Dr. Howard Patterson, who has a love of family, sports and ice cream, is the director of athletics at The University of Texas at Tyler.
The native New Englander, who can make a “mean hot fudge sundae,” and his family moved to Tyler from San Antonio in 2001 when he was tasked to build the UT Tyler athletic program. Patterson established 17 sports at the university as the Patriots began play in NCAA Division III. He helped guide the Patriots to seven NCAA Division III national championships and 97 All-American selections.
Now he is leading UT Tyler into NCAA Division II where athletic scholarships are now offered to student-athletes.
He is a two-time National Association of College Athletic Directors (NACDA) DIII Athletics Director of the Year having won the award in 2012-13 and 2015-16. He is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame for soccer coaching, the Midwestern State University’s Hall of Honor as a men’s soccer coach, the University of the Incarnate Word’s Hall of Fame for success as its athletic director and soccer coach, and the Westboro High School Hall of Fame for his career in teaching and coaching.
Patterson and his wife, Cathie, have three children (Jori, Kenzie, Coleman).
His wife is a pre-kindergarten teacher at Higgins Elementary in the Whitehouse ISD. Their oldest daughter teaches mathematics at Van Junior High School and earned her Master of Education degree from UT Tyler. The youngest daughter graduated from UT Tyler in December 2017 and teaches second grade at Mozelle Brown Elementary School in Whitehouse ISD. Their son graduated in December 2017 from the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University where he was a member of the Honors College and the Texas Tech football team. He currently works for Forward Science in Fort Worth.
“The AD position at UT Tyler came open in the fall of 2000 and I drove to Tyler to look around,” he said. “My wife and I loved the area and the University. I applied and Dr. Dale Lunsford and President Rod Mabry felt I was a good fit. It was hard to leave San Antonio, but that was a little over 18 years ago. We have loved East Texas and raised three beautiful children along the way.”
He was born in Boston and later his family moved to Westborough, Massachusetts, where his first jobs were delivering newspapers, shoveling snow during the winters, picking apples and peaches at a local apple orchard, umpiring baseball, teaching swim lessons, life guarding, and half a day pulling weeds at a local farm.
On his 16th birthday, he received a call from Emma Abu, owner of the local Dairy Queen.
“I was a regular customer during the summer months, which was the only time it was open, and I guess Emma liked me,” Patterson said. “I made a mean hot fudge sundae!”
He graduated from Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.
“My role models were always coaches and I loved teaching and working with youth,” he said. “While at SC I was the junior class treasurer, senior class president, worked in the intramural office, was on the men’s soccer team and worked at Friendly’s Ice Cream Shop. Emma was a good reference!”
What does your job at UT Tyler entail and your responsibilities?
As the AD at UT Tyler, I have overseen the growth of the program since day one. I oversaw the construction of all athletic facilities and am responsible for hiring and terminating every head coach and support staff member. I work with University Advancement on fundraising and community engagement in addition to the day-to-day responsibilities of managing an NCAA Division II athletic department. When I arrived at UT Tyler, there were no facilities or teams. We started with tennis that fall and grew to 17 sports and some of the best NCAA DII facilities in the country. Two of the best parts of my current job are working with a group of highly motivated coaches and professional staff who interact daily with over 300 talented, smart, articulate and gifted student athletes. Professionally, I am very proud of the staff at UT Tyler as well as the faculty who teach here. We all want to help our students and student athletes grow and gain a meaningful and marketable education.
How did you get involved with college athletics?
During my senior year at (Springfield College), I saw a flyer on the job board; head men’s soccer coach and graduate assistant position at Midwestern State University. I applied, was invited down for an interview and fell in love with the people in Wichita Falls and MSU. I was the first collegiate soccer coach in the state of Texas and I questioned my sanity that first year. During my years at MSU, I also coached tennis, baseball and cheer. I taught halftime; such classes as swimming, gymnastics, tennis, badminton, archery, skiing, sailing, conditioning, Physiology of Exercise, Tests & Measurements, athletic training and first aid. I met my wife, got my master’s degree, began working on a PH.D. at North Texas, and was introduced to Baskin Robbins. I left MSU to become the athletics director at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, where I coached men’s soccer, women’s soccer for one season, was AD and taught. Our three children were born in San Antonio.
What are some of your proudest achievements while at UT Tyler?
As for my proudest professional achievements; playing a small role in the growth of this university and playing a major role in the growth and tremendous success of Patriot athletics. Hiring high quality people, providing them with the resources to do their jobs, supporting them as best as possible while they do their jobs, and watching them win is amazingly satisfying. I have been inducted into three Halls of Fame and was one of the winningest collegiate soccer coaches in the nation when I retired from coaching. Being in the ballpark when UT Tyler’s softball team won their national championship and being in the ballpark when the baseball team won their national championship was amazing and something I doubt anyone ever thought would happen so soon in the program’s history, especially looking back at all the work that took place to get to those moments in time; knowing when I got here we not only did not have a team, we did not even own one baseball, let alone a ballpark! Thank you Bob and Mary Irwin. Winning national championships in men’s soccer (USCAA), men’s golf, the women’s outdoor hammer throw (twice) and indoor weight throw, and the 200-meter men’s indoor championship, plus 58 Conference championships in 11 years; what could be better or more fun?
I am blessed to be married to a wonderful Pre-K teacher who does an amazing job and to have watched three children grow into adults, which was pretty scary at times.
Why is college athletics, specifically at UT Tyler, so important?
The success of UT Tyler athletics has helped put the university on the national map. The education here was/is already first class, but athletics helped make people more aware of this great institution. Patriot Athletics helps student athletes continue to pursue their passion of playing sports at a high level while working toward a degree in their chosen field.
Any particular reason or reasons UT Tyler decided it was time to move to NCAA Division II?
As for DII, it is a better fit for UT Tyler. As a state school with steady enrollment growth, the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference more closely reflects our size and demographics. We do not have football, but aside from that, we are more similar to LSC schools than we were to the American Southwest Conference schools, which are mostly private. DII’s motto, “Life in the Balance” also more closely aligns with what we have been fostering at UT Tyler for years. We’re excited to be transitioning to the NCAA DII and to be a member of the Lone Star Conference. I can’t wait for UT Tyler to be full DII members and to be there when we win our next NCAA Championship!