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Alumni Profile: David Patterson ’66


For David Choate Patterson ’66, St. Mark’s was the family boarding school. His grandfather, Arthur O. Choate, won the Fearing Athletic Prize in 1896. His uncles Tom Choate ’33 and Arthur Choate ’30 and his cousin Arthur Choate ’66 also attended, as did his brother Arthur Choate Patterson ’62.

“I remember the first meeting I had the night we arrived at the school, as clueless new kids. The Head Monitor–all of four years older but a towering figure– welcomed us in ‘Room B’, a large, traditionally-paneled classroom in the so-called New Wing, which was not so new even then. On the wall was a plaque recording that the room had been dedicated by my grandfather to a close friend, also a St. Marker, who had died young,” David says. “The room has since been remodeled as a more modern one, much more functional, but my memory of the old one is quite vivid, possibly because it was also the room where you had to copy out the Congressional Record on Sunday afternoon as punishment for errant behavior. I was there for that purpose more than once. But if I wasn’t a model of behavior, I remember loving every minute of my time at the school. I have very happy memories.”

David was busy: on sports teams, on stage, in singing groups, as editor of The Lion for his year, and as his class’s valedictorian. Also in the summers:

“Most of my classmates and I served as shack counselors for two-week stints at Brantwood Camp. I went on to be a permanent counselor there for several years after graduating. It was a great experience dealing with kids from very different backgrounds. I’m glad to see that the camp is still going strong, and to be able to support it,” he says.

From St. Mark’s, David went on to earn a B.A. in history at Harvard College. In 1974, he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law School. After clerking for Judge Carl McGowan on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals and then for Justice Harry Blackmun on the Supreme Court, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, practiced law for a few years at a private firm, and then joined the London film company Handmade Films, owned by George Harrison. Returning to New York, he founded the Brandywine Trust Company in 1992, where he is still chairman and CEO. His other charitable interests include the Warrior Scholar Project, also dedicated to education in its work to ease the transition to college for enlisted military veterans. David was a St. Mark’s Trustee from 1994 to 2001, served on the school’s Investment Committee and 21st Century Campaign Steering Committee, and has been active in the current Lives of Consequence campaign.

Asked what he most values from his St. Mark’s experience, he’s quick with the answer:

“Unquestionably, the opportunity to learn from such great educators as Bill Glavin and Jay Engel. I took Latin and also Greek from Bill. He was famously rigorous and no-nonsense, but totally dedicated to his subject–fair, but uncompromising, an exemplar of professional dedication. As for Jay, studying with him was probably the School’s greatest gift to me. He had the same rigor and passion for his subject, with a wonderfully light, life-loving touch. I think the best single course of any kind that I ever took was Jay’s full-year course just in the four major Shakespeare tragedies. He also introduced us to classical music, and gave his evenings to a philosophy seminar he called “The Labyrinth,” reading the classics from Aquinas to Sartre.

“It was just a superior liberal arts education across the board,” David continues. “We didn’t just learn French as a language, we read Voltaire, Moliere, and the absurdist Alfred Jarry. We got a great base in the sciences, also taught by truly dedicated men and women. Good sportsmanship on the field was absolutely a given. In the bargain we learned to get along with people of all types and persuasions. You had to. It was really one building in those days,” he says.

Asked why his family chose to contribute to the School, David is also clear:

“Affirming the value of a family association with a great educational institution. Tradition imparts solidity, and in turn the ability to preserve essential values and highest standards. I hope St. Mark’s will never retreat from them, however the current winds may be blowing.”