St. Vincent counselor promotes education about diabetes

| Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

When Pat Conroy found out his colleague Dave Collins at St. Vincent College was undergoing treatments for cancer, the 71-year-old admissions counselor started giving Collins a get-well wish to ease his throat pain.

“You won't find a more caring individual,” said Collins, an alumnus and assistant vice president of admissions. “He insisted on providing me with homemade applesauce. ... That's just the kind of guy he is.”

Conroy taught English for 33 years at Greater Latrobe and, since retiring in 1999, has harnessed his passions for basketball, diabetes education, his faith and the Unity college to give back to his community.

Two of Conroy's three daughters also graduated from the college, and he said he wants to return the favor of the excellent education there.

For 10 years, he also taught monks from places like Vietnam and China at St. Vincent's monastery when they struggled with English as a second language.

Conroy, a lector for 42 years at St. John the Evangelist parish in Latrobe, said he was encouraged by his faith to help the monks grow closer to theirs.

“If I was able to help some of these men move to that goal, it was very satisfying,” he said.

While he works part-time, two days per week at St. Vincent College, Conroy has gone above and beyond volunteering time on the alumni council and the committee searching for a new football coach this past year, Collins said.

“I know the staff. They just adore him, and he's a model of how to do things right,” he said, adding that Conroy's honest, authentic nature eases difficult situations when they arise. “He wants to know the truth and what's happening, so he can handle them in his own best way.”

As someone who has lived with diabetes for 54 years, Conroy said, he knows what it's like to handle difficult situations involving the lifelong diagnosis some people face, including children and senior citizens.

“I understand their plight and their dilemma ... especially those who are newly diagnosed. I can ease their anxiety because I live a fairly normal life,” he said.

When he volunteers at the Excela Health Diabetes Center in Hempfield, as he has since 2001, Conroy is able to answer questions from a place of experience, said supervisor Kristen Hauger.

“As a person who has lived with Type 1 diabetes for most of his adult life, Pat is a source of encouragement to both the newly diagnosed and those living long-term with diabetes,” she said. “He can relate to their struggles.”

He uses an insulin pump, which is often clearly visible when he referees junior high basketball.

In the 57th season of his involvement in the sport — whether playing, coaching or officiating — Conroy often interacts with players who also use the device and offers encouragement.

They usually shake hands, and the referee says some kind words, careful to remember the player's name to send a note of encouragement later.

“Those opportunities are very gratifying,” Conroy said.

In that way, he's kept correspondence with several students, including those who later attend St. Vincent College and recognize him again when visiting the admissions office.

Conroy said community service doesn't have to be a chore, and instead it has helped him since his retirement feel fulfilled and happy, often volunteering with his wife of 47 years, Mary Ann.

“I have been blessed with good health, time and certain talents that allow me to have a measure of success at what I do,” he said. “We're put on this Earth to help one another. ... It just feels good to do for others.”

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or

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