“When you climb up for so long and you finally get somewhere and you think that you’re set,” Patterson says. “All of a sudden a rug is pulled out from right under you. When you lose that security blanket…at that point I realized that life wasn’t about me.”
This story goes back to the Sub-zero plant in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, laying off hundreds of plant workers in 2008, one being Dexter “Tefman” Patterson.
The heartbroken husband and father of four daughters decided enough was enough — and the layoff might have been a blessing in disguise.
“Looking back I felt like I was living the American Dream” before the layoff, he says. “I was able to pay all my bills. I was comfortable. But I was not happy.”
With that in mind, he pulled himself together with the support of his wife, mother and grandmother in order to continue his studies at Madison College to gain his associate’s degree.
And he didn’t stop there — he moved on to getting his bachelor’s degree at UW Madison and on August 5, he will graduate with a master’s degree in communication from Purdue University.
“You embrace higher education because you want to get better at what you’re good at, at what you love,” he says. “Go to school to do what’s in your heart. That you know that you love. That you know you can make a difference”
Today Patterson has created a brand for himself being the director of social in digital media for the Wisconsin Alumni Association and Foundation. There, Patterson handles all social and digital media, running all social media accounts and advertising.
Having overcome obstacles, Patterson now looks to help young people who face obstacles of their own. Seeing what they went through, Dexter found himself on the board of directors of Rubin for Kids, a local nonprofit that offers scholarships to first generation college students. This year Rubin for Kids gave 28 young people $1,000 each.
Patterson also has developed a parallel career as a musician, a journey that began in writing. Patterson connected with a friend named Vince at age 12; their love of making music got them closer at age 15 and by 19 they were on stage rapping together. It was as a rapper that Patterson dubbed himself “Tefman” to signify being strong, untouchable, the toughest of the tough.
Patterson’s music career led him to front the five-piece hip-hop band Dogs of War, founded in 2014. Five guys, all dedicated to the same big dream led them in search of a studio. It took a year but they found it — a big empty room on Madison’s south side. They had an architect draw up a plan and spent weekends building it themselves.
Dogs of War guitarist Anthony Salas came up with the name Warm Glow Studios to represent the studio using the top of the line tube recording gear which gives the music a rich warm and authentic sound. Patterson and his crew are hoping to open Warm Glow Sudios in August with two recording studios and rehearsal rooms. Patterson hopes to be more than a studio, and aims to help new artists grow their brands through digital marketing and social media.
Dexter Patterson grew up with a lot of potential — but his winding path has taught him a thing or two about what to do with it.
“What is potential? Potential is useless,” Patterson says. “You can have all the potential in the world but if you don’t take any action off of that potential it’s just useless.”
This profile was produced by a student journalist in the Madison365 Academy. To learn more and to support our educational programs, visit madison365.org/academy.