Dedicated his life after the accident to helping others with spinal cord injuries and funding research
Almost exactly 25 years to the day after his life was tragically altered 11 seconds into his first shift for the Boston University hockey team, Travis Roy (COM’00, Hon.’16), who was left paralyzed from the neck down in that game, died on Thursday. He was 45.
A family spokesman says Roy died from complications of being a quadriplegic for 25 years.
“He did not want ever to put anybody out, he approached everything with love and gratitude,” says Keith Vanorden, who is married to Roy’s sister, Tobi. “He did say if his passing inspired others, and served to motivate others to support the Travis Roy Foundation, then what a great way to remember him.”
Vanorden says Roy, who split his time between Boston and Vermont, was in Vermont when he died, with family by his side. “He’s been a gift to us. A gift to everybody for 25 years. There were times you’d do things with him, and it was the best hour of your day. You never knew all the effort that went into getting into his chair. But when you were with him, it was a presence unlike anything you ever experienced.”
Roy’s life after the game on October 20, 1995, was less about being defined by a single moment and more about his strong desire to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life by helping others who suffered similar injuries. His Travis Roy Foundation, established in 1996, has helped more than 2,100 quadriplegics and paraplegics, and awarded nearly $5 million in grants toward spinal cord research, according to the website.
“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of Travis Roy,” BU Athletics said in a statement. “His story is the epitome of inspiration and courage, and he was a role model and a hero to so many people. Travis’ work and dedication towards helping fellow spinal cord-injury survivors is nothing short of amazing. His legacy will last forever, not just within the Boston University community, but with the countless lives he has impacted across the country. Our sincere thoughts are with his wonderful family as well as his vast support group of friends and colleagues.”
Five years ago, Roy was celebrated in a gala at Agganis Arena by BU and the city of Boston, which declared October 20 “Travis Roy Day.” Vanorden says Roy’s bond with BU remained strong. “It was always one of the most important places to him.”
For the 20th anniversary, Roy appeared on ESPN, and the Boston Bruins signed him to a one-day contract. Anonymous donors gave $2.5 million to create the Travis M. Roy Professorship at Sargent College. More recently, Roy received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at BU’s 2016 Commencement.
“Twenty years ago tonight, I lived out my dream of playing Division I hockey,” Roy said at the Agganis gala. “The 11 seconds at Walter Brown Arena playing for Boston University were the best 11 seconds of my life.” He added that evening, “My work on the Travis Roy Foundation alongside my friends and family has helped me create a life that is very rich, very much worth living. I feel so loved.”
Roy, a freshman forward, had just barely been on the ice when he crashed headlong into the boards, shattering his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. It severely damaged his spinal cord and left him paralyzed from…