Class of 1954
Inducted in 2019
Robert was inducted into the SHS Hall of Fame in 2019.
Robert Patterson attended South High from 1950-1954. After graduation he joined the US Air Force. Robert honorably served four years with the USAF. Upon discharge, he attended Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama where his fiancé was planning to go. They married in 1960 and came back to Omaha. Robert took a job at the US Post Office and attended UNO, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 1970. Robert then took a job with Big Brothers where he became the North Area Coordinator.
His office at Big Brothers was located in a building operated by Family Service Community Development Unit. While there, Family Service offered him a job to manage the Multi-Service Center. His job was to coordinate services to Logan-Fontenelle Public Housing tenants and to organize them to advocate for more and better services. After a couple years running this service, he received a scholarship from the CDC to attend UNL as a graduate student. Robert graduated in 1973 with a Master’s Degree in Social Work. After graduation, he worked for the United Way for a couple of years.
Robert then entered the field of health planning by joining the Health Planning Council of the Midlands. This was a federal government funded organization, charged with regulating area hospitals in order to contain rising costs. Eventually, through changes in the political environment, health care was deregulated and the program folded.
Robert then took a job with Wesley House Community Center as a community project developer. One of the projects he was assigned was to organize and develop the Charles Drew Health Center. A community-based planning committee was organized to formally apply for funding for the health center. The application was accepted and a board of directors was formed. Robert was hired as President and CEO in 1983 and Omaha’s first Community Health Center opened in a former laundromat at 30th and Grant Street in North Omaha. The need became so great that a larger building was needed. Services provided included adult medicine, pediatric medicine, lab services, dentistry, social work, pharmacy and women’s, infants and children dietary programs known as WIC, which addressed the problem of blood lead content in children. Over time they had the opportunity to provide services in other locations and offer medical services at homeless shelters and to the Omaha Public Schools. Robert served as President and CEO of the Charles Drew Health Center until he retired in 1998.
Robert enjoys spending time on his computer and precious moments spent practicing the art of photography. He continues to set a positive example to our youth, adults and community. Robert and his family are active members of the Sharon Seventh Day Adventist Church, where he serves as a Senior Elder. Robert’s humble actions reflect the words spoken by our 44th president, Barack Obama, “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”