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Remembering Travis Roy '95

Travis Roy
Travis Roy in the ceramics studio and on the hockey rink when he was a student at Tabor
Travis Roy
Travis Roy with Dick Duffy
Travis Roy
Black and white photo of Travis while he was a student at Tabor, along with his jersey
Remembering Travis Roy '95

My first friend at Tabor ...
He left such a positive legacy behind.

Words of love, condolence and compassion poured from the hearts of the Tabor community on October 29 and in the days that followed after we learned of the passing of beloved alumnus Travis Roy ’95. “We were immensely saddened to share that a man, who has meant so much to Tabor Academy and who had made such a positive impact on our world, had left us,” said Interim Head of School Julie Salit. Salit knew Travis well after working together to chair the Tabor Experience Committee on the Board. “No matter if you knew him for 25 years or 25 minutes, you were deeply impacted by him and grateful for the time you shared,” she remarked.

According to classmate and friend Matt Perrin ’96, “Travis’ outlook on life was a function of his self-awareness, gratitude, courage and determination. From the first day we met at Tabor, he put others first and never took any opportunity, moment, challenge or relationship for granted.”

Travis was a hockey standout during his time at Tabor, arriving as a junior in the fall of 1993. He also played soccer, golf and served as a Proctor during his senior year. At Tabor, Travis discovered his knack for ceramics. “As a trustee, he would often make his way over to Braitmayer to visit with our ceramics students whenever he was on campus— he loved that space,” Salit added.

Matt remembered Travis’ excitement in the summer of 1995 of what was to come as he moved to Boston, where he enrolled at Boston University. “He was beginning to realize a lifelong dream [of playing Division 1 hockey] and worked hard to make the most of the opportunity. I never doubted for a second that his talent, commitment and discipline would’ve taken him to the highest heights of the hockey world.”

However, on October 20, 1995, eleven seconds into his first shift, Travis hit the end boards head-on and was paralyzed from his shoulders down. “The fear, anger and weight of all that Travis (and his family) had lost was suffocating,” Matt remarked. “Yet at the same time, I recall being astonished by the outpouring of love and support from so many.

As Travis always said, he and his family were shown the best in humanity. And I vividly remember the feelings of hope that stemmed from watching Travis’ gratitude, grit, courage and determination in action throughout his recovery.”

In his TEDxBU talk, Travis shared: “Paralysis in a way… it’s amazing in its simplicity. No sensation. No mobility. Just this head on my shoulders that enables me to navigate each day. And this brain that allows me to feel all the emotions that anyone else does. As it turns out, that’s all I need to live a fulfilling and meaningful life.” And what an incredible life he lived, one full of meaning and inspiration. Travis devoted his life to helping other spinal cord injury survivors by starting the Travis Roy Foundation (TRF) in 1996. Since its inception, the TRF has awarded over $4.6 million to fund research to find a cure for spinal cord injuries. Every season the Tabor boys’ hockey team raises money in support of the TRF, each player pledging to raise $24 for #24 in 24 hours. The team also has a long-standing tradition of competing against Saint Sebastian’s School for the Travis Roy Cup each year. “

Those of us who knew him in his time at Tabor saw from the beginning what an extraordinary person and leader he has always been,” said Will Becker, Tabor faculty member. Becker explained that the summer before Travis came to Tabor, the hockey coach who recruited him had moved on from the school and ultimately took most of the team with him. “Travis could have gone too, but he had made a commitment to Tabor, and Travis was always a man of his word. That first season was not an easy one on the ice; the team did not win many games, but Travis never lost hope or his smile.

“He had a natural and singular ability to put everyone at ease and make us all feel special. In the 27 years since I first met Travis as his teacher, we became good friends over long talks and meals in Boston. Travis’ accident, and his response to it, showed the world why he was so special, but many of us already knew,” Becker posited.

Travis had a special bond with many of his classmates, including Maija Scarpaci ’95, who spoke about how their bond was significant on many levels. What stood out, however, was their shared gratitude for the Tabor experience. “The support that the Tabor family extended to us after Travis’ injury and over the years is something that Trav and I marveled over right up until one of our last conversations this September,” she said. Maija acknowledged that Travis is special to so many members of the Tabor family, be it people who have known him for years or people who have simply listened to him speak or who have read his book.

