SJSU in the News: July 19 Celebration of Life Planned for Alumnus, “Tireless Advocate for Individuals With Disabilities”

Richard W. Patterson, Resident of San Jose

Originally published in the San Jose Mercury News July 3, 2011

Richard died unexpectedly from a stroke on June 22, 2011 at Valley Medical Center, surrounded by family and friends and colleagues. He was 48 years old. Richard was employed by the Rehabilitation Research Center at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose. He was the Clinical Support Coordinator for Persons with Traumatic Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries since 1995 and led the peer-support counseling program there for the past 15 years. He was a tireless advocate for individuals with disabilities, committee member for the Public Authority for In-Home-Supportive-Services, a co-chair of the Disability Advisory Commission for the City of San Jose, and instrumental in the start-up and success of Accessible Adventures for People with Disabilities. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Adapted Physical Education in 1996, and his Master’s Degree in Counseling Education with an emphasis in Traumatic Injury and Lifestyle Counseling in 1998, both from San Jose State University.

At the age of 19, Richard himself suffered an accident which left him a quadriplegic. He spent a year in the very hospital where he would later come to be a very valued employee. At the time of his accident, Richard’s goals were unclear but he loved life in the fast lane and especially race car driving.

Richard’s life turned out very different than anyone could have imagined. Once he decided, not to accept his fate, but instead to make the most of the life, he did just that. He became an inspiration for thousands, and his legacy will continue to inspire thousands more.

Richard never let his disability keep him from doing what he wanted to do. He loved skydiving and eventually set the world record for the highest tandem parachute jump by a disabled person. He took scuba diving lessons, drove a race car, piloted an airplane and competed in the Special Olympics in swimming. He was a spokesperson for Canine Companions of Santa Rosa and received three assistance dogs. He loved his dogs! He was also on the board of the Tapestry in Arts event in San Jose.

Richard was preceded in death by his mother, Edna Daigh, less than a year ago. He is survived by his father, Robert Patterson of Las Vegas, NV, his step-father Lawrence Daigh of Groveland, CA, his sisters, Susan Hellsten of Sunsites, AZ, Robin Patterson of Groveland, CA, and Sally Patterson of San Jose, CA, his step-sister, Kirsten Lennen of Groveland, CA, and step-brothers, Steve, Eric and Kurt Daigh of Idaho. He is also survived by the love of his life, his fiance, Ligia Andrade of San Jose, CA.

A Memorial and Celebration of Richard’s life will be held on July 19th at The Pointe, 3695 Rose Terrasse Circle, San Jose, CA from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., refreshments to follow. A foundation has been set up in Richard’s name to continue the work that was so important to him. Please visit if you wish to donate or if you just want to browse the website.

Nick Cukar wearing a jersey and in mid clap.

A Graduation Story – Fulfilling A Family’s First

Nick Cukar wearing a jersey and in mid clap.

Midfielder Nick Cukar scored 25 goals in his career as a Spartan. (Photo by Terrell Lloyd)

Thousands graduated from college at the San Jose State University May 28 Commencement, and it was an extra special moment for Nick Cukar.

For Nick, earning his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology is fulfilling on many levels as he is the first in his family to graduate from college.

“It means everything,” said the veteran San Jose State soccer midfielder. “Everything I worked for, coming in my freshman year and not expecting anything, came together. I’m the first person in my family to graduate. It’s a big deal.”

“My dad (Tony) went to trade school and my mom (Lysette) got an AA.”

“I think they’re pretty excited. They’ve been pushing this since the beginning of fall. ‘You’re graduating, you’re graduating.’ This is a big first step and they’re pretty happy.”

A three-time Academic All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation honoree, Nick wants to use his degree to continue a path in sports and work with a professional sports organization in the areas of management or marketing.

“I’m looking in the sports management side possibly with the (San Jose) Sharks,” said Nick when asked about his future plans. “I did an internship at the SAP Open (professional men’s tennis).”

Nick, who started in every soccer match of his career at San Jose State University, will take advantage of every experience both on and off the soccer field in getting his first job.

“I’m going to use every resource I can. I’m going to reach out to everybody I can.”