The college's veterinary medicine complex is now the Frederick Douglass Patterson Hall in honor of the veterinary medicine trailblazer
In celebration of Frederick Douglass Patterson, DVM, graduating from veterinary school 100 years ago this year, Iowa State University (ISU) College of Veterinary Medicine officially named its veterinary complex Fredrick Douglass Patterson Hall. Patterson is one of the college’s most accomplished alumnus and a trailblazer for the veterinary industry for his work in creating a more diverse field by making higher education possible for Black individuals.
Patterson was a member of the 1923 graduating class for the veterinary school and then went on to pursue his master’s degree in veterinary pathology, earning his second degree at ISU. Patterson also attended Cornell University where he earned his PhD. At age 34, Patterson became the president of Tuskegee University where he would remain for almost 20 years.1,2 A year before his death in 1988, Patterson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan, making him the only veterinarian to receive this honor to this day.2
“We are proud to honor the incredible impact Dr Patterson has had on veterinary medicine, veterinary medicine education and higher education in general,” expressed Dan Grooms, DVM, PhD, the Dr. Stephen G. Juelsgaard Dean of Veterinary Medicine, in an organizational release.1 “When I think about what he was able to accomplish, it astounds me.”
Along with his accomplishments in veterinary medicine, his impact goes well being the veterinary industry. During his time as president of Tuskegee University, he helped launch the aviation program that trained pilots who served as Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black flying squadron in the United States military and a decorated unit in World War II.1 He also established the veterinary school at Tuskegee which, 80 years later, remains the only veterinary program at a historically Black university as well as Tuskegee’s engineering college.
In 1944, Patterson founded the United Negro College Fund which has since raised over $5 billion and supported over 500,000 students through scholarships and financial support of historically Black colleges and universities.
“If there was a problem he saw, he found a way to do something about it,” said Brad Kuennen, librarian for the College of Veterinary Medicine.1 “I think that’s a thing you see throughout his life again and again. He persevered through difficult circumstances and made things happen that a lot of people would have told him weren’t possible.”
The building now known as Fredrick Douglass Patterson Hall opened its doors in 1976 and is one of the largest buildings on the college’s campus. The building was formerly unnamed and was just referred to by those at ISU as the College of Veterinary Medicine building.
The ceremony was held on October 4, 2023, and welcomed Patterson’s family, including Patterson’s nephew, James Patterson, and niece, Patricia Patterson. At the end of the ceremony, ISU presented a new mural in the common area of the hall that showcases the life and legacy of Patterson.
“This is meaningful for the college but also for the nation. I think he’s one of the most important people in the development of this country, particularly for the Black population,” concluded James.