Provost Peggy Agouris sent the following message to the campus community on June 29, 2023. – Ed.

Dear Colleagues,

I write to share the news that James M. Patton, a long-standing contributor to special education, having served on the faculties of William & Mary, Virginia State University, and Hampton University, has died. 

James Patton joined the faculty of the William & Mary School of Education in 1987 as Director of Teacher Education and Associate Professor of Education.  With a baccalaureate degree in social psychology from Kentucky State University, a master’s in special education from the University of Louisville, and a doctorate of education in higher education from Indiana University, Professor Patton devoted more than 40 years to the education profession. He began his career as a special education teacher and quickly moved into higher education, initially as a faculty member at Hampton University and then as a faculty member, department chair, interim dean, and assistant to the vice president for academic affairs at Virginia State University.  Prior to his appointment at William & Mary, Professor Patton served for three years as Director of Teacher Education at the Virginia Department of Education. He retired from William & Mary in 2010.

Professor Patton taught baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral courses in both the Curriculum and Instruction and the Educational Policy Planning and Leadership Areas.  By teaching the introductory social foundation course and also supervising the culminating student teaching experience, Professor Patton has had a unique impact on hundreds of William & Mary teachers.  The graduate course on cultural competence that he developed as an elective quickly became not only a requirement but a hallmark of the school leadership program.  In course evaluations, students frequently described his seminar as a life-changing experience.  Professor Patton served on many dissertation committees.  Across programs and degree levels, students sought his support as an advisor and mentor. 

As a scholar, Professor Patton has focused on policies and practices for educating diverse learners.  His numerous publications and presentations have addressed issues of disproportionality—the over-representation of African-American students in special education and their under-representation in gifted education. His depiction of the “warring souls” of African-American males in high school has advanced understanding of the critical needs of these students. Professor Patton co-authored and directed several large grants to design and evaluate more inclusive programs in gifted education, as well as multicultural curriculum for educators.  A powerful keynote speaker, he inspired professionals, parents, and policy makers alike. has assembled a catalog of his publications, including abstracts for them. It is available at

Within the university, state, and nation, Professor Patton was a force for change in educational programs across K-12 and higher education.  As Associate Dean of the School of Education from 1991-1999, he led several major curriculum restructuring efforts and accreditation reviews.  Professor Patton’s numerous committee responsibilities as a faculty member included recent terms on the President’s Committee on Diversity and the School of Education Diversity Committee where he helped William & Mary to become a more inclusive community.  Within the Commonwealth, Professor Patton received several gubernatorial appointments including an appointment to the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities.  He also served on the Fordice Commission from 1997-1999 to study the Impact of Certain Court Decisions on the Commonwealth Institutions of Higher Education.  On governing boards for Richmond Community School and An Achievable Dream, Professor Patton contributed to innovative and effective K-12 schools.  For the Council for Exceptional Children and other national professional associations, Professor Patton was a hard-working and accomplished leader.  He was a member of the executive committee of the Board of Governors and Board of Directors for the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), and a Senior Scholar with the Shaklee Institute, a special education think tank.  He also served as Consulting Editor for the Journal of Disability Policy Studies and a member of the Board of Directors of An Achievable Dream Program, a public/private partnership designed to transform the lives of African-Americans in Newport News, Virginia. 

Professor Patton has received numerous awards for his leadership contributions. In 1984, he received the Presidential Citation of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, and was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus by both his baccalaureate and master’s institutions.  In 1992, he was honored by the Virginia Urban League for Outstanding Contributions to Education.  From 1996-2004, Professor Patton was a Senior Scholar with the prestigious national think tank, the Shaklee Institute for Improving Special Education.

James Patton is survived by his daughter Dr. Asha Patton Smith (Damaneon); his son Attorney Ade Patton (Jessica); grandsons Armon and Noah; and granddaughters, Kenzie and Campbell; his brother, Edward Lee Patton (Lorenzo); a nephew Darren Nealy (Erin), Dr. Lydia Pettis Patton, a special friend Lynda Burke, and a host of family and friends.

There was a wake held on June 28, and a Funeral Mass will be held today, June 29, at 2 p.m., at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 230-33rd Street, Newport News. 




Peggy Agouris