Gerald "Jerry" Roy Patterson
August 22, 2016
Gerald Roy Patterson, award-winning scientist, passed away gracefully in his home on August 22nd, 2016. He died in the arms of his wife and devoted partner of more than 40 years, Marion Forgatch, and surrounded by his family. Jerry shared a rich life filled with love and laughter with his family, close friends, and cherished colleagues. Dr. Patterson was a charismatic idealist who was not motivated by money or fame. Instead, he devoted his life's work to making the world a better place. Driven by his relentless curiosity and passion for science, Jerry did not hesitate to blaze his own trail. His incredible journey is well documented in his numerous personal and professional publications. He was a unique man who questioned everything, challenged the status quo, and found answers in places overlooked by many.
Jerry was born in North Dakota and grew up at the edge of "canoe country" in northern Minnesota. His family worked on the railroad and in the iron mines. As the oldest son, Jerry contributed to his family's support by trapping and fishing in the wilderness. He later worked as a canoe guide in the Boundary Waters and the Canadian Quetico, where he developed the outdoor skills necessary to travel safely through the wilderness. When Jerry was in his late 40's, he and Marion began taking month-long hiking and canoe trips in the north country of Canada and Alaska. Their trips with family and friends are beautifully described in Jerry's memoirs, "A Guide's Tale" and "Free and Moving." Dr. Patterson loved to test his own limits and share the pristine beauty of nature in the raw. He was known to "talk" to loons and could summon ravens with his call. In many ways, Dr. Patterson was the living embodiment of an era that is now all but lost.
After receiving his doctorate from the University of Minnesota, Dr. Patterson went on to become one of the most prominent researchers in the field of psychology. Guided by his passion for helping families, he was one of the first investigators to develop empirical measurements of family interactions and use the resulting data to propose and test new theories and evidence-based treatments for troubled families. In recognition of his achievements, Dr. Patterson has received many awards, including a Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association (APA). In the words of Dr. Alan Kazdin, past president of the APA, "... Dr. Gerald R. Patterson's contributions to psychology include widely-cited coercion theory, early leadership in the behavior therapy movement, ground-breaking and paradigmatic research on aggression and antisocial behavior, and the development and empirical testing of parent management training." More than a million copies of Jerry's books on parenting ("Families, Living with Children", and "Parents and Adolescents") have been sold. He has published hundreds of journal articles and dozens of book chapters. He is one of the most widely cited researchers in his field. Dr. Patterson took great joy in mentoring upcoming researchers and influenced the thinking of countless psychologists. The impact of his work will be felt for decades to come. In spite of his vast achievements, he remained approachable and unpretentious, engaging people with a gentle humor and irrepressible desire for meaningful conversation.
Jerry Patterson joined the army at age 17 and fought in WWII in Okinawa for three months until he was wounded in combat. He received the Purple Heart as well as the Bronze Star for exemplary service. His wartime experience haunted him until his death, leading him to study the origins of war. Ultimately he wrote a collection of anti-war poems describing what he referred to as his "loss of innocence."
Jerry is survived by his wife, Marion Forgatch, and his five children: Craig, Scot, Dana, Jane, and Erik, all of whom reside in Oregon; daughters-in-law: Teo and Jessyca; son-in-law, Rod; and five grandchildren: Miles, Kobin, Elizabeth, Hannah, and Finnian. Not surprisingly, Dr. Patterson's family members have developed the strong will and character needed to survive their outdoor adventures with their father. They also share his curiosity about the world, willingness to blaze new trails, and passion for helping others.
Jerry Patterson never wrote a bucket list because he did it all. He enjoyed good wine and gourmet food, hiking, downhill and cross country skiing, fly fishing, sailing, playing the harmonica, studying math, reading, writing, and storytelling. His life was interwoven with countless others, both personally and professionally. The world has lost one of its heroes, but his legacy lives on. Undoubtedly, people from all walks of life will continue to be inspired by his example and his work for decades to come and take up Jerry Patterson's quest to make the world a better place.
In Jerry's last days, he expressed regret to be leaving before solving the many problems of negative reinforcement, a mechanism that plays a major function within coercion theory. We have established a trust in his name to carry on this work: the "Jerry Patterson Coercion Chautauqua." This trust will be used to bring together scholars to continue his research. Information about contributing is on the Implementation Sciences International website: isii.net.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, August 28th, from 12 to 4 pm, at the Veterans Memorial Building in Eugene and is open to the public.
Published in Eugene Register-Guard on Aug. 28, 2016.