James B. PattersonJames B. Patterson

Montclair State University named author James B. Patterson its 2014 honorary degree recipient. Mr. Patterson delivered the keynote address to the 2014 graduating class and received an honorary Doctor of Letters at Commencement, on Friday, May 23, 2014 at the IZOD Center.

An award-winning author of more than 100 books, Mr. Patterson is best known for his suspense and thriller novels including the Alex Cross, Michael Bennett and Women’s Murder Club series. He has also penned many stand-alone thrillers, non-fiction works and romance novels and is the current best-selling author in the young adult and middle grade categories.

A perennially best-selling author, Mr. Patterson has achieved book sales totaling more than 270 million copies. The first author to achieve 10 million e-book sales, Mr. Patterson holds the Guinness world record for the most titles to appear on The New York Times No. 1 best sellers list.

Mr. Patterson has garnered numerous awards including the Edgar Award, the BCA Mystery Guild’s Thriller of the Year Award, the International Thriller of the Year Award and the Children’s Choice Book Award for Author of the Year.

An advocate of reading and education, Mr. Patterson and his wife, Susan, have donated books to schools and to military personnel in the United States and overseas and they have funded scholarships at numerous colleges and universities, including Montclair State University.

Providing more than $1 million in scholarship monies to universities in 2013 alone, the Pattersons are active financial supporters of up-and-coming teachers committed to providing their future students with the necessary foundation for lifelong reading enjoyment.

Mr. Patterson is a graduate of Manhattan College (BA) and Vanderbilt University (MA).

A Conversation with the Author

James Patterson will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Montclair State and deliver the keynote address at the May 23, 2014, Commencement exercises. 

Best known as the author of suspense and detective fiction, including the Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club series, he has sold an estimated 300 million books worldwide and is also the current bestselling author of young adult and middle grade fiction. He holds the Guinness World Record for most titles – 99to appear on The New York Times bestseller list.

Patterson is passionate about reading, books and education. In 2013, he and his wife provided more than $1 million in scholarship monies to a number of schools and universities. His Patterson Teacher Education Scholarships at Montclair State provided 16 students with awards of $7,500 to pursue their teacher education training. “This award allows me to focus 100 percent on my coursework,” says scholarship recipient Alexis Yumul. “I can’t think of a more generous gift.”  

What books made the most lasting impression on you as a young reader?

As a child, I loved Peter Pan. I always wanted to be able to fly. My first series for young readers, Maximum Ride, was definitely influenced by my love of Peter Pan. When I was a little older, I was impacted by an assortment of books – from classics like Ulysses to bestsellers like The Exorcist

Did you have a mentor or teacher who encouraged you to read and write when you were young?

Well, my mother was a teacher, so I grew up being encouraged by her. Though I was a good student, I wasn’t much of a book lover growing up. I really only read what I had to and it wasn’t until I was a little older that my love of reading and writing blossomed.

What inspired you to write your first novel in your spare time when you were an advertising copywriter at J. Walter Thompson?

I’ve always loved telling stories and even while working in advertising, I felt the urge to write them down. Every morning, I would wake up and write before going to work. I’ve never run out of stories that I wanted to tell and that keeps me writing today. 

Is there a particular reason why you selected Montclair State to receive scholarship funds to support Teacher Education students?

The quality of the Teacher Education program at Montclair State was immediately evident to me as I researched schools for Patterson Scholarships. The partnership between the Center of Pedagogy and the Teacher Education program has helped Montclair State to build a program that is one of the best in the teaching field. I know Montclair State is committed to quality in education, and I want to help these students eager to become great teachers.

Do you have a personal tie with the University?

While I didn’t have a personal tie to Montclair State when I created the Patterson Teacher Education scholarships, I have been able to build a relationship with Montclair State and its student body over the last few years. Through updates from the University and from the Patterson Teacher Education scholars, I have really begun to feel like a member of the Montclair State community.

What does your honorary doctorate from Montclair State mean to you?

I am touched to receive an honorary doctorate from Montclair State. As I said, I have really grown to feel like a member of the community. I’m honored to have the opportunity to address Montclair State’s graduating class.