Travis Roy Foundation Announces $1M Gift for Endowed Scholarship Fund at Boston University Sargent College

The Travis Roy Foundation and Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College are pleased to announce the creation of the Travis M. Roy Endowed Scholarship Fund, established through a $1 million gift from the Foundation.

Honoring the life and legacy of the late Travis Roy, the Fund will provide annual scholarship awards to one or more doctoral candidates enrolled in BU Sargent College’s Department of Occupational Therapy or Department of Physical Therapy. Preference will be given to students studying issues related to paralysis and spinal cord injury who have expressed or demonstrated an interest in a patient-focused career.

Roy, a promising freshman BU hockey player, was paralyzed 11 seconds into the first hockey game of his college career. With the help of rehabilitation professionals, he returned to the university 10 months after his injury, earned a degree in communications, and began a career as a motivational speaker while devoting himself to helping others living with paralysis. In 1996, he launched the Travis Roy Foundation (TRF), dedicated to providing adaptive equipment for paralyzed individuals surviving spinal cord injuries as well as funding scientific research in search of a cure. The Foundation has granted more than $24 million, and its Quality of Life Grant Program grew to be the largest of its kind in the world, directly helping more than 2,500 individuals move forward after paralysis.

With a shared mission of improving lives and enhancing participation for all, Roy and Sargent College have a long-standing relationship. When he returned to BU after his injury, Roy worked with Sargent physical therapists and occupational therapists to continue his recovery and help make his dorm room more accessible. In 2015, Sargent College Dean Chris Moore announced a $2.5 million gift from a group of anonymous donors to establish the Travis Roy Professorship in Rehabilitation Sciences, currently held by Sargent Physical Therapy Professor LaDora Thompson whose research focuses on muscle weakness and dysfunction.

“The Travis M. Roy Endowed Scholarship Fund will be an enduring celebration of Travis’ relationship with BU and Sargent College,” said Sargent College Dean Chris Moore. “It reflects our shared commitment to supporting everyone’s participation in their lives and communities to the fullest extent possible.”

In 2012, Roy delivered the lecture “Defying the Odds: Rehabilitation and Perseverance after Spinal Cord Injury” to a standing-room-only crowd in the College’s first floor auditorium where he shared the importance of rehabilitation professionals in his recovery. “This is the grand scheme of changing a life…to try to give people back every ounce of independence,” he said during his remarks. “It’s a really special career to be able to impact someone’s life in that way. I hope you want to be great at what you do.” It was a statement from the heart.

“Travis set a high bar,” said Arthur Page, chair of the TRF Board of Trustees. “In hockey, his goal was to excel for the Terriers at the Division I level; after his injury, he sought to help others while rebuilding his own life. He was always pushing himself…he led with humanity and  inspired those around him to reach for their own goals and beyond.”

Each Travis Roy Scholar will have the opportunity to learn about Roy’s life and legacy, including his ten rules of life, and how he lived these principles through his leadership, focus, and determination, both before and after his injury. Reflecting Roy’s faith in the power of bringing people together in the exchange of ideas, recipients will lead a presentation or discussion at one or more public forums relating to best practices in physical or occupational therapy and improving the human experience.

Significantly, both the Travis Roy Scholarship Fund and the Professorship at Sargent College are endowed in perpetuity, part of Roy’s enduring legacy to improve the lives of those with spinal cord injuries and his belief in the crucial work of rehabilitation professionals.

“This is a tangible living legacy to Trav’s life and impact, pursuing his quest for ‘how good can I be’ and enabling Sargent’s programs and its students to do the same,” said Roy’s parents Brenda and Lee. “The Travis Roy Endowed Scholarship Fund highlights Travis‘ passion for helping others and his life of gratitude in the face of adversity.”

The Foundation has also provided an additional $15,000 of funding to support the further integration of Travis Roy Scholars into the wider scientific and clinical community, with a preference for an annual event where Scholars, their mentors, other student-researchers and interested members of the wider community can gather to exchange ideas and strategies.

The first recipients of the scholarship are expected to be announced before the fall 2024 academic year.

“BU always meant so much to Travis, and was so good to him over the years,” said Roy’s sister and brother-in-law Tobi and Keith VanOrden. “The idea that this scholarship will, in Trav’s name, help people continue to give back, both to BU and to spinal cord injury survivors, means so much to all of us.”

Honoring Roy’s request that the Foundation cease operations following his passing, after 27 years of helping spinal cord injury survivors and their families live more independent and hopeful lives, the TRF announced it will close at the end of 2023. In addition to the Travis M. Roy Endowed Scholarship Fund at Boston University, the Foundation has given millions of dollars in grants to both Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston and the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.