While scoring a touchdown is a sought after feat in a student-athlete’s career, and scoring high on an exam is equally rewarding, for Gerard “Roddy” Roche, some experiences are not so easily quantified.
Of all the lessons Roche has learned throughout his time at Fordham both on the football team and in class, nothing compares to his experience donating bone marrow to help a 60-year-old woman who was suffering from leukemia three years ago.
“It definitely opens your eyes and changes your whole perspective on life,” said the Fordham College at Rose Hill senior, who is graduating with a degree in economics. “Not only does it make you realize how precious and short life is, it just makes you appreciate it every day.”
Roche was selected as a potential donor for the woman after giving a cheek swab at the annual Fordham football Be the Match registry in 2014. At the time, there was a 1-in-9 million chance of a match.
He did more tests in August 2014, when the odds were down to 1-in-10 that he would be a compatible match. The following month, he received an official confirmation of an exact match with the critically ill woman.
“It’s still very possible for the recipient’s body to reject the donor’s bone marrow, so I was nervous that the donation process wouldn’t be successful,” he recalled.
Preparation for the donation began during football season, two months before the procedure. A nurse came to Roche’s residence hall and gave him shots to prepare his marrow.
He said the actual procedure took about five hours, during which he had to sit perfectly still in a chair.
“Through the help and full support of my coaches, Coach Marmaros and former Coach Joe Moorhead, donating during football season was a very efficient and smooth process,” he said.
Roche was asked to donate to the same woman again in 2015 after tests suggested that she might become ill again from her cancer. He did not hesitate to help and said the experience was life changing.
“I was willing to make this sacrifice not only because it was the right thing to do, but because if I had a loved one in that situation, hopefully someone would do the same thing,” he said.
Roche credits his parents for instilling positive moral values in him. His mother is a special education teacher and his father, a 9/11 first responder, helped with the rescue and with cleanup efforts after the tragedy. Both of his parents taught him the importance of “doing the right thing,” of “persevering” in the face of challenges, and caring about the well-being of others.
This year, Roche was named to the 2016 Patriot League Academic Honor Roll for academic excellence. While he is still weighing potential career paths in economics, Roche said he hopes to work in asset or portfolio management. After graduation, he will be interning with OppenheimerFunds’ equity product management team, and hopes to pursue a master’s degree in finance.
“I know it’s cliché, but it’s true what they say,” he said. “College is really the best four years of your life. It shapes you into a person that you know is going to be successful.”