James Patterson to Speak at Commencement

Photo courtesy of James Patterson

Bestselling author James B. Patterson will deliver the keynote address to Montclair State University’s Class of 2014 and receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at Commencement on Friday, May 23, 2014, at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

“James Patterson is not only one of the world’s best-known authors, he is also a passionate supporter of reading and education,” says Montclair State University President Susan A. Cole. “He is a valued friend of the University, who has generously funded scholarships for our teachers-in-training. I am proud we are able to recognize his many accomplishments.”

Patterson, who has achieved worldwide book sales totaling an estimated 300 million copies, is best known as the author of suspense and detective fiction, including the Alex Cross, Michael Bennett and Women’s Murder Club series. His Maximum Ride and Daniel X series have made him the current bestselling author of young adult and middle grade fiction. The first author to sell more than 10 million e-books, Patterson holds the Guinness World Record for the most titles – 99 – by a single author to appear on The New York Times hardcover bestseller list.

“I’ve always loved telling stories and even while working in advertising, I felt the urge to write them down,” Patterson says. “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.”

Over the years, Patterson’s storytelling ability has been amply rewarded. He is the recipient of such prestigious awards as the Edgar, the International Thriller of the Year Award, the Reader’s Digest Reader’s Choice Award and the Children’s Choice Book Award for Author of the Year.

Funding Tomorrow’s Teachers Today

In 2013 alone, the author and his wife, Susan, funded more than $1 million in scholarships at a number of colleges and universities – including Montclair State – for future teachers who are committed to providing students with the foundation for a lifetime enjoyment of reading. The first Patterson Scholarships at Montclair State were awarded in 2012 to eight undergraduate students. In fall 2013, 16 undergraduate and five graduate students each received awards of $7,500 a year. This May, 12 scholarship recipients will graduate at commencement.

“The scholarship is competitive,” said Jan P. Johnson, a program assistant at the University’s Center of Pedagogy. “Teacher Education students pursuing certification in English or Elementary Education must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.4. Although financial need is not a requirement for the scholarship, particular consideration is given to highly qualified students with financial need.”

“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 build a program that is one of the best in the teaching field,” Patterson says. “I know Montclair State is committed to quality in education, and I want to help these students eager to become great teachers.”

Family and Child Studies major Alexis Yumul received the Patterson Scholarship for both the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years. “This award allows me to focus 100 percent on my coursework,” she says. “The time that I could have spent worrying about how I would pay my college tuition is instead spent on working hard and learning everything I can to be the best educator I can be. I can’t think of a more generous gift!”

Amanda Beodeker was awarded a Patterson Scholarship for the first time this year. “I chose English as my content area for education because it’s a subject that teaches students that it’s okay to make mistakes. If students aren’t prepared to be wrong, then they won’t ever be able to create anything new.”

She is inspired by her award – and by Patterson. “Being awarded a scholarship from Mr. Patterson, who is himself through his own writing a teacher, makes my student teaching all the more meaningful, as I hope to make learning and education meaningful and accessible to all,” she adds.

Fostering a Lifelong Love of Reading

Yumul, who will attend graduate school in the fall, makes a point of urging children to read. “I work with several children now and will go to the library to find books for them,” she explains. “I can’t tell you how excited they are when I see them because they know I have books specially picked out for them.”

Christopher Rodriguez also received the scholarship for the past two years. “I encourage students to read by doing three things: modeling, listening and validating. I encourage and expect my students to tell me about things that they’re reading, even if it’s not considered ‘school reading,’” he said.

Patterson recalls that he was first encouraged to read by his mother. “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,” he says.

“I have read a lot of Mr. Patterson’s books and to get a scholarship from someone I respect so much is amazing,” says Patterson Scholarship recipient Kevin Crosetto.

Patterson values his growing relationship 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 the University and its student body over the last few years,” he says.

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