Better Together


The college experience is different for everyone, but Fredderick and Patricia Richardsons’ experiences were unlike most.

For the past few years, Fredderick and Patricia have pursued their undergraduate degrees at the Haslam College of Business while working part-time and raising four young daughters. Patricia graduated in the spring with a degree in human resources and a collateral in international business. Fredderick will graduate in August with an economics degree and a business analytics collateral.

A Long Road to Success

“It’s been a long ride,” says Patricia. She and Fredderick have been married for nine years, and their girls range in age from four to eight. Arranging their schedules was a challenge. “There were always the unexpected things, like sickness or daycare being closed, when one of us had to sacrifice time in class to take care of our children.”

Despite the logistical complications and exhaustion, the Richardsons’ dreams and determination kept them going. Both Fredderick and Patricia grew up in Florida, where they met as students at a community college. After dating for a few years, they got married. Fredderick then joined the U.S. Army, where his four-year service included a tour of duty in Iraq. Meanwhile, Patricia cared for their growing family.

When Fredderick’s time in the military ended, he was stationed at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, and his family lived in Clarksville, Tennessee. With Patricia’s encouragement, the family decided to move to Knoxville so Fredderick could attend Pellissippi State Technical Community College. After the family settled in their new city, Fredderick nudged Patricia to return to school and earn her bachelor’s degree. “I applied to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and when I was accepted, I told him he should apply, too,” Patricia says. “We’ve always encouraged each other to better ourselves.”

Working Through Today and Planning for Tomorrow

The day-to-day grind of classes, homework, part-time jobs and caring for children often took its toll. When they needed help, the couple turned to each other. “I’m not a great writer, so Patricia would always proofread my essays,” Fredderick says. “On the other hand, I love math, so I would be her human calculator. We helped each other out.”

As they furthered their education, the Richardsons began to nurture their dreams and envision what the future could hold. Patricia started in accounting but became interested in human resources after meeting a local professional in the field. “I realized I love new people and being on a team,” she says. “Bringing diverse people together in a collaborative, inclusive environment is my passion.”

Drawn to Haslam because of the college’s values and emphasis on leadership, Fredderick decided to focus on economics to prepare for a meaningful career. “After growing up in a six-person home with a single mother who worked two or three jobs to provide for us, I wanted to understand the economic issues in the U.S., how to close the wealth gap and how to teach the lower class to understand and manage money,” he says. “I dream big, and I want my work to make a lasting impact.”

Pastor Theodis Bob, Fredderick’s lifelong mentor and the officiant at his and Patricia’s wedding, believes the Richardsons will make a mark on the world. “They’ve overcome adversity and difficulties by working together and sticking together,” says Bob. “It’s been amazing to watch. I don’t know of any people who could change the world as much as they could.” Bob also admires the Richardsons’ attentive approach to raising children. “They’re pouring into those girls and are very intentional about every parenting decision.”

Benjamin Compton, distinguished lecturer and assistant department head in economics at Haslam, enjoyed having Fredderick as a student and a member of the Econ Club. “He was diligent and responsible, always dialed in to the importance of doing the work,” Compton says. “I find that older students who have made the decision to come back to school, especially with all the responsibilities they have, tend to take it really seriously, and Fredderick is a great example of that. It’s a refreshing attitude and the younger students were drawn to him because of his maturity — and because he’s a great storyteller.”

Helping Others and Encouraging Their Daughters

The Richardsons don’t have concrete post-graduation plans, but Patricia applied to work at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Fredderick interviewed with the National Reconnaissance Organization. Their determination to succeed in the face of challenges promises to take them far and allow them to positively impact the lives of many others. “We love being Volunteers,” says Patricia. “Even if we don’t stay in Knoxville, we will take that idea with us and teach other people to serve their communities.”

Through the challenges of the past few years, the couple drew the most meaningful encouragement from their young daughters. “In those moments when I was holding my head in exhaustion, they’d come up and just hug me,” says Fredderick. “They’re always positive and supportive and try to help. We’ve tried not to ever push our children to the background through this process, and seeing our daughters proud of us means so much.”

However, for Fredderick, the best moment of this experience was when their oldest daughter expressed a desire to follow in her parents’ footsteps. “She came up to me and said, ‘I can’t wait until I start at UT!’” he says. “I knew we were setting an example they’d want to follow, and that makes it all worthwhile.”

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