VILLANOVA, Pa. – On Thursday, February 23, Villanova University’s Office of Disability Services will present the fifth annual Fr. Bill Atkinson, OSA, Humanitarian Award to Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, a mother-daughter duo and survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
“The Office of Disability Services and LEVEL set out to change the way people see ability here at Villanova University and in the world,” said Gregory Hannah, assistant director of the Office of Disability Services. “We are proud to present this award to Celeste and Sydney Corcoran who, like Father Bill Atkinson, had their lives change in an instant and continue to live life with integrity, passion and contributing to the basic human dignity of those in need. It is our honor to share their lives with the Villanova community.”
Celeste Corcoran and her husband Kevin were at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, to watch her sister, Carmen, complete the race. But, while Carmen was still two-tenths of a mile away, the first bomb detonated. Celeste's legs were so badly damaged that both had to be amputated, and she also had to have surgery for a ruptured right eardrum. Nearby, unbeknownst to Celeste and Kevin, their daughter Sydney nearly bled to death after shrapnel flew into her right thigh. In 2010, Sydney suffered a skull fracture and a brain hemorrhage after being struck by a car while crossing a street in Hampton, N.H.
“We are deeply honored and touched to receive this award,” said Celeste and Sydney Corcoran. “For anyone with a visible or invisible disability, it’s fantastic how Villanova University works so hard to make their college experience as normal as possible. We are excited to be coming to meet the students and appreciate everything that Villanova is doing for the disability community.”
The award presentation will culminate a three-night celebration to honor the Corcoran’s:
- Tuesday, February 21: Screening of “Marathon: Patriots Day Bombing” documentary at 7:30 p.m. in the East Lounge of Dougherty Hall
- Wednesday, February 22: Celeste and Sydney will be recognized during the Villanova vs. Butler Men’s Basketball Game
- Thursday, February 23: Father Bill Atkinson Humanitarian Award ceremony at 7:30 p.m. in the Villanova Room of The Connelly Center
Villanova’s Office of Disability Services established the Fr. Bill Atkinson, OSA Humanitarian Award in 2012 to recognize an individual, group or organization that exemplifies the spirit and service that Fr. Atkinson embodied throughout his life. Fr. Atkinson was the first quadriplegic to be ordained as a priest in the history of the Catholic Church. Previous award recipients have included former Rutgers University football player Eric LeGrand, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury during a game in 2010; and ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi, who featured former Villanova Men’s and Women’s basketball managers, Frank Kineavy and Nick Gaynor, both of whom have cerebral palsy, when ESPN’s College Gameday came to campus in 2011.
Fr. Atkinson, who passed away in 2006, is being considered for canonization to become a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Injured in an accident in 1965 that left him a quadriplegic, Atkinson was ordained in 1974 and taught at Monsignor Bonner High School in Drexel Hill, Pa. for nearly 30 years.