Patterson shared with the crowd that she still remembers the first time she met legendary Alabama head football coach and athletic director Paul “Bear” Bryant in 1978, before attaining her own legendary status for solidifying the Crimson Tide’s women’s gymnastics program as a national powerhouse. She was a recent graduate from Pennsylvania’s Slippery Rock University when she applied to be an assistant coach for a program that had gone through four different head coaches since its inception four years prior to her arrival. Bryant hired Patterson as a head coach with a starting salary of a mere $5,000 a year.
“Coach Bryant hired me and he was going to drop the program but he didn’t tell me that,” she said. “So when we won that year, things changed. His words resonated with me. He talked about show class, have pride, display character. And if you do, winning will take care of itself.”
Before retiring for medical reasons in 2014, her gymnasts had earned six NCAA Team Championships and eight SEC Team Championships. In fact when the gymnastics team won it all for the first time in 1988, it was the first non-football national championship for the University.
In her acceptance speech she praised her husband, David, who has served as assistant coach during her tenure at Bama. “I just wanted to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts for having both of us here tonight,” she said. “And I hope that each and every one of you will leave here even more committed to trying to make a difference in someone else’s life.”
Dr. Ed Mullins, President of the Character Coalition, closed out the evening by thanking Sarah Patterson for being an extraordinary woman of character, not only as a coach, but for mentoring countless young women throughout her career. He also reminded those in attendance that, "Good character is essential to every individual, family, school, business and community to reach their fullest potential and by the Coalition continuing our work we are able to shine a light on character development and education in our community, ensuring our community remains one of character."
Mullins also thanked all of the sponsors, silent auction donors and attendees for supporting the Champion of Character event and the Coalition's work.
Proceeds from the 2016 Champion of Character event will help the Coalition to continue our reach in the community, touching the lives of even more children and adults; by expanding the platform of the Cougar Character Club within our community to include more schools and organizations, increasing educational resources for our community, and giving back to the community by implementing a scholarship program.
* Since 2006, the Prattville-Autauga Character Coalition, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, has worked to ensure our community remains one of character by strategically promoting good character among its citizens through education and example. The program is composed of community leaders and volunteers who work diligently to introduce and promote the idea that character is learned and can be improved throughout a person’s life. The Coalition uses a systemic focus and works closely with organizations, businesses, schools, and individuals to introduce good character qualities into daily life.