Among a pile of memorabilia, newspaper cuttings and photos, sits a man some would call SMU’s biggest fan of the past century. He is one of SMU Athletics’ biggest supporters and has lobbied for more school spirit for the past 20 years. Joe Redwine Patterson’s love of SMU runs as deep in his veins as it does through his home.
A Family Tradition
During his 88 years, Patterson has lived and breathed the red, white and blue of his alma mater. His father, a Methodist minister and former college football player, attended the university and instilled in him a love for SMU at a young age.
“I grew up hearing nothing but SMU,” Patterson said. “I didn’t know there was any other school. I was going to go there no matter what.”
Patterson first walked on SMU’s campus as a student in 1944, where he quickly followed his father’s footsteps and joined the football team. He jokes that he wanted to play even though he was not very good and couldn’t really see the ball.
“I knew Jimmy Stewart [SMU’s head football coach at the time] and asked him if he needed an extra player, so he made me a linebacker,” Patterson said.
Reinvigorating School Spirit
Patterson left SMU a year later to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. When he returned in 1947, he chose to rejoin the football field, but this time on the sidelines as a cheerleader. A year later he was named head cheerleader by the student body.
Patterson’s longtime friend Tom Williams said the head cheerleader in these days was elected by the student body in a process similar to electing current Student Senate officials.
With a team of five fellow cheerleaders, including Lawrence Herkimer and I.T. Hurst, Patterson worked to bring school spirit back to the university’s roots during the heyday of SMU football with eventual Heisman Trophy winner Doak Walker leading the team.
According to a Sept. 14, 2011, article in The Daily Campus, it was a time when, “Pep rallies, bonfires and a student handbook called ‘The M Book’ were all a major part of SMU tradition — school spirit was high.”
However, Williams said the cheerleaders still faced obstacles in getting students to participate in cheers. Many of the students were returning from WWII and were not excited about leading and participating in cheers.
“His cheerleading group really changed that around and I really think that was the biggest contribution they made is the fact that he really got them involved in the school spirit,” Williams said. “Then obviously the other students got involved with it too, but if he hadn’t got the veterans on his side to really get involved in school spirit, I don’t think it would have been as successful as it was.”
Patterson continued his involvement in the university in 1948, when he ran for, and won, the student body presidential election.
According to an April 28, 1948 issue of The SMU Campus, Patterson ran on a platform that highlighted spirit initiatives, campus inclusion, streamlined academics and meal improvements. Some of his platform ideas like “more tickets available to students” and “improvement in the parking situation” still ring true for candidates today.
Leading The Future Mustangs
After his time at SMU ended, Patterson and fellow cheerleader I.T. Hurst would return to basketball and football games, coming up with ideas to prompt more student involvement and bring back school spirit.
“I.T. Hurst was kind of his right-hand man,” Williams said. “They went to a lot of the administration and past head cheerleaders and said they had to get more spirit going because it’s important to the student body.”
In the past eight years alone, Patterson has met with former Athletic Director Steve Orsini, former Vice President for Student Affairs Lori White, Student Media Company Executive Director Jay Miller, Executive Director for Student Life Jennifer Jones, Student Body Presidents Jake Torres, Austin Prentice, Alex Mace and Ramon Trespalacios. He has spoken at AARO and was interviewed by both Japanese and French film crews.
He was turned away from most administrative offices for his drive toward spirit initiatives. But three years ago, after several no’s, the student body welcomed him back. Patterson presented to the Student Senate his “reasons for more spirit plan” and received a standing ovation. The Student Senate knew more school spirit could help change the way students approach athletics at SMU.
Patterson’s talks resonated most with Ramon Trespalacios ’15, who focused on successfully brining school spirit back to SMU basketball games by coordinating cheers, helping create the MOB and sporting the famous “Lobster Mobster” costume.
“In our first meeting, Mr. Patterson brought me a copy of every single SMU chant or cheer song he had and asked me if there was anything I could do to revitalize school spirit at athletic events,” Trespalacios said. “After those meetings, there was one thought that always remained in my head: ‘How can I make other students as passionate about school spirit as Mr. Patterson is still 65 plus years after he graduated?’”
Patterson was able to inspire a new generation of Mustangs to embrace their love of SMU and to make the red and blue really something once again.
As Patterson said: “The school spirit belongs to the students, nobody else.”