NEW YORK – The Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University in New York will honor Solon and Marianna Patterson, in recognition of their support for the Center, on Monday, March 25.
The couple will be presented with Fordham’s highest honor, the University’s distinguished Founder’s Award, which “recognizes individuals whose personal and professional lives reflect the highest aspirations of the University’s defining traditions, as an institution dedicated to wisdom and learning in the service of others,” according an announcement made by the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.
The Award will be presented during the Eighteenth Annual Fordham Founder’s Dinner at Hilton Midtown, 1335 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, starting at 6:30 PM with a reception followed by the Dinner at 7:15 PM.
The co-founders of the Center, professors George Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou, told The National Herald in an interview in October of 2018 that “The program in Orthodox Christianity began at Fordham University officially in 2004 with the inaugural Orthodoxy in America Lecture, which was given by His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios. Since then, through the support of the Administration, especially the President, Fr. Joseph M. McShane, SJ, we were able to establish the Orthodox Christian Studies Center, which is primarily a research center, and has expanded its programming to include conferences, faculty, and dissertation fellowship, the Journal of Orthodox Christian Studies, and the Orthodox Christianity and Contemporary Thought book series for Fordham University Press. Our mission is to advance knowledge of Orthodox Christianity at the academic, ecclesial, and public levels, and to offer a space for discussion of questions and concerns that are normally difficult to address at a parish level.”
Solon and Marianna Patterson, natives of Atlanta, support a number of causes including the reunification of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Their generosity has been pivotal to the development of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University over the past decade.
The Pattersons met at Emory University, their alma mater, and married in 1960. Solon Patterson worked for 48 years in investment management, retiring in 2007 as chief executive officer of the investment firm of Montag and Caldwell, where he was instrumental in its rise to national prominence. Marianna Patterson worked in the banking industry before leaving the paid work force to raise the couple’s children in 1967. She has been active in community affairs, initiating the Northwest Atlanta Parents’ Council in the 1980s and volunteering with health-related organizations including Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a facility for incurable cancer patients.
Solon Patterson, among other service work, was head of the Atlanta chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews; he also worked to promote interracial harmony by serving on the board of the Gammon Theological Seminary, a historically African American institution.
The Pattersons have supported diverse educational, religious, and environmental causes, as well as entities devoted to individuals’ economic empowerment.
Unifying the Catholic and Orthodox churches has long been important to Solon Patterson, a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, and Marianna Patterson, who is Roman Catholic. They became involved with Fordham after learning about its planned Orthodox Christian Studies Center during a 2006 meeting with professor George Demacopoulos.
Over the next few years they created an endowment to establish the Patterson Triennial Conference on Orthodox/Catholic Relations; the fifth conference, “Faith, Reason and Theosis,” takes place in June. In 2015, a gift from the Pattersons established the Fr. John Meyendorff & Patterson Family Chair of Orthodox Christian Studies, now held by Professor Demacopoulos, and they both serve on the advisory council for the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.