Since the initial takeover began in January after Governor Ron DeSantis appointed six people to the Board of Trustees (BOT) and later seven, New College has seen its share of members leave the board. Former Faculty Trustee Matthew Lepinksy and former Board Chair Mary Ruiz (‘78) both resigned, while Jason “Eddie” Speir was never brought to appointment by the Florida Senate after testifying he planned to “share Christian truths” with the student body on campus. Now the Board of Governors (BOG) has appointed Donald “Don” Patterson to the board, a philanthropist and former CEO of Ascend Wireless Networks. Patterson is known as a successful businessman with more than 40 years of experience in venture capital funding for private and public companies. Despite his financial successes, he has no known prior experience in higher education.
A Florida native, Patterson grew up in the Tampa Bay area and attended Liberty University, one of the largest Christian schools in the country. Liberty has been reported to enforce a conservative student code. He now resides at his record breaking $7 million San Remo estate on Sarasota Bay. The company he founded, Ascend Wireless Networks, constructs wireless networks for cell phone providers and Patterson took the business from start-up to acquisition by a private equity firm in less than 10 years. He retired in June of this year, but continues his philanthropy work and is a benefactor and active fundraiser for New College, according to the State University System of Florida website. In early November, Patterson served as co-chair of New College’s 44th Annual Clambake fundraising soiree.
“I have co-created and funded… community projects to address homelessness and the protection of women,” Patterson said in an interview with the Observer.
The Office of Communications and Marketing has stated that Patterson led the creation of “Stay Safe” in partnership with the Salvation Army, an initiative that serves as an emergency alternative for women victims of abuse as a result of being homeless—-although no further information can be provided on the partnership online. Patterson was selected to be the 2021-2022 Board Chairman of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, a youth mentoring organization he has supported financially for many years. He also joined the race for the Sarasota City Commission seat in 2020 and, according to the Herald Tribune, was willing to commit a self funded $100,000 to obtain the seat, but the position went to Liz Alpert.
In the same interview with the Observer, Patterson expressed his love for Sarasota and how it is referred to as a “cultural jewel.”
“I am an ardent supporter of the arts,” he continued. “I am also a boater, sailor and water sports enthusiast, which is why I support initiatives to preserve and protect Sarasota’s natural beauty, marine life and environment.”
Patterson explained that he has been blessed with an abundant life, and is passionate about making a difference in his community. He said his future is to work with nonprofit organizations that serve disadvantaged, disenfranchised and victimized individuals.
President Richard Corcoran has praised Patterson as a strong local leader and supporter of New College and stated he makes an excellent addition to the BOT, with whom he looks forward to working with to achieve the “goal of positioning New College as the nation’s top liberal arts school.”
Patterson’s selection is still subject to approval by the Florida Senate.