The BJU Alumni Relations office will honor Ron Hamilton, or Patch the Pirate as he is fondly referred to by families around the world, with its first Lifetime Achievement Award Oct.11.
The presentation will be made at the kickoff of BJU’s annual Homecoming in the Founder’s Memorial Amphitorium Friday at 11 a.m. Hamilton’s voice and music have reached hundreds of thousands with the Gospel message. He is being honored in front of his family and the entire student body, many of whom grew up under his influence, many of whom now sit in the very seats he once sat in as a student at BJU.
According to Meagan Ingersoll, director of alumni relations and parent engagement, the idea behind the Lifetime Achievement Award is to highlight graduates who have a record of making significant impacts on others—best seen in a lifetime of ministry.“The heartbeat of the University is that we are producing graduates who are going to be salt and light around the world,” Ingersoll said.
Nathan Leupp, a BJU graduate, has traveled across the U.S. with Patch and has worked at Majesty Music for the past 20 years.Leupp grew up listening to Patch the Pirate Adventures and singing Hamilton’s songs at his church.
“Patch is the best example of a Christlike person that most people will ever come in contact with,” Leupp said. “There are people who achieve great things, but there are few who have gone through the trials that Patch has, maintained a Christlike testimony and continued to serve God.”
Ingersoll said that, since Patch is retiring, it seemed like the right time to honor him.“We also saw that this wasn’t just somebody that no one knew,” Ingersoll said. “The majority of our student body will at least know who he is: someone who’s had tremendous impact.”
Most of the Hamilton family lives in Greenville. When considering Hamilton for the award, the alumni association observed Patch’s family and his children, and they were able to see his impact on them.According to Ingersoll, Hamilton’s family has been an integral part of the planning for the award ceremony.
“After the many trials and everything the family has gone through, they’ve been able to see that he has God and He is good,” Ingersoll said.Marty Nelson, seventh grade English teacher and director of the middle and high school choirs at Bob Jones Academy (a position Hamilton held many years before her), is Hamilton’s younger sister and middle child of the family.
According to Nelson, the siblings started singing together in Good News Clubs at ages 7, 9 and 11.
They sang out of old, women’s trio books with Nelson on the lowest part and the boys singing soprano until “Ronny’s” voice changed.She said Hamilton began writing music after taking a musical theory class as a senior in high school. His first three full compositions were published while he was a student at BJU.
He graduated in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in church music and went on to earn his master’s in church music composition.Nelson has never heard her brother speak ill of anyone—a quality their father also possessed. According to Nelson, his only flaw was procrastination.
She described him as kind, caring and patient, fondly remembering how Hamilton never forgot their mother and father’s anniversary after their father died—always bringing their mother flowers and taking her out to dinner.
The Hamilton family has been through many difficult trials. “I think the continual turning to God for help is reflected in his music,” Nelson said.Hamilton lost his eye due to cancer when he was 27. Soon after, he began his ministry as “Patch the Pirate.”
The ministry of Patch and Majesty Music has spread worldwide with over 450 radio and broadcast stations and almost 900 musical texts and 39 Patch the Pirate albums.
Leupp said he’s been able to see and hear many accounts of Patch’s ministry transforming the lives of children, many of whom are now adults.
“We frequently receive letters for Patch where a missionary tells of how they were called to the field after listening to ‘Patch Goes to the Jungle’,” he said.
Nelson believes one of the reasons Patch most deserves recognition is due to the volume of work and the number of people who have raised their children on the solid biblical truth in the Patch tapes.
Nelson likened the multitude of CD’s created over Hamilton’s life to a diary that mapped everything that was going on in the family’s house.
According to Nelson, the man heard on those recordings is the same person in real life. Patch the Pirate is not a character, she said. His songs are not just songs. He is a person relating what God was teaching him at specific moments of life.
At the end of 2017, the Hamilton family announced that Hamilton had been diagnosed with early onset dementia.
According to Nelson, the dementia is taking away the first thing people recognize of Patch and his music: his words. “He’s become very quiet,” Nelson said.
According to Leupp, even after Hamilton retires, Majesty Music anticipates a bright future under the direction of Patch’s daughter and son-in-law, Adam and Megan Morgan.
“I’ve often said that if I had Adam Morgan’s energy, I could conquer the world,” Leupp said. “Megan has proved she is great arranger and singer.”
Ingersoll believes the student body will understand the tremendous impact Hamilton has had and hopes that his example will inspire others.“You’re in a place in a [university] that is preparing you to go out and have an impact like this,” Ingersoll said. “The real purpose of college is what comes after college and how God is going to use you. One day this might be you.”