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The Patton Legacy

Violet Lenore Patton is best described as a bold, fearless, and completely selfless individual. Her lifelong dedication to education has changed the lives of countless students as well as her peers, supervisors, and colleagues. Now, as she leaves her legacy with The Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education, it is apparent how rare such an incredible educator like Dr. Patton is, and just how large of an impact she has had on the field.


David H. and Gladys W. Patton were long-standing supporters of public education. In 1951, Dr. David H. Patton was selected as the Superintendent of the Syracuse Public School System, for a 10 year term. He was also the author of textbooks on spelling instruction, including titles such as 'Word Mastery Speller'. Gladys W. Patton, was also an educator and worked with her daughter, Violet, to write a series of textbooks on etiquette for children.

David PattonGladys Patton

"As President of the Ohio Superintendents Association, David H. Patton wrote and presented the first education bill to the Sate of Ohio legislature meeting in Columbus, Ohio, and got it passed. It was the first time the legislators recognized all educators with an extra one-months salary. The State of Ohio has awarded him with  gold-sealed Permanent Superintendents Certificate." Writes Violet L. Patton in a personal letter, to Dean Middleton, remembering her father.

Violet Lenore Patton Childhood

violet pic 1Born in 1916 in Williamsburg, Ohio, Dr. Patton grew up surrounded by educators. Throughout her childhood, her father, David Patton, worked as a teacher, principal, and superintendent in school systems across the state. “In my family, we were educators, demonstrators, writers, researchers and speakers. It’s hard to separate us,” Dr. Patton said during an interview with The Patton College Dean, Dr. Renée A. Middleton, in late November 2010. Dr. Patton grew up following in her parents footsteps with an interest in education, but she also had a vibrant passion for art. The family lived in many areas across the state, including Toledo, Bellevue and Sandusky. While Dr. Patton did not have any formal art training growing up, she had a knack for crafting and art from a young age. To perfect her art, she created designs for accessories and clothing for herself to wear, and immersed herself in the art world, including music.


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While Dr. Patton received the Bachelor of Science degree in education from Ohio University, her educational journey did not start in Athens. She began her freshman year of higher education at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. Soon realizing Oberlin was not for her, she began looking at other options. After much consideration, Dr. Patton’s father convinced her to take a look at OHIO. What really drew her to the university was a professor named Edna Way, a renowned  designer and instructor whom Dr. Patton met while visiting the campus. After receiving her undergraduate degree in Arts Education from OHIO, she taught at Wapakoneta Public Schools for four years, and each summer would travel to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming a couture designer. “The very minute school was out, I got on a train to New York City,” she said. “I went to Traphagen School of Costume Design. It was a big thing every time you opened up violet pic 3Vogue, there was this big ad about Traphagen and so I thought, ‘that’s the place to go,’” she said. She received a 180-hour diploma from the Traphagen School and later took courses at the renowned Parsons School of Design in New York City. Dr. Patton then went on to receive the master’s degree in Fine Arts and Fine Arts Education at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University, where she graduated summa cum laude. No matter where she went, Dr. Patton always had a passion for art. “Everything is interrelated to art…poetry, drama, dance and so on,” Dr. Patton said. That passion, and a dedication to education, led her to achieve amazing things in her career as an educator and artist.


Even before she graduated, Dr. Patton was pursuing her love of arts and education. In 1936 she illustrated a series of spelling books for a publishing company in Columbus and in 1937 illustrated arithmetic textbooks for a publishing company in Indianapolis. Right from the start, Dr. Patton brought energy and innovation to her teaching. In her time as a teacher,  she continually worked to revitalize and enhance education, specifically with arts education. At her first job with Wapakoneta Public Schools, she developed training programs for art teachers while she worked in the Wapakoneta and Alliance school districts, and later shared that training with future educators  as an assistant professor at Miami University. After attending Columbia, Dr. Patton got a job at Rutgers in the art department, teaching costuming and interior decorating. One of Dr. Patton’s proudest achievements came during her time as president of the Ohio Education Association, when she organized the “Unifying Experiences in the Arts” conference in 1950 in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the Netherlands Plaza Hotel. The event, which focused on arts education, garnered more than 1,000 attendees and surpassed everyone’s expectations. Violet Patton maintained a dedication to her community throughout her career. She spoke at many conferences, sharing her knowledge of arts education. Through her work illustrating textbooks, she has helped children learn and appreciate the arts and arts education. In numerous letters from supervisors and peers, Dr. Patton is described as hardworking, energetic and talented.
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The OHIO connection

Throughout the years, Dr. Patton has kept in touch with the people who made her experience at OHIO a lucrative and inspiring one. While many of them have passed away, Dr. Patton fondly remembers the interest they took in her and the impact they made on her career, allowing her to pay it forward to those she encountered. Dr. Patton credits Ohio University with preparing her for her career in education  and remains a proud Bobcat. vioet pic 5The Patton family had a connection to Thomas McCracken, after whom the College of Education building is named. Both of Dr. Patton’s parents attended OHIO. Dr. Renée A. Middleton, dean of The Patton College of Education, can attest to Dr. Patton’s love of OHIO. “Dr. Patton has always been an independent and forward-thinking person. Her lifelong commitment to education continues to inspire us daily at The Patton College, and we are honored and blessed to have her support,” Middleton said.

The Patton Legacy

In early 2010, Violet Patton gave a joint gift of $13.3 million to Ohio University College of Fine Arts and the College of Education to create the Violet L. Patton Center for Arts Education. A few weeks later, she committed an additional $28 million to the College of Education, resulting in the renaming of the college to The Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education, named after her parents. This gift will be used for renovations in McCracken Hall as well as to fund scholarships and professorships and to redesign the curriculum. Dr. Patton’s hope for The Patton College and the Violet L. Patton Center for Arts Education is to show the interrelatedness across different aspects of arts and education. She envisions interactive events and conventions to showcase and share art with the community. McCracken Hall will feature a special section of the building dedicated to the Patton’s and showcasing relics of their history. “We are incredibly humbled by Dr. Patton’s gift to our College and are dedicated to ensuring that the gift will benefit first and foremost our students, who are the future of education,” Middleton said. Her philanthropy is truly transformational and marks the largest gift given to a college of education by a single donor. The Patton College of Education is only the third named college at Ohio University. Dr. Patton’s dedication to education will always be remembered. The Patton Legacy stands for and will always remain dedicated to improving and innovating education. 

Story by Mary Beth Gillam
Edited by Beth Backes