By Jan Todd
To many Appalachian State University students over the years, Lynn Patterson ’89 has been known for her nurturing spirit. Patterson, who has been employed for 30 years in various roles in App State’s Belk Library and Information Commons, said her relationships with students are as important as her job.
As a university program specialist, Patterson is responsible for the library’s communications, outreach, social media, event planning and donor relations. She also coordinates the library’s scholarship program.
Because community was important to Patterson as a student at App State, she said her door is always open. “People I went to college with are now sending their own kids to Appalachian, and they often send their kids to the library to connect with me. Some even call me ‘Mama Lynn,’” Patterson said.
Ashelyn Stevens Rucker, a junior majoring in management and a Dr. Willie C. Fleming Scholar from Charlotte, is one of many students who has been mentored by Patterson.
“She has helped me find new opportunities and encouraged me to be the best woman I can be,” Rucker said. “She makes even small accomplishments feel like large triumphs, and she has made App State my home away from home.”
Patterson is a member of the Appalachian African American Alumni Network and is also a member and the adviser for App State’s Delta Sigma Theta sorority — one of the historically Black Greek-letter organizations that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC).
Her daughter, Alana Patterson ’17, is a member Alpha Kappa Alpha, another NPHC sorority, and Patterson said she mentored several members of that group while her daughter attended App State.
Since 2013, Patterson has served on App State’s Early Intervention Team — a faculty- and staff-led entity that offers support to students who are showing signs of difficulty with university life. In this role, she mentors the students and guides them to helpful resources.
She has been recognized by App State Human Resource Services with a Staff Award for outstanding service — noted for her customer service, human relations and involvement in the lives of students.
At home in the High Country
When Patterson graduated from high school in 1985, the Watauga County native said she was eager to leave Boone. She went to college at North Carolina State University but found she missed the mountains — so she came home and transferred to App State.
Patterson earned a Bachelor of Science in communication studies from App State in 1989. She said as a student she learned writing and graphic arts skills that she currently uses in her career. “Probably the most important thing I learned, though, was how to be self-reliant, think critically and figure out things for myself — and how to ask questions to get the information I need,” she said.
She was a member of App State’s Gospel Choir, at the time led by Dr. Willie C. Fleming ’80 ’84, who is now the university’s chief diversity officer. “Willie was also the choir director at my church, so I had been singing in a choir directed by Willie since I was 12 years old,” Patterson said.
Patterson is an endowment donor for the Dr. Willie C. Fleming Scholarship created in Fleming’s honor and has served on the scholarship’s advisory council.
She recalled an eye-opening experience on a Gospel Choir tour, when the group visited the Bahamas during one spring break. “We saw poverty like I’d never seen. We spent some time at the resorts, but also stayed in homes with the locals — so we saw both sides. That trip made me realize how important it is to give back to my community and help those in need,” she shared.
“College is about life lessons,” Patterson said. “Some students never seem to get that. They just worry about getting their A in a class. But most of the real learning goes on outside the classroom.”
Junaluska’s oral histories
As a member of the Junaluska Heritage Association, Patterson contributed to “Junaluska: Oral Histories of a Black Appalachian Community” — a book edited by Dr. Susan Keefe, professor emerita in App State’s Department of Anthropology and published in 2020. Patterson’s mother, Roberta Jackson ’91 — who was employed in App State’s Facilties Operations for 31 years and a founding member of the Junaluska Heritage Association — also contributed her story to the collection.
The work on the book was important to her because it is a permanent record of the role of the Black Junaluska community in the history of Boone, said Patterson, who can trace her family’s history in Watauga County back to 1832.
“Especially in this past year with social unrest, it is important that we take the time to share stories. If you know my story, and I know your story, we can find common threads and we’re less likely to judge one another. We get to know each other as teachers, as event planners, as shopkeepers, as artists — all the things that we are,” Patterson said.
An App State family
Patterson comes from a long line of Mountaineers. Meet some of her family members who have attended or worked at App State in the photos below.
Family members who attended, are attending or have worked at App State but are not pictured:
- Catherine Hagler ’92, Patterson’s cousin, earned a BSBA in risk management and insurance.
- Sandra M. Hagler, Patterson’s aunt, worked as a nurse in App State’s M.S. Shook Student Health Service.
- Anthony Reed Hagler ’94, Patterson’s uncle, earned a B.S. in communication.
- Austan Horton, Patterson’s cousin, is a junior elementary education major from Boone.