Pritchard encapsulated the spirit of Queen’s

Bob Pritchard’s love and support for Queen’s was unrivalled

Pritchard was remembered for his work on Nixon Field.
Pritchard was remembered for his work on Nixon Field.
Credit: 
Supplied by Queen’s athletics

Although June 3 was a tough day for Queen’s Athletics, it also gave people a chance to remember and appreciate a true friend.

The day marked the passing of Queen’s alumni Bob Pritchard after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. According to many, Queen’s lost a visionary, a selfless soul — someone with an incomparable tenacity for life. It was the loss of a Gael who wore the gold, red and blue with an unmatched pride.

Most of all, it was the loss of a friend for countless people.

A lifelong Gael, Bob graduated from Queen’s in 1964 in Engineering Physics. Alongside his academic abilities, Bob was a valuable member of the rugby team during his time at Queen’s. As he became immersed in the school, Pritchard’s love and devotion to Queen’s only grew beyond his time as a student.

After living in various cities across Canada as well as a stint in the UK as a computer scientist and technician, Bob moved back to Kingston in the mid-90s.

It was after this move that Pritchard began to give back to Queen’s. A major player in the construction of Nixon Field, Pritchard also established the athletic awards and was an incredibly generous philanthropist.

“He was very committed, which was one of his best qualities. Just committed to doing the right thing. Helping others was so important to him. He never was looking for recognition,” Queen’s athletics Senior Advancement Officer Sarah Roth said. Roth spent countless hours with Pritchard because of her position, often picking through the logistics for different events on top of many other jobs. As would often happen with Pritchard, a unique friendship blossomed from their relationship.

“He was just such a good, kind person,” Roth said. “He had a really dry but funny sense of humour. He was always just so positive. He was very much like a pillar of support in an unwavering kind of sense.”

Another aspect of Pritchard’s philanthropic role at Queen’s which won’t be forgotten is his association with the rugby teams. In 2015, he established the first ever Queen’s rugby award, which is awarded each year to a male and female rugby player who excels both academically and athletically. Fittingly, it was named the Bob Pritchard award.

Roth believes that this inclusivity — through the inclusion of both men and women — was just another one of his defining characteristics.

“I think it really spoke to his characteristics. He was a supporter of all rugby at Queen’s, not just the men’s program — it will last forever,” Roth said.

It was no secret to anybody around Pritchard that he had suffered from Parkinson’s for over a decade. During this time, Pritchard didn’t let this illness get the best of him.

“It never really seemed to bother him,” Roth said, recounting a time when Pritchard had been dealing with his Parkinson’s, leaving him unable to do much physical activity.

“I went to Bob’s condo to pick him up [to go watch golf] and he scuttled out to the car and was like ‘quick, we gotta go, my wife’s walking the dog!’” Roth said. “Bob spent the whole day driving around in the golf cart nearly running people over, having the best time and really enjoying the experience and what that was for him at that point in his life.”

This is just a snapshot of Pritchard’s ever-present energy, which was replicated time and time again. He was a reminder of positivity and resiliency in the face of back-breaking conditions; a lesson in putting life into perspective.

For those who knew Pritchard, what drew so many to him was the richness and integrity with which he lived his life. He left a tradition and spirit for Queen’s that will be strived towards by generations of alumni for years to come. 

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