Talk to G. Dean Patterson Jr. even briefly, and you’ll start to see that a central theme throughout his career—and his life—is building meaningful relationships. After a decades-long career at Case Western Reserve University, the associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students is retiring at the end of the semester, and reflecting on the relationships he’s made along the way.

Beginning as an undergraduate psychology student in 1971, then later earning his master’s in health science education, Patterson has spent the last 48 years as part of the Case Western Reserve University community. He stayed close after graduating, working with CWRU nursing students while employed next door at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. Patterson was never far from CWRU and continued to stay involved with the university until he returned as a full-time staff member in 1990.

Shortly after coming back to CWRU, he began his tenure as associate vice president for student affairs, and then, in 2014, took on the role of dean of students—a mission Patterson takes very seriously.

“When people come into my office, I want them to know they’re the most important person in the room,” said Patterson. “Everyone wants to feel like someone cares about them—students, faculty and staff—and I want people to know that I care, that I’m there to serve them, and help them understand that I’m learning as much from them as they’re learning from me.”

A Dean’s Mission

You are the most important person when entering this room.

I promise to do my best to listen, understand, and treat you with respect.

I will show you genuine concern and sensitivity to you as well as to any issues that we might discuss.

I may not always say what you wish to hear but

I will say what I feel that you may need to hear.

I will always try to act in your best interest and be an advocate for your success.

We are both people, human, and students of this life, so I am sure that we can learn from each other if we only take the time.

You are the most important person when entering this room.

– G. Dean Patterson Jr.

Reflecting on his career at CWRU, Patterson doesn’t like to talk about his accomplishments, he prefers to talk about his relationships. He says the most memorable moments from the last 30 years involve connecting with former students, some from early in his career who now have children of their own at the university. He’s most proud of the counseling he’s been able to provide for the CWRU community and his ability to make people feel like he cared about them.

“I hope that people remember what they learned from me, and that they turn around and teach someone else,” said Patterson. “That’s my hope for retirement, and how I hope I’ll be remembered at CWRU.”

But Patterson’s life philosophy and his time at CWRU might be summarized best by a piece of his own writing; a poem, framed and displayed in his office, and meant to be calming encouragement for the community he’s served for the last several decades.

All are invited to help celebrate Patterson’s service to CWRU at his retirement party Dec. 4 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Thwing Center ballroom. RSVP online by Nov. 25.

Find out more about Patterson in this week’s five questions.

1. What’s something you don’t know how to do but would like to learn?

I think I’d like to learn Spanish, because my wife is Latina. Her whole family is trying to teach me. I’m doing my best, but they still tease me about it.

2. Who’s the best teacher you’ve ever had?

It sounds cliché, but I’d say my mom. I also learned a lot from my health science education professor at CWRU, Dr. Erna Furman. She and I argued a lot in class; we had different opinions on a lot of ideas and techniques. But after I graduated, she invited me to come to one of her talks, pointed me out in the audience and said: “He’s the one who taught me there’s always more than one right way to do things.” We challenged each other a lot, and I guess we learned a lot from each other, too.

3. Where do you most like to travel?

Puerto Rico, where my wife and her family are from. There are lots of places I like to travel, but it’s not really about the place, it’s the people you’re with. I just like people.

4. If you could go back in time and tell a younger version of yourself something, what would you say?

Write more.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

The people. It’s been such a joy having the chance to interact with and learn from so many different types of people.