More than a decade has passed since they last sat across from each other, more than 1800 miles separates them, and 28 years have flown by since they first met in Francis Hall.
But for Dan Patton,’95, and Fr. Richard Flaherty, O.F.M., the strong bond forged between them at Bona’s will last forever.
A scholarship as a diver for the swim team brought Patton from Buffalo to St. Bonaventure. Fr. Rich’s friendship and guidance kept him here, helping him graduate with honors and move on to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Richmond, Virginia.
Today, Patton and his wife, Gayle, of Houston, Texas, have established the Fr. Richard Flaherty, O.F.M., Endowed Scholarship to pay tribute to that friendship.
“Over the last four years we have created a past that is unique and distinct to the community of St. Bonaventure University. The experiences we have shared have given us memories that will last a lifetime.”
- From Dan Patton’s 1995 Commencement Speech
They met when Patton was one of only three freshmen athletes living in the upperclassmen-dominated Francis Hall. Fr. Rich, chaplain for the Department of Athletics, called third floor Francis home.
It was a rough beginning for Patton.
Never a strong student in high school when it came to tests, he had to study twice as hard. He also struggled with whether he wanted to continue his diving career at Bona’s.
But Fr. Rich’s presence made all the difference.
“Throughout our years at St. Bonaventure we have been given a vision, to look into the future with an appreciation of the past.”
“Fr. Rich became a father figure to me during a scary time,” Patton said.
He helped lighten the mood in Francis by rearranging small items on Patton’s perfectly ordered side of the room. It became a joke for Fr. Rich and Patton’s roommates to figure out which object was askew.
Fr. Rich was the person who coordinated many conversations with financial aid staff to allow Patton to get the necessary finances to continue at Bona’s without his athletic scholarship. Essentially, Fr. Rich went to bat for the talented student he saw in Patton.
Today Patton is a founding shareholder of Scott Patton PC, a Houston law firm where he specializes in employment and commercial litigation matters.
“If Fr. Rich didn’t do what he did for me, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Patton said. “I didn’t come from money. Putting his neck on the line to help me stay here meant a lot.”
Patton earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and a minor in education from St. Bonaventure and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Houston Law Center.
From serving as a resident assistant in Robinson-Falconio Hall to delivering the student speech during the university’s 135th Commencement Exercises, Patton embraced all he gained at Bona’s.
“To have Fr. Rich in my life with all that he taught me is a special thing,” Patton said. “I really value what I learned here. It’s the friars who instilled a lot of things in me. I don’t think people realize the influence of the brown robes on campus. The friars are the lifeblood of Bona’s.”
“To all of you who have touched, influenced and challenged us, you have given us so many gifts, and we thank you.”
For Fr. Rich, the scholarship bearing his name is an honor.
“Have you ever met a friend? Somehow, with Dan, I knew we would be friends and it wouldn’t be just temporary,” Fr. Rich said.
Present for Patton’s graduation in 1995, officiating at his marriage to Gayle in Houston in 2002, and baptizing their oldest son, Brady, at Bona’s in 2004, Fr. Rich stayed in touch with Patton.
“When you have good people in your life, they are a blessing,” said Fr. Rich. “I couldn’t be more proud of Danny. He’s worked very hard.”
It was just before Christmas when Patton called him with news of the scholarship he and Gayle planned to establish in his name.
“It’s the nicest Christmas gift I’ve ever received. It will help a lot of people,” said Fr. Rich. “One of the things I’ve loved about Bonaventure is that we believe in you and in what we hope you will get different here from a public school. The Franciscan difference is by the way we live our lives, not by what we say.”
Fr. Rich served at St. Bonaventure from 1983 to 2003, working in Campus Ministry and as Athletics Department chaplain. Today he serves at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, though he visits campus each fall.
Looking back on nearly 30 years of friendship with Patton and his family, Fr. Rich feels like no time at all has passed.
“It’s like we never left Bona’s. If needed, distance is not a problem.”
“To my fellow graduates, as we stand in the present poised to proceed into the future, let us not forget one another, this institution or the past we have shared. Good luck and may God bless you all.”
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