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

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. 

Celeste and Sydney Corcoran 2017 Fr Bill Atkinson Award Winners

Sydney & Celeste Corcoran

2017 Father Bill Atkinson, O.S.A.
Humanitarian Award Recipient

On Thursday, February 23rd, Villanova University’s Office of Disability Services will present the fifth annual Fr. Bill Atkinson, OSA, Humanitarian Award to Sydney & Celeste Corcoran, survivors of the Boston Marathon Bombing Attack.

Celeste Corcoran, and her husband Kevin were at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, to watch her sister, Carmen, complete the race, but while Carmen was still two-tenths of a mile away, the first bomb detonated. Celeste's legs were so badly damaged that she had to have both of them amputated, and she also had to have surgery for a ruptured right eardrum. Nearby, unbeknownst to Celeste and Kevin, their daughter, Sydney nearly bled to death after shrapnel flew into her right thigh.  Before the Boston Marathon Bombings, the family thought they had experienced the worst accident; Sydney suffered a skull fracture and a brain hemorrhage in 2010 after being struck by a car while crossing a street in Hampton, N.H. She pulled through that and then had to fight for her life again, after the Boston Marathon explosions, as well as experiencing post traumatic symptoms.

Celeste and Sydney have fought against all odds to survive and are Corcoran Strong.

Tom Rinaldi

Tom Rinaldi

2016 Father Bill Atkinson, O.S.A.
Humanitarian Award Recipient

On Thursday, February 11, Villanova University’s Office of Disability Services will present the fourth annual Fr. Bill Atkinson, OSA, Humanitarian Award to Tom Rinaldi, a correspondent and feature reporter for ESPN. The award will commemorate the five-year anniversary of Rinaldi profiling then-Villanova Men’s and Women’s basketball managers, Frank Kineavy and Nick Gaynor, both of whom have cerebral palsy, and were featured in the documentary, “Coming off the DL.” Rinaldi’s feature aired Feb. 12, 2011 during ESPN’s College Gameday, which broadcast live from The Pavilion on the campus of Villanova University.

Since arriving at ESPN in 2002, Rinaldi, a winner of 12 national Sports Emmy Awards and six national Edward R. Murrow Awards, has covered some of the most impactful stories in sports, such as his 2014 piece, “The Man in the Red Bandana,” chronicling the heroism of Boston College’s Welles Crowther during the September 11th attacks. Rinaldi has also interviewed some of the world’s top athletes, including Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Derek Jeter and countless others.

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.

Dr. John Tozzi M.D.


1st Father Bill Atkinson, O.S.A .
Humanitarian Award Recipient

"The true worth of an individual is often demonstrated by the way that individual handles adversity and personal tragedy.  Never has this been more the case than with Dr. John Tozzi, M.D.  Tragically almost ten years ago Dr. Tozzi's daughter Alexandra Rose, suffered an untimely death in an automobile accident.  However from this tragic event has emerged a new life and under Dr. Tozzi's leadership the Alexandra Rose Tozzi Foundation was born and has raised both money and awareness for numerous charities and organizations."

Greg Hannah
Advisor to Students with Disabilities, Villanova University

Award Presentation

Award Presentation

Dr. John Tozzi was awarded the first Father Bill Atkinson, O.S.A. Humanitarian Award on December 10th, 2012 on campus at Villanova University.

"After Alexandra's death, Dr. Tozzi had to make the extremely difficult decision to donate her organs.  From this remarkable act, many lives were saved and countless lives were touched.  He then became an advocate for organ donation and assisted in improving the organ donation program at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center along with the Sharing Network.  A successful surgeon, community leader, and role model, a champion of organ donation and through the Alexandra Rose Tozzi Foundation, Dr Tozzi breathes life into everyone that he encounters and truly embodies the spirit and passion that Father Bill Atkinson brought do others during his life." 

Michael Dambeck, D.O., Villanova Class 2000

Read more about Dr. John Tozzi, on the Alexandra Rose Tozzi Foundation website.

John Canuso


2013 Father Bill Atkinson, O.S.A.
Humanitarian Award Recipient

In 1974, John and Joan Canuso established the Canuso Foundation to fund pediatric cancer research and to help parents and children deal with the devasting effects of cancer and cancer treatment on their lives. The Foundation has raised over $2 million for cancer research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and has provided assistance and support to countless families and individuals affected by cancer.

The Canuso Foundation mission is to alleviate the many burdens that cancer thrusts upon families – by helping them with day-to-day necessities or long-term goals and by restoring hope for the future.

In the past, in addition to funding research, the Foundation has built Ronald McDonald Houses, provided scholarships to college students affected by cancer, and helped children and families before, during and after cancer treatment.

Babe Canuso, John's daughter who was diagonosed with leukemia when she was 9 in 1974,  was the catalyst for the world's first Ronald McDonald House. Reconstructed, decorated, furnished and stocked by the Canuso Foundation in 1974, the Philadelphia home became a symbol of hope and a safe haven for families with hospitalized children. Since then, the Foundation has been involved with the renovation or building of three additional Ronald McDonald houses in the Philadelphia region.

Since 1991, the  Foundation has awarded 61 partial scholarships for Villanova University students who have experienced hardship caused by a diagnosis of cancer. The Foundation continues to grow its annuity fund at the University through targeted fundraisers and donations.