DALLAS TWP. – When asked to share a memory of his late friend Rusty Flack, one of the first stories Misericordia University President Michael MacDowell gave is Flack's reaction to a woman telling her success story.
The woman described how she had to decide between feeding her young daughter and paying rent, so she spent a summer sleeping in her car. Now, thanks to a program that Flack and his widow Kathi championed, the woman said she earned a degree from the university and she thanked those who made it possible.
Rusty was 6-foot-6, 300 pounds. This giant of a man had tears running down his cheek. That's the kind of man he was, MacDowell said on Saturday, before the Misericordia University Board of Trustees presented the 2012 Trustee Associates Award to the late Rusty and Kathi Flack for their outstanding dedication and service to the Misericordia community.
Rusty Flack lost his battle with cancer in May 2011 and received the award posthumously. More than 150 people from the Misericordia community gathered together to honor the Flacks' philanthropy at the annual Trustee Associates Gala in Insalaco Hall and Lemmond Theater.
The Flacks were instrumental in helping the university initiate the Women with Children Program, in which academically eligible single mothers are provided community housing on campus in one of two large houses while they attend the university in pursuit of a degree and are provided child care as well.
But that was only one area in which the Flacks' generosity and leadership benefitted the community, MacDowell said.
Excerpts of a documentary film about Rusty Flack that aired on WVIA public television were shown to the trustees prior to the award presentation. Numerous community leaders spoke of Flack's work and his caring can-do attitude.
Boy, do I ever wish Rusty was here with us tonight, for so many reasons, Kathi Flack said when accepting the award. No doubt he's smiling down on us. … This is really his award.
Robert Clement, a longtime friend of the Flacks who presented the award, said that if Rusty Flack was able to fly, it was because Kathi gave him his wings and a safe place to land, noting among her accomplishments her work on the board of the Northeastern Philharmonic.
Kathi Flack said her husband's devotion to the university went back to 1972, when Flack was 17. He saw the Sisters of Mercy – the founders of then-College Misericordia – transform the old gymnasium to a makeshift hospital where Wyoming Valley residents sought medical treatment in the midst of the flood resulting from Tropical Storm Agnes. The fact remains that he understood those inherent Mercy charisms, she said.
And for recognizing that her late husband made a difference here, and on behalf of my family, thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart, she said.