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Does James Patterson Know that Manhattan College’s Liberal Arts Departments Really Needs His Help NOW?

By Prudence Hajmeli

Most people don’t know that the world’s most successful living author, James Patterson, is a graduate of Manhattan College in the far reaches of Riverdale in the Bronx. James Patterson graduated from Riverdale’s very own Manhattan College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and would later go on to graduate school at Vanderbilt University. 

The author of 67 New York Times best-selling novels, and 425 million copies sold, Patterson 

set up scholarships to his alma mater in the amount of  $100,000 annually. The James Patterson ‘69 Scholarship awards 20 accomplished students $5,000 each for the year Although the scholarship is open to all students, most of the funds do not find their way to the liberal arts school but to the STEM departments. As both an English graduate, and one of the most renowned authors in the last century, this imbalance seems rather strange.

Within the scope of Manhattan College’s recent financial crisis this disparity becomes stranger still. The New York Post ran an article on the situation at the college, writing that “Riverdale’s beloved private Catholic liberal arts university is facing drastic cuts to its staff and course offerings amid on-going financial struggles.” The college seems to be slowly abandoning its liberal arts department as its STEM school remains untouched. So the question remains, why is the James Patterson ‘69 Scholarship so STEM focused? 

A few reasons exist that may explain such a discrepancy. While Manhattan College today sits rather humbly at the top of its hill, in the ‘70s and ‘80s it pulsed with renown as an upcoming engineering hub. STEM professors were not only well-informed, but published and worked on important projects across New York. So much so that the words “Manhattan College” seem synonymous with articles, textbooks, and research published in the glory days of the ‘80s. 

Information from the engineering school would suggest that in recent years this reputation has faded. Because tuition is more expensive for any STEM degree, the salience of their student body trumps that of the liberal arts, which was once financially supported by the former. Yet, chairmen and professors of the STEM school seem to have clung onto the fame of their past, and thus remain incredibly critical of their student body, even deterring acceptance of potential students. 

Another reason for the Patterson Scholarship’s STEM favoritism may be the liberal arts elitist opposition to his work. Some English department professors have spoken out against the “craftsmanship” of Patterson’s writing, and some have even published pieces against it.

In all likelihood however, Patterson does not steer that which he donates, and is probably unaware of where his scholarship money is going. The recipients of the scholarship are most likely selected by the college itself. Whether or not Patterson directs his donations himself, the problem still remains. The liberal arts school faces a forlorn future, and unless the college picks up its slack, the careers of numerous professors, and the potential future of its students, is left in peril. 

It would be wonderful if Patterson himself would call attention to this issue, by stepping in and redirecting some of his scholarship funding, or adding a specifically liberal arts element to some of his scholarships or even just writing an article in a national publication calling attention to this issue. If the school itself won’t ask for help, maybe someone will tap Patterson on the shoulder and let him know that he is needed, revered by the liberal arts students, and has an opportunity to create a legacy that will ensure that his reputation is intrinsically connected to the place where it all began for him.


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