Empowering, dependable, kind … and “the best Santa Claus ever.”
The late Pat Tracy was remembered as all these things by friends and colleagues gathered Monday at a memorial service in his honor in the Student Hospitality Lounge in SJC Long Island’s O’Connor Hall. But perhaps the most compelling compliment bestowed on Tracy came from Cristian Murphy, the St. Joseph’s College alum who succeeded Tracy this fall as director of campus ministry.
“I see Pat as a mirror,” Murphy told dozens of students, professors, administrators and friends gathered for the evening service. “He reflected who you really were on yourself, because he was so real. When you saw Pat, you knew whether you were doing the right thing or not. You knew whether you were doing everything you could to help other people.”
Tracy died on Sept. 17, a few months after retiring. He had been SJC Long Island’s campus minister since 2011, leading students on a wide array of service projects, including alternative spring break trips to locations across the country and the Dominican Republic to help people recover from disasters.
Tracy passed his commitment to peace and social justice onto the students he taught and worked with at St. Joseph’s, students and colleagues said.
“Pat is someone I will always remember as someone who got it and who lived it. That was his legacy,” said Thomas Petriano, Ph.D., professor and chair of religious studies at SJC Long Island. “There was never a conversation that I remember having with (Pat) that he wouldn’t end by saying, ‘Let me know if there’s anything you need.’”
Gail Lamberta, Ph.D., associate dean and professor and chair of the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, declared that Tracy “was probably the kindest man” she had ever met. And she noted that Tracy, who grew his white beard every fall, was “the best Santa Claus.”
“He really connected with the students here at St. Joseph’s. He understood the importance of community service, and he instilled that upon the students,” Lamberta said. “Pat really had a profound effect on a number of lives. He spread happiness.”
Steven Ferriolo, an assistant to Murphy and a 2016 graduate at SJC Long Island, recalled the kindness of Tracy – his “mentor and father figure.”
“Pat empowered me because he was Pat – because he was Puff Paddy,” Ferriolo said, “because in a world where everyone is told to be a certain way, to drive within the lines and play by the rules, Pat created his own path, and in doing so, (helped me) create my path.”
The warm and fond memories shared during the service indicated how special Tracy was, St. Joseph’s College President Donald R. Boomgaarden, Ph.D., said.
“A real measure of a person is how people feel after they pass, and it’s obvious that Pat Tracy was a very very special person,” Dr. Boomgaarden said. “Events like this give us a chance to celebrate St. Joseph’s, and what a special place St. Joseph’s is. Pat was obviously the kind of person that really has made the college a very very remarkable place.”