Brad Hornung received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the U of Regina on Friday as part of spring convocation. If you’re unfamiliar with Hornung, he was a centre with the Regina Pats when he was checked into the end boards during a home game on March 1, 1987, and was left a quadriplegic. . . . Hornung later graduated from O’Neill High School in Regina and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Campion College at the U of Regina in 1996. . . . According to a U of Regina news release, he “also took several courses in the Faculty of Business Administration until his graduation from Campion College. ” . . . He has scouted for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, and now does work for NHL Central Scouting. . . . The Pats have retired his number (8) and the WHL’s Brad Hornung Trophy goes to the player who best epitomizes a combination of talent, desire, and sportsmanship. . . . The U of Regina honoured Hornung because of the way he has continued to live life and offer hope and inspiration to others in his situation.
His mother, Terry, later posted Brad’s acceptance speech on Facebook and it’s simply too good not to share.
So here it is . . . straight from Dr. Hornung:
First, I would like to thank the University for awarding me this honorary degree. It is especially meaningful because I am a University of Regina alumnus, having received my history degree on this stage in 1996. I am honoured to receive another degree 22 years later. Better late than never, I always say!
I want to take a few moments to speak to our graduates.
Spoiler alert – I have both good news AND bad news for you! But rest assured, at the end of the day it’s mainly good news . . .
I want you to think back on some of the challenges you faced during your studies here. You had to learn how to balance school, work, family life, and time with friends. You probably had difficult classes, and on rare occasions, maybe even difficult professors or classmates!
You are on this stage today because you found something in yourself that helped you overcome these challenges. And what you found in yourself might have been something you didn’t even know you had! How you responded to adversity in those difficult times has helped define you, show your character, and get you here today.
This is an exciting day for you – and I know there are many more exciting times ahead. But it is important to understand that, like in your university career, in your life you will also have difficult days – times of tremendous challenge, pain, heartbreak and loss. In those dark times, I know you will find something in yourself that will help you move on in a positive way.
As humans, we are remarkably fragile and vulnerable – but we are also remarkably resilient. And if I can serve as an example of that for even just one of you, my time here will have been well-spent.
The day before my accident, when I was 18 years old, if you had told me I would become a quadriplegic, I would have said three things to you. The first I cannot repeat in polite company! The second would have been, “That will never happen to me.” And the third would have been, “It that happens, my life will be over.”
On the surface, there was no evidence to demonstrate that independent 18-year-old Brad would have handled such an injury very well at all. But in retrospect, I handled it far better than I ever imagined I would have.
I am not a special or isolated case, because I see this happen every day. I see it in people who come through the doors of the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre – people like my neighbour, a fellow quadriplegic who is now in Law School at the University of Saskatchewan. And we are seeing it in the recovery of those who were affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy.
If there is a moral to my story, it is that people tend to underestimate themselves and how well they would react to difficult circumstances. You may be one of those people who underestimate yourself, but you need to believe in yourself, knowing in your heart that you will find a way to cope with whatever life throws at you. I don’t fully understand how we find that strength in difficult times, but we nearly always do.
So to sum up . . .
The bad news is that unpleasant things are going to happen to all of you at one time or another in your lives. Sadly, that is a fact.
The good news, however, is that you have the strength within you to face these challenges in ways you cannot even imagine right now. Happily, that is also a fact. And it is the most important one to remember.
Congratulations on your graduation, and please don’t ever forget – even in what may seem like your darkest hour, there is always a place in your life for hope.