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Statue of President Patterson which sits in the main courtyard in front of Patterson Office Tower.

James Kennedy Patterson (26 March 1833 - 15 August 1922) was a life-long academic and the first president of the University of Kentucky.

Patterson was born in Scotland but spent his life in the United States. He attended Hanover College and went on to receive first a B.A. in 1856 and then also an M.A. in 1859. He taught for several years at the Presbyterian Academy in Greenville, Kentucky. He later moved to Stewart College in Clarksville, Tennessee. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Patterson came to Lexington, Kentucky to assume the position of principal of Transylvania University, which at the time was a high school. In 1865, Transylvania merged with Kentucky University and the newly formed Agricultural and Mechanical College to form the State University of Kentucky (the modern-day University of Kentucky). Patterson was appointed the first president of the newly established university in 1869. He administrated the university for over four decades until his retirement in 1910. He died in peace in 1922 and was buried in the Lexington Cemetery.

As UK's first and longest-serving president, Patterson left an enormous mark on the university. He sheparded the institution through its uncertain formative years, and saw enrolment increase and the campus flourish during his tenure. Patterson Hall, the first women's dormitory at the University of Kentucky (now co-ed), was named in his honor. Later, the main administrative complex in central campus was similarly named Patterson Office Tower. Finally, in his final bequest, Patterson left the bulk of his estate to establish a new school—the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.

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