Fr. Bill Atkinson, O.S.A. Humanitarian Award

The Office of Disability Services at Villanova University has established the Father Bill Atkinson, O.S.A. Humanitarian Award to recognize an individual, group, or organization that exemplifies the spirit and service that Father Bill embodied throughout his life.  The annual award, established in 2012 in honor of the late Father Bill Atkinson, is designed to recognize an individual, group, or organization for outstanding service to their community and beyond. 

John Canuso

Eric LeGrand

2015 Father Bill Atkinson, O.S.A.
Humanitarian Award Recipient

On Thursday February 12th at 7pm in the Villanova Room, the Nova Nation will welcome Eric LeGrand to deliver a message of advocacy, awareness, and determination to succeed in life. We will also have the pleasure of presenting Eric with the Father William Atkinson O.S.A. Humanitarian Award.

On October 16, 2010, LeGrand suffered a severe spinal cord injury during a game against the Army Black Knights in East Rutherford, New Jersey at MetLife Stadium. On a kickoff to Army, LeGrand collided with the ball carrier, Malcolm Brown. LeGrand was credited with the tackle, but he lay on the ground for several minutes before being carted off, apparently only able to move his head. 

LeGrand fractured his C3 and C4 cervical vertebrae. He was put on a respirator right away to help him breathe, and doctors informed his mother that he would more than likely need the aid of the machine to continue breathing for the rest of his life. Doctors also informed Karen LeGrand that her son had a suspected 0–5% chance of walking for the rest of his life. The next day when LeGrand woke up, he managed to mouth the words; "I'll be back," to his mother.

Since then Eric has become a major figure in the disability community raising awareness for people of all abilities.  In June 2012, LeGrand was presented the Unsung Hero Award by the New Jersey Hall of Fame.  He was presented the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 20th annual ESPYs on July 11, 2012.  In August 2012, LeGrand was named the most influential person in New Jersey sports by the Star Ledger. On July 30, 2013, it was announced that Rutgers will be retiring the No. 52 jersey worn by LeGrand.  It was the first number to be retired by Rutgers in the 144 year history of their program. On May 18, 2014, LeGrand received a degree in labor relations from Rutgers and was asked to speak to his fellow graduates at Rutgers' spring commencement exercises.

Eric will bring a great message to the Nova Nation and it will be an honor to recognize him for his efforts with the Father William Atkinson O.S.A. humanitarian award.  I hope you will join the Office of Disability Services and LEVEL as we welcome Eric on February 12th, 7pm in the Villanova Room.