great.

“I needed to do something closer to great to get a job,” he said.

He transferred as a junior to UAB, and it was “just what I needed at that time,” Patterson said. “I needed to focus a little bit more. My teachers were very supportive and very engaging. With the support of my counselors and my professors, I took a really tight schedule to graduate on time. They all helped me.”

During his junior year in 1985, Patterson, an accounting major in the School of Business, got a job through UAB’s Co-op Office at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“I didn’t know the difference between Blue Cross and the Red Cross,” he laughed. “That shows how young I was.”

He worked 20 hours a week at Blue Cross while maintaining a demanding course load. He graduated on time, in four years, in 1986.

“My career exceeds my wildest dreams about where I could go,” Patterson said. “So I wanted to give back. I realize how much of my story and my success really started at UAB.”

He made his first gift of $50,000 in 2020 to establish the OE Johnson Endowed Scholarship, which supports students in the Collat School of Business. It is named for his beloved grandparents, Oliver and Ethel Johnson, and honors his grandfather—who would be 106 today—and his staunch commitment to education, even when society at the time wouldn’t allow him to achieve the education he dreamed of.

Family of Michael Patterson Michael Patterson is pictured alongside wife Barvette Patterson and daughters Austen and Sydney Patterson.“He was one of the few Black men of his generation that I even knew went through high school,” Patterson said. “A lot stopped at the eighth grade. He loved education and encouraged his kids and grandkids to be educated. When it came to the name [of the scholarship], I thought about him. He didn’t have the opportunity I had, or that kids today have. It was a good fit for somebody who valued education and knew the difference it could make in one’s life.”

He gave another $50,000 in 2021 to establish the Patterson Family Endowed Scholarship, designated specifically for an underrepresented student in the Collat School of Business.

“I thought ‘If you did one, maybe you can do two,’” he said. “If you can help one, you can help two.”

Both of these scholarships are part of the Blazing the Way Scholarship Program, a unique partnership that allows UAB students to not only receive a substantial scholarship so they can set aside financial concerns and focus intently on their studies, but to also establish a lasting relationship with the scholarship’s benefactor—including career advice, mentoring, and opportunities for networking.

Inspired by the recipient of the OE Johnson Endowed Scholarship, Cecily Mason—“I was just impressed with her story,” Patterson said, mentioning that his daughters, aged 24 and 27, also got to meet the young woman—he hopes to eventually create a third scholarship, as well.

“It’s my way of encouraging young people today who may really want to go to college, and just don’t have the means,” he said. “[Going to college is] an expensive endeavor.”

Patterson hopes to help students who, like he once did, may feel like the underdog. UAB is a place for an underdog to thrive, he said—a place with a spirit not found at other universities.

“UAB is a special place to me,” he said. “The support I got wasn’t just professors, but counselors—everybody. I’m just appreciative of it. The minute I walked on campus people were there to help. There is a spirit of help, support, you can do it, encouragement—for me, I know I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t transfer to UAB. That was the defining line for me. I’m so glad I went.”

His hope for the recipients of the two current scholarships? To graduate from UAB, first of all. And, when they find a job, Patterson hopes they’ll think of ways they can give back, too, “if not at UAB the maybe another community in which they live,” he said. “I want them to be examples for one another, to learn from one another, to graduate and give back in their own ways, wherever they may live.”

To learn more about supporting the Collat School of Business in your own way, contact Brad Whisenant at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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