Aug. 26, 1984 – Jan. 21, 2006
It’s often said that life can change in an instant. This is all too true for Tracy Halpin. One moment she was walking back to her apartment and the next she had collapsed. Her family and friends would later learn the then Whitman School senior had suffered a pulmonary embolism, resulting from a condition she didn’t know she had — deep vein thrombosis. According to her sister, Amy Hellen ’09 MBA, no one knows who called for an ambulance that day, but her family will forever be grateful to that person who ensured Halpin was rushed to the hospital; still, it was too late to save her.
Although Halpin passed away, her legacy lives on at the Whitman School. A popular student, she excelled inside and outside of the classroom. Hellen described her as highly organized, focused, balancing her priorities well. Halpin was also a great listener, who would tell it like it was. Other students often went to her for advice, explained Hellen.
“She knew she needed to have fun and be social, as well as have a strong academic record,” said Hellen. “She knew a quick trip to the mall might give her a bit of a mental break to be refreshed for a late-night study session.”
Bill Walsh, professor emeritus of accounting practice, served as advisor for Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), an honors organization and professional service fraternity, the year Halpin was president. He remembered that she ran unopposed.
“She had a presence and joyfulness to her that made everyone around her feel that way,” said Walsh. “Students enjoyed her and had a deep feeling of respect towards her as well.”
Walsh recalled a community service project they launched together in 2005. Once a week BAP members would travel to Danforth Middle School in the city of Syracuse to tutor and get to know students there. Halpin was one of the original students who supported the idea. In fact, he said, when he would voice concerns about the initiative, she would “flash that smile and give the old, ‘c’mon, PW, it’s going to be fun!’”
Halpin played a large role in BAP’s commitment to community service, which still exists today, 14 years later. It’s more than that; her exceptional characteristics are traits to which all students can and should aspire.
“Leadership, mentoring and community service were hallmarks of my sister’s life as a Whitman School student,” said Hellen. “These ideals have the power to motivate current students to make each day their best day, go above and beyond and uphold the values of Whitman as young leaders.”
“Tracy will always be remembered. Not for her accomplishments, but for her character that brought so many qualities that she shared with everyone she met,” said Walsh. “Strength, kindness, inclusiveness and joy. She was the epitome of everything we want for our young students today.”
In 2006, Walsh’s office was named after Halpin, and in 2007 BAP launched a fundraiser to establish the Beta Alpha Psi Tracy Halpin Scholarship. The first year the organization held a 5k memorial race; over the years it has transitioned to a walk, which raises donations from accounting firms and faculty. Now an endowed scholarship, the run/walk has morphed into a reimagined fundraiser to attract more student interest and participation. Mar. 30, the Beta Alpha Psi Tracy Halpin Cornhole Tournament was born. Twenty-five teams competed in the event, which was held at the Sheraton next door to the Whitman School.
“BAP, and all of the excellent leaders over these past years, have done a magnificent job keeping Tracy’s legacy alive,” said Walsh. “Her scholarship carries on that wonderful legacy to be passed on to students in perpetuity.”
“There are not enough words to describe the amount of gratitude. My family and I are highly appreciative and comforted by the sense of integrity from the accounting faculty,” Hellen said. “Many people and organizations make promises and at times circumstances change where they cannot be further committed; however, this has not been the case with Whitman. I am privileged to have the opportunity to build relationships with Whitman and the accounting faculty to continue to provide support in honoring Tracy’s legacy.”
This year Hellen was named to the Accounting Advisory Board. “I know Tracy would have loved that,” said Walsh.
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