Paul Patton attended the schools of Lawrence County in Northeastern Kentucky and graduated from Louisa High School in 1955 before enrolling in the University of Kentucky.
“As to why I joined Kappa Sigma, you have to realize how green I was. I really had no idea what college life was all about. As a freshman, I and my roommate, David Shortridge, also from Louisa, lived next to Bob Moody and Terry Kester, both from Northern Kentucky and much more sophisticated than we. They had pledged Beta-Nu in the fall. By the spring David and I realized that we needed an organization which could develop the social skills we would need to be competitive in the modern world. With Bob and Terry’s encouragement we pledged Beta-Nu. The association with the Brothers contributed greatly to our future successes. I made dear friends who I value even today.”
After graduation from the University of Kentucky with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1959 he began his professional career in the coal mining industry in Floyd County. During the next 20 years he built a successful coal business and was a leader in the industry. He was on the board of directors of the Kentucky Coal Association, a member of the Kentucky Deep Mine Safety Commission and chairman of the Board of the National Independent Coal Operators Association.
In 1979, Patton turned to public service. He served briefly as the deputy secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and then was the chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party from 1981 to 1983.
In 1981, he was elected county judge executive of Pike County where he served for 10 years. Patton successfully secured the adoption of the first universal mandatory county-wide solid waste collection program in Kentucky. He also concentrated on the construction of rural roads, recreation facilities, county buildings, and economic development efforts.
In 1991 he became Kentucky’s lieutenant governor and also served as secretary of Economic Development. He spearheaded a redesign of Kentucky economic development efforts, securing the adoption of four economic development incentive programs and secured the establishment of the Kentucky Economic Development Partnership to administer the Kentucky economic development program.. He was elected governor in 1995. An advocate for higher education, he led the effort to persuade the General Assembly to enact the Higher Education Reform Act of 1997. He established the Bucks for Brains program to fund endowed chairs and professorships at the state universities. He helped the state make progress on many fronts including worker’s compensation, juvenile justice, domestic violence and child abuse prevention, early childhood education, historic preservation and infrastructure construction.
Patton’s early realization of the importance of education is revealed by his acceptance of an appointment to the Board of Trustees of Pikeville College in 1973 where he served until the unexpected opportunity to actually work as an education administrator materialized in the fall of 2009 when he was appointed President of the institution. He led the college to double its enrollment and to become a university. It is now regarded as the leading university of Central Appalachia. In 2013 he stepped down from the presidency to assume the position of Chancellor, the position he holds today. In April of 2015 he was appointed interim president of the University of Pikeville pending the recruitment of a new president.
He is married to Judi Conway Patton and they have four children and three grandchildren.