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Family of BCU student Tom Patterson speaks on their son and water safety

Family of BCU student Tom Patterson peaks on their son and water safety

The parents of a Briar Cliff University wrestler who drowned in the Missouri River last fall are back to receive his second diploma at Briar Cliff.

It's been eight months since law enforcement began searching for Tom Patterson, a student-athlete at Briar Cliff University who was on the wrestling team.

Patterson was swept away by the Missouri River near Burbank, South Dakota after trying to save some of his friends who were stranded near the center of it.

"At that time, the information that we had was that he was missing."

Tom's parents Joene and Walt Patterson flew out from Maryland during that time, and have made their way back these months after.

After hearing the situation of Tom's heroism on that day in September, Joene says that's the kind of kid Tom was.

"It didn't surprise me. I mean, he'd be willing to help anyone," she said.

They're here to visit the school Tom called home for four years and to receive a second degree for their son, who was finishing up getting one in Psychology.

While they're here, Joene wanted people to understand the importance of the ever-changing Missouri River.

"I'm not saying don't ever go, but if you go, go with caution and don't venture too far," she said.

"If someone that's 200 pounds, who's just 23 years old and physically fit, can drown in the river, it can happen to just anyone at any time," said Walt Patterson.

But even after Tom's death, the Patterson's received amazing support from both back in Frostburg, Maryland and here in Siouxland.

"They didn't know us, we didn't know them but it was a common interest of either they knew Tom or had met Tom or felt compelled to help and it's very heart warming," said Joene.

As was Thursday night, when Briar Cliff held a tree dedication for Tom, so that there will always be a rememberance of a young man showing great courage even in his final minutes.

"He was starting to set his roots here, now he has a tree with roots," said Joene.

Tom's parents will be receiving his degree tomorrow morning during Briar Cliff's Graduation Ceremony.

And for the first time in over ten years, it will be held in the Newman Flanagan Center, the same place where Tom wrestled during his time as a Charger.

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