Tragedy is what sticks in our minds forever.
And oftentimes in tragedy comes reflection; reflection of your own life and those closest around you.
Sometimes this reflection is just what we need to be better human beings.
In this campaign we call For the Bold, we often talk about impact. It is a term that is thrown around a lot and we probably talk about it too frequently.
But I can tell you that during my first few weeks at William & Mary, I met someone who truly made an impact on my own life and so many other lives around the world.
Patrick Flaherty ’92 was one of those rare human beings you meet one time and you never forget them.
You see, Patrick put others above himself. He literally put his life on the line when he went to work. He risked death so others could live. And this was so clearly evident during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa.
The first alumni magazine cover story I worked on was about Patrick and his work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On the cover was his rigid face against a black backdrop that represents the darkness of disease; the devastation and human loss that he often confronted while treating those suffering from Ebola.
But shining on his rigid face was a faint light that represented a glimmer of hope. For so many, Patrick represented the hope that they needed when their child, their father, mother or friend were no longer with them. He represented hope to those who thought their time too might pass.
In the story, it talks about how he was on an empty plane, practically by himself, headed to Liberia to fight the raging Ebola epidemic. When I think about this part of the story now, I think of it as a metaphor of what it is like to truly lead, particularly at a time when so many others are afraid to come face to face with death. He was brave, he was quietly bold and he embarked on a critical mission to help thousands of patients live.
Patrick was a leader. He was what we all strive to be.
I share this with you because I just learned that Patrick Flaherty tragically passed away in his sleep. He was too young to leave us.
William & Mary lost a beloved alumnus. And the world lost a beloved soul.