Ryan Patrick, the 2014 THON executive director, recently joined some elite company, receiving a prestigious national award dubbed the "Nobel Prize of public service."
Patrick, a recent graduate, was moving home from Penn State with the help of his sister when he got a call to inform him that he was a nominee for the national Jefferson Award for Public Service.
“It all happened really fast. I was driving home the week after graduation, and I just got this random phone call,” he said. “As I learned more about it, I got more excited. I was honored and humbled about the nomination. But I was also so excited because it seemed like it was a pretty high-profile event, and I was so happy that this could help get THON’s name out there to a completely new group of people.”
The next day, he got an email saying that a 70-person selection board — including Laura Bush and Whoopi Goldberg — had chosen him as the recipient.
“The way I saw it, I was accepting this award not only on behalf of the 15,000 people this year, but also over the entire 42 years of existence, who have helped make the organization what it is today. I’m one person, and I couldn’t just do that.”
— Ryan Patrick, 2014 THON executive director
and Jefferson Award for Public Service recipient
Patrick was awarded the GlobeChanger Award for a volunteer under 25 who has completed notable global or national service during the 42nd annual Jefferson Awards Foundation ceremony earlier in June, in Washington, D.C. Other recipients included retired U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, former NFL wide receiver James Thrash and Jack Andraka, an inventor, scientist and cancer researcher.'
Just as he did earlier that day when he met U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, Patrick used his acceptance speak to tout his organization. “I basically used my two minutes to get people interested in THON,” he said. “It was a little elevator pitch.”
The Jefferson Awards Foundation was co-founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Sen. Robert Taft Jr. and Sam Beard. It is the country's longest standing and most prestigious organization dedicated to activating and celebrating public service.
“The way I saw it, I was accepting this award not only on behalf of the 15,000 people this year, but also over the entire 42 years of existence, who have helped make the organization what it is today,” he said. “I’m one person, and I couldn’t just do that.”
Patrick and the many involved student volunteers raised more than $13.34 million for pediatric cancer this year during THON, the world's largest student-run philanthropy.
Ryan Patrick, THON 2014 executive director, addresses attendees of the 2014 Road to THON Celebration dinner.
Megan Renaut, the 2015 THON executive director couldn’t be more proud of her predecessor. “It’s really been a privilege to work with Ryan. Members of the executive committee got to see first-hand how much time, effort and passion he put into this organization, and it’s really representative of THON as a whole," she said. "It’s phenomenal to see how hard he works for THON and how he’s able to put THON’s mission at the forefront of every decision."
Patrick, who majored in mechanical engineering, will be starting a job with Deloitte Consulting as a strategy and operations business analyst in August. He attributes his experience leading THON to helping him find his calling in life.
“I learned stuff about myself. I learned how I lead and how I interact with people. I just became more self-aware,” he said. “Through THON, I discovered that I want to be in a job where there’s interaction with other people and that is built off of a foundation of creating relationships.”