Six months after his death, Pat Quinn, the plucky Yonkers man who helped catapult the Ice Bucket Challenge for Lou Gehrig’s disease into a social media phenomena, returned to his alma mater, Iona College.
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Quinn, who died from the disease also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, gave an impassioned, pre-recorded keynote address at the virtual ceremony, telling the teary-eyed Class of ’21, “My message to you is that life isn’t about getting hit and hiding in a corner. Life is a challenge – it’s meant to be.”
“I want you to think about how you fight and what you’re going to do when the fight doesn’t go your way.” Quinn, who died November at age 37, told graduates in the speech, streamed by the private Catholic college in New Rochelle on May 23.
“You’re all going to face incredible challenges in your life,” he continued, “it’s about having the mental strength to see it and not be afraid.”
Recent grad Olivia Santos said she “bawled her eyes out” listening to Quinn’s commencement address. Quinn “inspires people” with “grace and positivity,” said the alum, who organized ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in September with a team at Iona.
Quinn graduated from Iona in 2006 with a criminal justice degree and worked as a Wall Street headhunter. Before his 2013 diagnosis, Quinn was planning a new career in law enforcement and had passed the test to become a New York State Trooper.
Quinn and fellow sufferer Pete Frates, who died in 2019, raised $185 million in the US and another $35 million worldwide, with everyday Americans to VIPs such as Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, doused ice water over their heads for ALS awareness.
Quinn’s indefatigable spirit resonated with the likes of celebrity titans Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, to late-night hosts Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien, to sports legend Michael Jordan and US Presidents, such as George W. Bush.
They all took the challenge.
“You might say Pat felt cheated out of a long life,” his dad, Pat Quinn, told The Post. “But he felt rewarded knowing he was making a difference. He had melancholy moments but he was never depressed – he was positive, energetic, and making sure he was creating awareness for ALS.”
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