Widener Graduate Overcomes Health Obstacle, with Support Along the Way
Behind each graduate is a unique journey marked by challenges and triumphs, as well as people along the way who support the student through both.
For graduate Thomas Rozinski, that journey to a bachelor’s degree was marked by highs – internships at local accounting and tax firms, a certificate from the Oskin Leadership Institute, success on the cross country and track & field teams, and numerous business scholarships and honors – but it was also marked by a challenge two years ago when he underwent emergency surgery, during a busy academic semester.
“As I walked across the commencement stage last Friday, I thought about my family, my teammates, my professors and my coach,” said Rozinski, who graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of science in business administration (accounting major with minors in forensic accounting and business analytics). “I am very grateful for the opportunity Widener provided to me and dedicate all my success to my wonderful support system.”
Rozinski’s health troubles began when he was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor at 5 years old and temporarily lost use of the right side of his body. Surgeons successfully removed the tumor, but Rozinski had years of physical and occupational therapy to learn to function with his left hand.
At the time, doctors also inserted a shunt to drain fluid from his brain to his stomach to alleviate swelling in his head. They assured him the shunt would grow with him throughout his life.
Meanwhile, as Rozinski’s health improved, his family faced another challenge; his father was diagnosed with cancer and passed away when Rozinski was 14 years old.
This day was a huge shock to my family and I. He was a great man and role model to me. Because of his memory and how positive he always was, we became closer as a family. -Rozinski
After graduating from North Penn High School in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, Rozinski enrolled in Widener with the dream of becoming an accountant.
“Achieving excellence was my goal at Widener and I knew that I was going to need support,” he said. “I tried my best to establish a support system during freshman year. I started by asking for an academic coach, and met with Professor Amy Yarlett, who created a plan for me to get organized in my classes. In addition, Coach (Vince) Touey was extremely flexible with practices and my professors gave me advice about academics and helped me win scholarships.”
Rozinski excelled in every aspect of his education, from internships at Novak Francella in Bala Cynward and Kreischer Miller in Horsham to networking with business executives in his courses in the School of Business Administration.
He did this while staying on the academic honor roll, serving as treasurer of Widener’s chapter of the honors accounting society, Beta Alpha Psi, and running varsity cross country and track & field.
“Thomas’ sublime nature made him our resident angel,” said Touey, who coaches the men’s track & field and cross country teams. “This was especially true when the team needed a dependable runner to help us to a two-point win at the 2016 Middle Atlantic Conference Championship in Cross Country. Because of his effort that day and beyond, the culture of the team will be forever emblazed with the spirit of Thomas Rozinski.”
Accounting Professor and Department Head of Accounting, Economics and Finance Joseph Hargadon agreed, saying Rozinski is simply an outstanding student.
“Tom is highly motivated and he has a very strong work ethic,” Hargadon said. “In my opinion, he exemplifies all of the attributes one would want in a financial professional and I am very confident that Tom will be a tremendous asset to the accounting profession.”
This support network of faculty, coaches and family became even more important to Rozinski in June 2017.
Rozinski was suffering from intense headaches, while taking summer courses. The shunt – which doctors had inserted 15 years earlier – was malfunctioning, causing fluid to fill around his brain and impact his eyesight.
He was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, where surgeons successfully replaced the shunt in an emergency operation.
“This was difficult because I was in the middle of an academic semester,” Rozinski said. “The Widener community rallied around me to give me the time I needed to recover.”
After only two weeks, Rozinski was back in the classroom, and after only five weeks, he was back to running cross country.
Rozinski credits this support with helping him to the special moment last week when he walked across the stage of The Mann Center for Performing Arts.
This summer, he is continuing his internship at Novak and Francella and taking the first part of the Certified Public Accountants exam. He will pursue a master’s degree this fall.
“Everyone has their own stories of difficulties and how their journey has shaped who they are,” Rozinski said. “This has been my story.”