By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - For the first time in a decade, Joe Patching’s daily routine does not include time in the pool.
“I moved to boarding school when I was 12, and probably since then I haven’t had more than two or three weeks off swimming at a time,” said Patching, who earned 16 All-America honors and 51 individual dual meet victories in his Auburn swimming career. “That’s probably the longest holiday I’ve ever had in 10 or 11 years.”
Patching has not officially retired from swimming, not with an alumni meet coming up next month.
“I’ve dipped my toe in a couple times, making sure I’m fit for that,” Patching said, hinting at his competitiveness. “If any of the new freshmen want to have a race, we can see what we can do about that.”
A risk advisory consultant for Deloitte in Atlanta, Patching graduated magna cum laude in finance in May from Auburn’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business.
Patching returns to the Plains Saturday to receive the Cliff Hare Award, given annually to a senior student-athlete for academic and athletic success as well as leadership, integrity and courage.
“Joe is a great ambassador for Auburn University and a worthy recipient of this prestigious award,” Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs said. “His accomplishments in the pool had a tremendous impact on our program while setting an outstanding example for his teammates and all of our student-athletes.”
“It’s always an honor to be recognized by Auburn University, having the history and tradition it has,” said Patching, who will be recognized before Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. football season opener against Georgia Southern. “To know some of the recipients who have received the Cliff Hare in the past, I was kind of blown away when I was told I could receive that.
“It will be very nice to see friends and see my Auburn family again, see my coaches and teammates and celebrate with them one more time.”
Patching, from Ascot, England, plans to work for at least two years before using the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship he received this summer to pursue an MBA.
Dr. Paul Harris, associate director for the University Honors College, helped Patching during the scholarship application process.
“An engaging scholar, a world class athlete, and a gentle servant,” Harris said. “His motivation for excelling in academics all the while competing at the top levels of his sport is so extraordinarily strong, his promise so unparalleled that I feel confident in predicting that Joe Patching will accomplish something awesome and huge in his life’s work.”
Finance professor Tracy Richard, who directs the Harbert College’s Financial Management Association honor society, provided Patching with career guidance.
"The distinctive qualities that set Joe apart are his drive and ubiquitous vision,” Richard said. “He demanded no less of himself in the classroom than he did in the pool.
“Joe recognized the importance of purposefully defining his future and applied the same high standards to his career prep playbook. He did it all with humility and gratitude."
The skills Patching acquired as an Auburn student-athlete have eased his transition to the corporate world, he says.
“Making sure you’re going above and beyond what’s demanded of you to get results and achieve your goals,” Patching said. “In my position, there’s a lot of teamwork, a lot of interacting with different people. I’m client facing so there are a lot of new faces every day and it’s about adapting to a new team, adapting to new environments.”
After the crowd applauds and Patching smiles for a picture Saturday night, he will leave Pat Dye Field, taking with him the lessons learned and memories made over the past four years.
“Really trying to use everything I’ve learned throughout my Auburn career to give back to the wider community as I move forward in life,” Patching said. “Also, keeping in mind that I’m always part of the Auburn family, and trying to contribute back to them as much as I can.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer