Neal Patterson, co-founder and CEO of Cerner Corporation, a principal owner of Sporting Kansas City, and former Chairman of the Board of the American Royal, died Sunday, July 9, 2017 at age 67. Cerner’s statement said that Patterson died of unexpected complications from a soft-tissue cancer for which he had been treated previously.
Neal was born in Manchester, Oklahoma to humble beginnings on a family wheat and hog farm. He learned valuable lessons about running a business and capitalizing on the resources available during his time on the farm. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in finance and then a Master’s in Business Administration from Oklahoma State University.
Upon graduation, he started working for the accounting and consulting firm Arthur Andersen & Co. At Arthur Anderson, he met Cliff Illig and Paul Gorup. While studying for their CPA exams at Loose Park in Kansas City, the three had a vision to start a health care information and technology company. His vision and strategic thinking helped them develop a billion dollar company and become Kansas City’s largest private sector employer.
Neal was also one of the five owners of the Sporting Kansas City soccer team. He and Illig were the two principal investors in OnGoal LLC, the group that purchased the franchise from Lamar Hunt in 2006. The five-man ownership group since rebranded to Sporting Club.
Through the encouragement of a former Board Chairman, Neal joined the Board of Directors for the American Royal in 2001. His agriculture roots and philanthropic heart were a perfect match for the organization. He later served as the Chairman of the Board in 2005-2006 and was appointed a Lifetime Director in 2009.
“When Neal joined the Board of Directors in 2001, his passion and vision had an immediate impact. His leadership over the years has helped guide the organization to a firm foundation and a bright future,” said Angie Stanland, Chairman of the Board of Directors, American Royal Association.
The Junior Premium Livestock Auction each October provided Neal and his family the opportunity to connect with young people in agriculture. He and his wife, Jeanne, would often visit with exhibitors from across the country while they were showing livestock at the American Royal. His farm values are at the very core of everything he does.
“My experience at the American Royal was awesome,” said Ky Stierwalt, of Leedey, Okla., who had the 2006 Grand Champion Steer that was purchased for $115,000 by Patterson at the premium sale. “Talking to Mr. Patterson, he’s a really nice guy. I’m grateful for him buying my calf. I didn’t get to talk to him a lot, but you can tell he has a passion for agriculture.” He returned to western Oklahoma to help on his family’s operation after graduating from Oklahoma State University, which also is Neal’s alma mater.
“To me, he was the heart of the American Royal, commented Angie Stanland. “He was truly a force that changed the direction of the organization over the past two decades. Neal’s vision for the American Royal was to embrace traditions, learn from others, and always strive to provide an unequalled environment for youth in education and agriculture.”