Campus & Community

James Patterson to headline 7th Annual STEAM Luncheon

Photo Credit: Stephanie Diani

“There is no such thing as a person who doesn’t like to read – only people who haven’t found the right book.” James Patterson deftly uses that which has made him a renowned author: words that have inspired people to love literature and earned him more New York Times bestselling novels than any other writer in the world.

On Feb. 20, he will be Palm Beach State College’s keynote speaker for the 2019 STEAM Luncheon. The 7th annual event, themed “A Conversation with James Patterson: Transforming Lives through Literacy” and  chaired by South Florida businesswoman and philanthropist Yvonne Boice, takes place at 11:30 a.m. at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts’ Cohen Pavilion in West Palm Beach.

On the heels of a career in advertising, where he contributed to the iconic commercial jingle “I’m a Toys-R-Us Kid,” Patterson found success with his first novel, “The Thomas Berryman Number,” only after 31 publishers passed on the author’s literary debut that would earn him the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.  Since then, nearly 400 million James Patterson books have made their way into the hands of readers worldwide, a testament to the early determination of a master craftsman whose name today is synonymous with modern literature.

The recipient of the 2015 National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, he has received awards and literary acclaim that honor his extensive library of work.  From his series of suspense and collaborative thrillers to inspirational children’s and young-adult fiction, Patterson has brought a myriad of fictional characters now embedded in today’s arts and culture. While much of society has been enthralled with Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club and Maximum Ride, he has been on a philanthropic crusade to promote literacy.

With approximately 32 million children and adults struggling with illiteracy across the country, Patterson has inspired, entertained and taught readers well beyond the power of prose. The Patterson Family Foundation has awarded over $7 million in scholarships at 24 colleges and universities throughout the country. Close to home, he has donated millions to the University of Florida’s College of Education to kickstart the James Patterson Literacy Challenge. Patterson has also contributed significantly to public school libraries, independent bookstores and the A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, a high-performing public school that sends more students to Juilliard than any other school in the country.

A resident of Palm Beach, Patterson has focused outreach efforts on establishing after-school reading programs at four Palm Beach County middle schools where as many as 1,000 books have been donated.  In addition, he has also supplied books to schools in Palm Beach County, New York City, Los Angeles and Savannah, Ga., well over 400 schools and countless students around the country benefiting from his generosity and vision to foster a love of reading.

Celebrating Patterson’s efforts to boost literacy, PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D., said, “We are fortunate to collaborate with Mr. Patterson, an esteemed member of the community, who has distinguished himself through his craft and compassion.  His support of some of the country’s most under-resourced schools and youth programs has not only inspired others but also provides opportunities to enhance STEAM learning and initiatives.”

David Rutherford, vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the PBSC Foundation, sees Patterson and his work as having great influence on today’s students. “Through his philanthropic endeavors and focus on young-adult literature, Mr. Patterson is inspiring people to become lifelong readers, introducing them through storytelling to literature, arts, science and more. We are thrilled to have Mr. Patterson share his words and stories of inspiration, creativity and giving for this year’s STEAM event.”

In recent years, Patterson has focused his mission and talents on younger readers, particularly middle years students.  His Max Einstein series, produced in partnership with Albert Einstein Archives, follows 12-year-old Max, an orphan who helps solve some of the world’s toughest problems through science. Unlike the real Einstein, Max is female, a purposeful choice by Patterson.

“There are still a lot of places in the United States and around the world where girls and women are not encouraged to study math and science,” says Patterson.

Furthermore, he sees the series as some of his most significant work, perhaps helping more girls to consider careers in STEAM-related fields. And, as literacy makes all STEAM learning possible, Patterson may be encouraging everyone to transform their own lives through literacy.

The STEAM luncheon is part of Palm Beach State College’s STEAM initiative, which aims to impact the projected shortage of local, skilled professionals in STEAM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Goals for the initiative include increasing student scholarships, business partnerships, internships and other academic program enhancements to prepare more graduates for these high-wage, high demand positions.

Sponsors for the luncheon are Alpha Media, Ideabar, Modernizing Medicine, Pratt & Whitney, PNC and South Florida PBS. Individual tickets are $150. A table of 10 is $1,500.  To order, visit www.palmbeachstate.edu/foundation/steam or call the Foundation office at 561-868-3450.

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