It was during the fall of 1962 when Charlie Patten first arrived on the Tilton School campus. A native of Framingham Center, Mass., he was heavily involved in all aspects of school life during his three years on the Hill as a member of the Glee, Radio and Arts clubs; a Tiltonaire; a Dormitory Proctor; and competitor on the track and field and basketball teams. Charlie’s involvement has remained intact since his graduation in 1965: first, as an alumnus, then as a parent to Rob, Tilton School class of 1989 and most recently, a member of the Board of Trustees, a position he has held since 2009.
Perhaps what is most notable about Charlie would be the many “behind-the-scenes” successes he has achieved and accepted with quiet resolve. After a number of reach-outs to close friends and classmates, it was his son, Rob who finally gave us a little insight into what Charlie’s post-Tilton life has entailed. Many of the sentiments I am about to share with you come directly from Rob, which perhaps more than anything speaks to Charlie’s most proud title, that of father and now grandfather.
After Tilton, Charlie studied at Nichols and WIT and went on to apply that knowledge by purchasing a waterfront machine shop and marina on the Piscataqua River across from the Tug Boats in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. At just 25 years old and with a young family, Charlie went about teaching himself the business, learning everything from running the books to running the machines while at the same time running a thriving marine business. As a hard working and self-assured young man, he renovated and moved onto a floating Navy barge that was included with the purchase of the business and lived there on the river year round for about 30 years. This place became a nucleus for his family, and he took advantage of this setting to teach his two boys a strong work ethic and how to have fun on the weekends out on the river. True to his nature, he’d wake up at any hour of the morning for a fisherman who needed an emergency haul out. More than once, he has saved the day, and it’s this willingness to help people out that makes him so beloved.
He quickly earned the reputation of being very helpful to his clientele, which made his business thrive during his more than 25 years of ownership. He expanded and transformed the company into a precision machining and design and engineering firm serving the Aerospace, Defense and Automotive industries. In the years before he sold his business, which still thrives today, his team was building high-end automated manufacturing equipment for first tier suppliers to BMW. If you drive a BMW, there’s a good chance your engine was built with parts that went through a production line filled with Charlie’s equipment. Even in his so-called retirement, he still builds automation equipment for Pratt and Whitney.
Of course, Charlie would never tell you any of this. If you really know Charlie, you know how humble and soft-spoken he is. It would take you years of knowing him to know even half of what he has accomplished. Never self-important, he always makes time to help someone in need to solve a problem.
Charlie now lives in Kittery with his wife Suzy, and according to Rob, he takes every opportunity to spend time with his granddaughter and two grandsons. He is in the process of teaching them to drive a skid steer, excavator and Kubota tractor. How many five year olds have actually driven an excavator? Rob’s best guess is that Charlie’s looking to have them mowing his lawn in a few short years.
It is perhaps in his ability to keep his achievements under wraps that Charlie has most impacted the Tilton community. It is in his humility that he truly shines as a member of our school, promoting the belief that humility truly is the foundation of all virtues.
Charlie is an asset to Tilton School and inspires all of us to be a little better in our daily lives. I have heard that he wakes up each day, asks himself a question and then spends the rest of the day finding out its answer. My question to the rest of you in this Chapel today is this: How can we all be a little better? A little more humble? A little more like Charlie Patten?
It is with great pleasure that I have the opportunity to present Mr. Charles C Patten the John Charles Daly Award, for he is indeed a true friend of Tilton, whose pursuit of excellence and deep commitment as a member of the school family resembles that of John Daly’s involvement in Tilton School.