Donald N. Patten Receives Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws During William & Mary's Fall Commencement Ceremony

  • Life of Service
    Life of Service  William & Mary Rector John Littel congratulates former Rector Donald Patten on receiving the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws during the university’s in-person commencement exercises for the Class of 2020 on Sunday, October 10, at Kaplan Arena.  
  • Life of Service
    Life of Service  With several decades as a successful lawyer in Southeastern Virginia, Donald Patten has always had time for William & Mary law students.  
  • Life of Service
    Life of Service  Donald Patten became rector of William & Mary in 2001, during President, and former law dean, Timothy J. Sullivan's term as university president. During his tenure on the Board of Visitors, Patten advocated for fiscal responsibility to strengthen William & Mary’s Financial Foundation, and as rector he made it a priority to bolster the university's partnership with its neighboring region.  
  • Life of Service
    Life of Service  Thanks to the generosity of the Patten family, the recently renovated Patten Family Courtyard at the Law School is an open and inviting area for study, meetings, food, relaxation and small public events.  
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When Donald N. Patten became William & Mary’s rector in 2001, he said that the university was “his priority,” and that although he might not have a William & Mary degree, he would be “wearing a green and gold hat.”

As of Sunday, October 10, he has that William & Mary degree. See video.

Patten, a renowned lawyer in asbestos liability litigation with the firm of Patten, Wornom, Hatten & Diamonstein in Newport News, Virginia, received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws during the university’s in-person commencement exercises for the Class of 2020 on Sunday, October 10.

Patten served on William & Mary’s Board of Visitors from 1999 to 2003 and as its rector from 2001 to 2003. He is an emeritus member of the Business School Foundation and became an honorary alumnus of the Law School Class of 2018.

His career in law has spanned more than three decades, and over the past 20 years, he has focused on asbestos product liability litigation. In that role, he has represented individuals injured by asbestos in Virginia and multiple other states, including Ohio, Texas and Mississippi.

Patten is a member of several professional organizations and previously served as president of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association. He received the highest rating awarded by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directory for legal competence and was selected by his peers to be included in the 2001-2002 edition of the “The Best Lawyers in America.”

Patten has been highly engaged in the Newport News community, previously serving as chair of the Planning Commission, chair of the Peninsula Airport Commission, a member of the Newport News City Council and vice mayor. He also served on the executive committee of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. He was president of the Christopher Newport University Education Foundation and chair of Mary Immaculate Hospital. He was previously a member of the board of the Peninsula Alliance for Economic Development and the Mariners’ Museum. He currently serves on the C. E. Thurston & Sons Asbestos Trust Advisory Committee.

Patten received his bachelor’s degree at the University of Richmond and his law degree at the University of Virginia.

A longtime friend of William & Mary Law School, Patten has generously supported the recently renovated patio area at the Law School, now known as the Patten Family Courtyard.

“We thank Don for his years of service to the university and to helping make the Courtyard a more beautiful and comfortable place to be now that our students are back in person,” said Dean A. Benjamin Spencer. “Students are already finding it the perfect space to collaborate, study and simply hang out together.”

To watch Don Patten receive his honorary degree, watch this clip from the university’s Commencement exercises.

About William & Mary Law School
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America’s first law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.