“Many of us may be wondering, how can we honor him. What would he want us to do? This is something I have been considering, as well, and I have been mentally sifting through our many conversations, searching for an answer,” she mused. Maija looked back to that conversation in September for inspiration. “In pondering his role as a Trustee, Travis said, ‘I just want everyone to love their Tabor experience as much as I did, in whatever role they play there.’ I knew just what he meant. Travis felt cherished and valued and supported by the Tabor family and wanted everyone else to feel that, too.”

“Travis has meant so much to the entire community. A dedicated Trustee since 2014, the Class of 2015’s esteemed graduation speaker, spinal cord injury philanthropist, role model, true hero and friend, he lived a life of passion and purpose. We are all the better having known him,” added Salit.

“Travis served our beloved Tabor with great joy and inspiration as he did with all things in his memorable, impactful and purposeful life,” shared Carmine Martignetti ’71, Board Chair. “He approached all of his assignments as a Trustee with the same determination to ‘do a good job’ as he did with everything in his life. Travis exemplified the ideal Trustee in his willingness to serve all of our constituencies equally well and gained the admiration of everyone. His involvement in anything we undertook was made better for his role in it.”

According to Dick Muther, former Tabor Academy Athletic Director and Travis’ coach for hockey and soccer, Travis never wanted to be special, even though he was. He was a humble man, but he always worked hard and sought to find ways to have an impact through all he did. “There is always that person you know; it might be a teammate, classmate, or schoolmate who makes everything right. They are the person who connects us. They are the person who makes us better both as a friend and as a person. They … are Travis.”

Muther’s words ring true to many people who knew Travis. “The contributions he made to Tabor’s community as a student, alumnus, and Trustee, combined with what he accomplished with his Foundation, speak volumes to his spirit of giving and his undeniable faith in the power of love.” Muther continued, “If we truly wish to honor Trav’s memory, we must carry on his good work: be kind, be helpful, be a contributor to the good in the world. This will ensure that we all have a bit of Travis within.” This is a sentiment his entire family—Cindy, Sammi ’10, Ry ’12, Chris ’16 and Luke Muther ’18—embraces.

“We have always been reminded of Trav each time we step into the Travis Roy Rink here at Tabor Academy to cheer on our teams,” states Salit, “and now, we will remember him fondly and do our best to carry on his legacy every day.”

“In many ways, Travis embodied the values we aspire to at Tabor Academy, and I know we will continue to have those values reflected in our work on behalf of Tabor and our lives. He was a Seawolf for the ages and will never be forgotten,” Martignetti added.

“As we say good-bye to my dear, sweet, brave friend, my question for you, and myself, is, how can we celebrate those who are important to us within our community? How can we show them that we value them?” Maija’s words can be felt by the entire community, as she recalls that September meeting with Travis. “He was so good at celebrating and supporting others because he knew first-hand how it felt (though in fairness, he had a head start—he was always good at making people feel special).”

For 25 years, the Tabor family celebrated Travis and cheered him on; he knew how much the community supported him, Maija confirmed, saying that he felt the support and was grateful for it. “But now we must continue to celebrate him by celebrating each other,” she said. “This school, this community, has an incredible capacity for love, and Tabor becomes better and stronger when we can all feel it.”

A true hero and Seawolf forever!
His courage will continue to be an inspiration to many.

 

Gratitude: Do What Trav Would Do

BY ANGUS LEARY ‘95
 

To understand Travis is to understand how central gratitude and family were to his life and, therefore, the rest of us. In this note, I would like to bring the two together and “do what Trav would do:” thank the people who meant the most to him for their gifts to us.
 

Lee and Brenda, thank you, thank you, thank you. For 45 years, your unconditional love, sacrifice and devotion allowed all of us to experience and enjoy the gift of your son. Words are inadequate to describe the admiration I have for you both. I pray God guides me to be the parents you are. I love you both with all my heart.
 

Tobi, you bravely paved the way and always have been the best role model. You are confident, strong, determined, beautiful, loving, selfless, kind and generous. Travis loved being your brother but loved even more having you as his sister. Thank you for all the love you gave him and for all you did and had to endure.
 

Travis, I love you; till next we meet, my brother.