April 29, 2016
Elizabeth Krasnoff Holzer

Donald Patten, Ph.D.: 1967-2016

Donald Patten, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology, died Wednesday, April 27, in a car accident. He was 48.

Born November 24, 1967, Patten earned his undergraduate degree at Emmaus Bible College (Dubuque, Iowa) in theology and Greek in 1993.

Patten completed his Master of Divinity degree in 1998 at Covenant Theological Seminary in Creve Coeur, Missouri, and went on to begin his graduate work at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Patten came to SLU in 1998 to begin his doctorate under the mentorship of J.A. Wayne Hellmann, O.F.M. Patten completed his Ph.D. in historical theology, graduating as a member of Alpha Sigma Nu, the Jesuit Honors Society, in 2005.

While still a SLU student, Patten became an adjunct professor at SLU and Missouri Baptist College and a lecturer at Fontbonne University.
After graduation, he servedas the director of distance learning for Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, Iowa.

In 2007, Patten became a visiting professor of Christian History at the GLO (Gospel Literature Outreach) Institute of Biblical Studies in Taiping, Malaysia, and at the Kawartha Lakes Bible College in Peterborough, Canada.

Patten joined the SLU faculty as an adjunct professor in the Department of Theological Studies in 2012. Two years later, he was hired as an assistant professor by the department.

As his mentor and later colleague, Hellmann knew Patten for 15 years.

"He was gifted. Yet, his strength in outreach toward students was found in his heart. He spoke not only to the minds of his students but also to their hearts," Hellmann said. "As he taught theology, he communicated the joy he found in the Gospel and he shared his love for the beauty found in the Christian tradition. This is why teaching was his passion and his life."

Former theology department chair James Ginther, Ph.D., who is now dean of Theology and holds the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Toronto Chair in Theology, was impressed with his accomplishments, initiative and concern for his students when he hired Patten.

"He came with extensive experience in online theological education and not only did he do a fantastic job, he helped other faculty develop materials for a flipped classroom format," Ginther said. "He was energetic, a strong communicator and deeply committed to his students. In short, he was a wonderful teacher who exemplified Jesuit education. Donnie was also a great human being and a joy to work with. His untimely death is a huge loss to the department and to the whole university."

Since 2014, Patten had spearheaded the 1818 program for the Department of Theological Studies at SLU. He also engaged in research into typology in the Vita S. Francisci, a foundational text about the life of Saint Francis. He published numerous articles and gave a number of presentations. Patten was proficient in German, French, Latin and Koine Greek.

Peter Martens, current chair of the theology department, said that Patten was "known to be highly creative in integrating digital humanities into the classroom" and that he also was one of the first SLU faculty members to pilot online courses.

"Dr. Patten was extraordinarily committed to his students," Martens said. "He would often meet them for coffee to not only discuss their coursework, but also their lives."

Patten is survived by his wife, Sherri Lee (SON '95), a daughter, Leah, and son Jonah.

The Department of Theology Studies is establishing a scholarship fund in memory of Patten. To make a donation, contact Development and mention specifically that the contribution is to go to the "Donnie Patten Student Engagement Fund."

Funeral services will be private.

A memorial service for Dr. Patten will take place at St. Francis Xavier College Church (Upper Church) at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 4. Contact Sue Chawszczewski, director of campus ministry, at schawszc@slu.edu or 977-1530, with any questions.

At the 2005 Commencement when Donald Patten, Ph.D., received his doctorate. Pictured from left are Patten, J.A. Wayne Hellmann, OFM Conv, Dr Theology, who was Patten's mentor, and fellow graduates John Kruse, Ph.D. and Daniel Michaels, Ph.D. 

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