Life has been an adventure for Debra Jacobs since she became president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation in 2009.
With a blank charter created by foundation founder Dorothy Patterson and no stipulations of geographic or issue focus for the corpus of her estate — $200 million — Jacobs says she’s in daunting territory, because the foundation is creating from scratch everything it’s doing.
“Dorothy knew what she was about and what she liked and didn’t like,” Jacobs said. “She knew she was wealthy but did not consider it her money, and she wanted her generations to decide how to use the blank charter. We are honoring her heritage and legacy through nine strategic initiatives and always want to let people know we’re paying attention to where the money came from.”
Rather than using grant cycles, the foundation will explore the initiatives — Roman Catholic faith, military, new media journalism, cultural connections with students, digital imagery, aging with dignity and independence and three debilitating diseases: arthritis, diabetes and dementia — during its three- to five-year learning journey.
“When you have to create and there’s not a book you can follow, it’s hard,” Jacobs said. “You hold yourself to a very high standard, learn from the best and brightest and understand you can’t do anything alone.”
Through these initiatives, and by partnering with various organizations, the foundation will focus on how to make the biggest impact and do work in a meaningful way. Jacobs hopes to inspire philanthropy and communication in others.
As the focus for its “military” initiative, the foundation is funding the design and construction of a permanent memorial for the National Shrine Assembly Area at Sarasota National Cemetery to honor not only those who have served this country but also to inspire patriotism.
For its long-term goals, the foundation will focus on “transform and relieve,” intended to help people who suffer from circumstances beyond their control. The foundation has partnered with Season of Sharing and made a challenge grant to match dollar per dollar donations made by new donors and match increased donations by current donors.
“I think our Season of Sharing is such an excellent example of collaboration and partnering because every media, although competitors, has come together for the greater good,” Jacobs said.
As the foundation matures, Jacobs hopes the community will be inspired to think of its own legacy.
“When you create things, it takes time,” Jacobs said. “So, as people watch this, it’s with understanding that, to do excellent work, you can do it with focus, with tenacity, but excellent doesn’t happen overnight. We’re learning how to do this the best way we possibly can.”
Hometown: Rochester, N.Y.
Family: Married to Bill Buttaggi; two children; four grandchildren
Education: Graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree from Utica College of Syracuse University; M.B.A. from University of Rochester
Occupation: President and CEO of The Patterson Foundation
Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected]