Avila Now

May 10, 2017

Cerner Leader and Founder of First Hand Foundation Jeanne M. Lillig-Patterson to Receive Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Avila University

Jeanne Patterson poses with children
Jeanne Lillig Patterson.

(May 10, 2017) KANSAS CITY, MO – Avila University’s president, Ron Slepitza, Ph.D., CSJA, will present an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Jeanne M. Lillig-Patterson ’80 at Avila’s commencement ceremony on May 13.

The Doctor of Humane Letters is the highest honor that can be bestowed by Avila and is presented to individuals that have demonstrated outstanding service and leadership to humanity, outstanding service to their community, outstanding contributions to education and those who embody the values of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

“Jeanne demonstrates Avila’s values through her leadership at Cerner, her founding of the First Hand Foundation to impact the lives of thousands of children in need of health care and her support of academic excellence,” Slepitza said.

Lillig-Patterson was the seventh person hired by the medical software company Patterson, Gorup, Illig & Associates in 1981. She helped rename the company Cerner in 1984 and originated the roles of director of marketing and director of client services. She was instrumental in getting a world-class onsite daycare, preschool and fitness facility built for the use of Cerner’s families. In 1985, she founded Cerner’s First Hand Foundation; a charity that has addressed the unmet healthcare needs of more than 250,000 children in 93 countries, with Lillig-Patterson as the passionate driver behind many of the charity’s innovative programs. Today, Cerner is a global health information technology company with 24,000 associates worldwide that is frequently recognized as one of the healthiest workplaces in America.

She is active in St. Sabina Church and has served on numerous non-profit boards and committees, including Ronald McDonald House, Avila University, Bishop Hogan High School, Heartland Therapeutic Riding Academy, the American Royal, Jewel Ball and BOTAR Ball. She is a passionate supporter of education and the arts, and served on Missouri’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education and the advisory board for the Kauffman Foundation’s Kauffman Scholars program. Her support provides critical scholarships for Avila University students in need through the Jeanne Lillig-Patterson Endowed Scholarship Fund and support for faculty innovation through the Jeanne Lillig-Patterson Faculty Innovation Fund.

In 2004, Lillig-Patterson was the Republican nominee for Missouri’s 5th Congressional District seat in the House of Representatives. Diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in the mid-2000s, she is a strong advocate for patient engagement and patient-centered interoperability of electronic health records. Together with their children, she and husband Neal Patterson support causes they believe in through the Patterson Family Foundation.

Avila University Commencement will be held May 13 at 10:00 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Kansas City Convention Center.

Avila University, a Catholic University sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, is a values-based community of learning providing liberal arts, professional, undergraduate and graduate education to prepare students for responsible, lifelong contributions to the global community. Our approach to education brings out the best in our students, so they can bring out the best in others. 

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