Patterson earned his bachelor’s degree from Prairie View State College in 1919, a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 1923 and Masters in Science in 1927 from Iowa State University and a Ph.D in Bacteriology in 1932 from Cornell University.
While at Iowa State, Patterson said “I learned a lesson with regard to race that I never forgot, how people feel about you reflects the way you permit yourself to be treated.If you permit yourself to be treated differently, you are condemned to an unequal relationship.” In 1935, Patterson was appointed President of Tuskegee Institute where he stabilized their finances within a few years of his appointment.
Another of his accomplishments was the start of the Black Army Air Corps which led to the Tuskegee Airmen. In 1943, Patterson proposed the creation of a consortium of Black colleges that would raise money for their mutual benefit. The next year, 27 schools came together to form the United Negro College Fund.
In 1953, Patterson retired from Tuskegee to become President of the Phelps Stoke Fund which provided financial support for the education of Africans, African Americans, and Native Americans. He served in that capacity until 1970. In 1987, Patterson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan and in 1988 he was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal. Patterson died April 26, 1988.
In 1996, the UNCF announced the founding of the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute and in 2002 his biography, “Chronicles of Faith: The Autobiography of Frederick D. Patterson,” was published.