The Regents of Washington State University presented the Distinguished Alumnus Award on Thursday to former student athlete Steve Gleason. The award is the highest honor bestowed on alumni of the university and is given out annually to one recipient.
Gleason was a four-year letter winner in football and baseball for WSU from 1996-1999 before playing in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints for seven seasons. He was on hand Thursday at Martin Stadium to accept the award.
Gleason, who communicates through a synthetic voice that is controlled by eye movements, thanked his parents and President Kirk Schulz before reflecting on his time at WSU.
“It’s always nice to be in town. Although, I have to admit, until a few weeks ago, I thought that ‘regents’ was just a cafeteria where all the athletes used to eat lunch and dinner on campus,” Gleason said. “I have great football and baseball memories, but what makes my experiences at WSU so incredible are the memories that have nothing to do with athletics.”
In 2011, a few years after his football career ended, Gleason was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Since then, he has made it his mission to raise awareness for the disease, inspiring many along the way.
Through Team Gleason, a foundation started after his diagnosis, the former athlete has brought more attention to the disease and helped others in a similar condition. The foundation started the Team Gleason house, which is equipped the newest technology to help those with ALS live the most independent life that they can.
Also among the speakers at the ceremony were Schulz, Regent Ron Sims, former teammate Grady Emmerson, and Mike Leach. Afterwards, the crowd serenaded Gleason fittingly, with a rendition of the Cougar fight song.
It was a truly heartwarming event and the award couldn’t have gone to a more deserving person. Few people have the strength, courage and dedication to service of Steve Gleason. We couldn’t be more proud to have him in the Washington State family.
The full ceremony is on YouTube and you can watch it here.
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