On Feb. 23, Ryan Patrick, THON 2014 Executive Director, walked off the stage after a successful and exhausting weekend at the Bryce Jordan Center.
That was four months ago. And while Patrick may have left the Interfraternity/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, it certainly has not left him.
Patrick, Class of 2014, received a National Jefferson Award in the category of "National or Global Service by a Young American" on Tuesday for his involvement and leadership of the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. The presentation took place at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The Jefferson Awards originated in 1972 when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert Taft, Jr., and Sam Beard founded the ceremony, according to its website. It is the oldest and most highly regarded celebration of public service in the United States.
Over the 42 year history of the awards, more than 50,000 individuals have been recognized as “Unsung Heroes” on the local level in addition to hundreds who have been honored on the national level, according to the site.
Past prominent national recipients include Walter Cronkite, Steve Jobs, Peyton Manning and many others.
Patrick was notified of his nomination on the car ride home from Penn State after graduating, and within 24 hours he was selected as the winner. He said because of the whirlwind of it all he was "in a state of disbelief" when he got the second call.
"It was an awesome surprise," Patrick said. "It was totally unexpected and I was very honored."
The recipients of the annual award are chosen by the Board of Selectors, a 70-member group that nominates 15 individuals in each category from all across the country. From those 15 names, one winner is then chosen.
Members of the Board include leaders and prominent figures in a variety of fields including business, education, sports, government and more. Some notable members include Hank Aaron, Laura Bush, Whoopi Goldberg and Mitch McConnell.
While none of those figures were present on Tuesday night, Patrick said the Gala Dinner was a cool experience.
"There were several high-ranking members of the D.C. scene there," Patrick said. "Unfortunately most of the names were lost on me, but it seemed as though I was surrounded by many accomplished and upstanding individuals."
But Patrick is used to that feeling.
The feeling of standing side-by-side with accomplished and upstanding individuals is similar to what he did for four years at Penn State and it's what he did for 46 straight hours at the BJC.
"From the start I've been very humbled and honored to be recognized, because I see this award as less for me specifically and more for THON as a whole," he said.
The dance marathon raised more than $13.34 million in the year under Patrick's leadership.
"I did not raise $13 million dollars this year, it was the 15,000 student volunteers," Patrick said. "This award is for every student volunteer, past and present, that has made THON the organization it is today. I was honored to accept it on behalf of everyone."
Garrett Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (816)865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @garrett_ross.