Service With a Smile

Michael Pattrick, '90, M.S.Ed. '94, is this year's F.R. Geigle Service Award winner.

Michael Pattrick has a gift for serving others and showcasing tremendous leadership. Throughout his academic career at NIU and his professional career after graduation, he has touched the lives of many through his dedication to providing opportunity and access to education. 

While still a student at Northern Illinois University, Pattrick founded a nonprofit organization to provide opportunities to at-risk students in Chicago. Since graduation, he has been serving as an officer on the NIU Black Alumni Council (BAC) and has founded yet another nonprofit organization in Mombasa, Kenya, focusing on education, healthcare and economic enrichment. In addition, he has excelled in business, leading a successful insurance agency for the past 21 years.

Those achievements, and many more, are why the NIU Alumni Association has chosen Pattrick, ’90, M.S.Ed. ’94 for the 2019 F.R. Geigle Service Award. 

In 1990, while an undergrad student at NIU, Pattrick founded the Talented Tenth organization, which mentors and tutors at-risk youth throughout Chicago and brings them to NIU for two days to experience college life.

Pattrick said two professors influenced him while a student at NIU.

“While attending NIU I was greatly influenced by two professors,” he said. “Dr. Admasu Zike, the former director of the Center for Black Studies, encouraged me to be active in campus affairs and research the facts before jumping to conclusions. The other, Dr. Jack Parker, taught argument and debate and taught me how to organize my thoughts and defend my position in an intellectual and factual way. He challenged me to make him think I was right even when I wasn’t.”

After leaving NIU, Pattrick continued to be involved through alumni organizations, joining the Black Alumni Council in 1995. In 2000, Pattrick was named
president of the council and remains in that position today. He served on the board of the NIU Alumni Association from 2010 to 2014.

While president of the BAC, the organization has presented scholarship awards to more than 50 minority students in their junior and senior year at NIU to help them complete their educational goals and graduate.

In addition, the BAC has participated in blood drives, cancer research crusade campaigns and a number of other fundraising efforts to raise money for the Fanny Ruth Patterson Scholarship.

While being involved in various alumni organizations, Pattrick also founded the Mombasa Relief Initiative, an organization serving the youth of Mombasa, Kenya, focusing on education, healthcare and economic enrichment.  Founded 19 years ago, the initiative’s members continue to make annual trips to Kenya. Since its inception, the Mombasa Relief Initiative has built libraries, schools and chicken coops, and encourages leadership in its youth.

Pattrick was also recently honored by the McKinley “Deacon” Davis CHANCE Program at NIU as one of the top graduates in its 50-year history for his work.

Pattrick said his legacy would be “assisting to advance the cause of the African-American students and staff at the university by securing resources to recruit and retain both.”

Asked what nugget of wisdom he would impart to a current NIU student, Pattrick said they should “be open to new experiences. It’s a big world and the university brings together a lot of diverse individuals with interesting thoughts on various subjects. Listen for the takeaways and grow.”

Pattrick said he had two pieces of advice for students who want to start their own nonprofit, as he did nearly 30 years ago.

“I would tell any student interested in starting a nonprofit to follow his or her passion, do your homework during the organizational stage, and stay committed,” he said. “It’s a balancing act between school and your passion, so make sure that you give each the necessary attention.”

In addition to his involvement in a variety of organizations over the years, Pattrick has run a successful State Farm Insurance agency for the past 21 years. He shared the key to staying successful professionally while giving back.

“My key has always been time management and surrounding myself with good people,” he said. “I realized very early on that in order to be successful, I had to be willing to delegate responsibility to avoid being overwhelmed and trust the people God has placed in my life.”

Pattrick recalled that the initial spark that caused him to get involved as a student was a realization that many of his peers were not able to attend college.

“My initial spark came over the summer break my freshman year when I realized that a lot of my friends were not enrolled in college,” he said. “They were as smart as I was, and some were more talented, but they lacked the exposure I had.  I decided that I wanted to make sure the people in my community would have access to a quality college education and receive the proper exposure to a university setting.  Northern Illinois University and the Talented Tenth allowed me to do both.  I was always active in my community, dorm, etc.  I honestly enjoy helping people reach their full potential.  There was a gap at NIU and I wanted to bridge it.”

The 2019 Alumni Awards Luncheon photo album