Tillman Scholars Run to Remember Pat Tillman’s Legacy

Members of Syracuse University’s military-connected community recently traveled to Tempe, Arizona, to take part in the 19th Annual Pat’s Run, hosted by the Pat Tillman Foundation. Among the 29,000 participants, this year were four Syracuse University Tillman Scholars and two staff members who took part in the annual event honoring Patrick “Pat” Tillman’s legacy of service beyond self.

Amanda Higginson L’24, Natasha DeLeon L’25, Katherine Quartaro 18, G’20, and Bill Rielly L’23 joined 24 other Tillman Scholars from across the country to assist in leading approximately 1,000 participants each through the corral and through the 4.2-mile course of the event.

From left, Bill Rielly L’23, Amanda Higginson L’24, Natasha DeLeon L’25 and Katherine Quartaro 18, G’20, attended 2023 Pat’s Run as Syracuse University’s Tillman Scholars.

Tillman was a professional football player with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals who, shortly after the events on Sept. 11, 2001, famously turned down a multimillion-dollar contract to serve in the military. After becoming a U.S. Army Ranger, Tillman deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In 2004, Tillman was killed in action while supporting combat operations near the city of Khost. Several months after the world learned of Tillman’s death it was discovered the incident was due to a tragic friendly fire incident, instead of being due to enemy action as had been previously reported.

Tillman’s family and friends came together soon after his death to figure out a way to honor his legacy and started the first Pat’s Run in 2005. The first event brought approximately 5,000 runners together outside of Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium.

Over the years since the event has seen an increasing number of participants each year, and its current attendance rate places it on par with larger runs like the Marine Corps Marathon, which brings in roughly 25,000 runners on average, and Chicago’s Hot Chocolate 5k, which sees more than 23,000 cross the finish line on average each year.

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Ron Novack, the executive director for Syracuse University’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs, also participated in the run this year, along with Jolynn Parker, the director of the Center of Fellowship and Scholarship Advising. Both are regularly involved with the Tillman Scholarship selection process each year, Parker is regarded as a “must-see resource” for those interested in applying for the Tillman scholarship at Syracuse University, and Novack serves one of the national quarterfinal selection committees that review and selects the Tillman Scholars annually.

“It was an honor to attend the Pat Tillman Foundation’s kickoff reception and participate in Pat’s Run in Tempe this year. It was particularly inspiring to meet so many Tillman Scholars and to hear from representatives of the foundation. They really are building the next generation of innovators and leaders,” says Parker, who also assists military-connected students interested in applying for a wide variety of scholarships and academic opportunities.

Jolynn Parker, director of the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (left), and Ron Novack, executive director for the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs at the 2023 Pat’s Run

Syracuse University is one of 18 University Partners with the Tillman Foundation and typically has at least one military-connected student selected as a Tillman Scholar each year. In 2022, four students from Syracuse University were selected as Tillman Scholars: Bill Rielly, Natasha DeLeon, Amanda Higginson and Anthony Ornelaz G’23, the largest cohort from Syracuse University selected for the scholarship in a single year.

The 2023 Tillman Scholars will be announced in June. Those scholars will later attend the Tillman Foundation’s leadership institute in Chicago where they will meet with previous Tillman Scholars and participate in Pat’s Run the following year.

Those military-connected students interested in applying for the Tillman Scholarship are encouraged to reach out to the Center of Fellowship and Scholarship Advising, and check for updates from the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs on upcoming application windows and criteria for submitting.