Alums fund field experiences for geography students
When Fred Lutgens ’67, M.S. ’70 went on a field trip with his geography professor, James E. Patterson, in the summer of 1965, he never expected to meet his future wife. But Fred fell for his professor’s daughter, Nancy (Patterson) Lutgens ’93, M.A. ’94, who along with her mother, two sisters, and brother, had accompanied her father on the summer-long field trip. Fred and Nancy were married on Fred’s graduation day, June 10, 1967.
The two have since enjoyed a life devoted to education and research. In honor of Nancy’s late father, the Lutgens family gave $45,000 in cash and matching gifts to help establish the James and Lucy Patterson Family Geography Field Trip Endowment to encourage field research for Illinois State students. Nancy’s three siblings, all University High School graduates—Judy Henderson ’87, Janet Goucher ’89, and Neal Patterson—also contributed financially to help establish the endowment.
Inspiring a love of learning
James Patterson served as geography professor at Illinois State from 1957 to 1986. His work at Illinois State earned him the first Bone Award for Outstanding Teacher at Illinois State University and the Illinois Geographic Society’s Distinguished Geography Educator Award.
“My father-in-law was known as a great storyteller,” said Fred Lutgens. “He often told students stories from his travels. He was an incredibly engaging professor.”
Patterson used field experiences to enhance material taught in the classroom. He led student groups on numerous multi-week field trips to the Southwest, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska, often developing partnerships with local universities along the way where he would give guest lectures. Patterson delighted in the look on his students’ faces when they experienced new people and places.
Patterson’s love of learning impacted his daughter Nancy, who returned to school after Fred completed a master’s in geography in 1970 to complete her own bachelor’s and master’s in history in 1993 and 1994. She later went on to earn a master’s in library science from the University of Illinois in 1998.
Fred’s professor turned father-in-law was also an inspiration for Fred’s career. Fred taught Earth science and geology courses at Illinois Central College from 1969 to 1999 and has coauthored multiple editions of six college textbooks as well as a high school text that are currently used throughout the country. Some of his textbooks have also been translated into Italian, Korean, Turkish, and Spanish.
The Lutgens’ passion for education and helping others inspired their two daughters. The Lutgens’ daughter Karen holds a master’s degree in library and information science and a master’s in business administration. Their daughter Kathy is a social worker for the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services.
Enhancing field experiences for students
When the Lutgens helped to establish the James and Lucy Patterson Family Geography Field Trip Endowment, they knew they wanted to give students the same opportunity for field research that Fred—and as the professor’s daughter, Nancy—experienced years ago. The fund provides resources to the Department of Geography for field experiences for qualifying individual students or groups of students.
In 2019, the department used funds from the endowment to offset student costs for a field excursion in Chicago.
Jessica Abdelnour, a junior geography major and geology environmental science minor from Aurora, was among students on the Chicago field trip.
“The field trip allowed me to explore many neighborhoods in Chicago that I had never been to before,” said Abdelnour. “I heard amazing stories from locals when we visited the neighborhoods of Chinatown, Humboldt Park, and Bronzeville. They told us about what they are doing to preserve their cultural footprint and fight gentrification. We also learned about inclusiveness and integration when we traveled to Oak Park, a community right outside the Chicago borders.”
The Chicago field trip group also analyzed how gentrification in the city has affected community members’ access to public transportation. “We interviewed people about their use of public transportation, and then I created maps to show the level of access to L-train stations that different ethnic groups have depending on the location of where they live in the city. It was interesting to see how gentrification plays a role in transportation and cultural neighborhoods.”
Abdelnour is grateful for the opportunity the James and Lucy Patterson Family Geography Field Trip Endowment provides. “I’m so thankful to have gone on the Chicago trip and to expand my knowledge of a city that I can now say I truly love!”
Carrying on the Patterson legacy
For Fred and Nancy Lutgens, giving back to Illinois State was a natural response to the wonderful experiences they enjoyed on campus.
“My time at Illinois State was an extremely influential part of my life,” says Fred Lutgens. “We’re happy to be able to pay forward the benefits we received as Illinois State students.”
Fred Lutgens points to Illinois State’s strong academics and individualized attention from faculty as a reason to continue supporting the institution.
“My experience was very positive, as was my wife’s experience,” said Fred Lutgens. “It was a different era when I was a student. During my freshman year, it was Illinois State Normal University. But Illinois State continues to prove itself to be a strong university where students thrive.”
Fred and Nancy returned to Bloomington-Normal recently for the funeral of Nancy’s mother, Lucy Patterson.
“Three of my father-in-law’s former field trip students, one from as far away as California, attended Lucy’s funeral,” said Fred Lutgens. “It’s truly a testament to the influence both James and Lucy had in their lives.”
Fred and Nancy are carrying on the Pattersons’ influence, making sure the next generation of Redbirds can experience the life-changing field trips James Patterson once made possible for his students.
During the final year of Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State, your support helps meet critical priorities related to scholarship, leadership, and innovation. To learn more about the campaign, or to make a gift that enhances your legacy, visit RedbirdsRising.IllinoisState.edu.