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UC San Diego to Honor Family of
Léon Roach with May 23 Tribute

Nearly 200 volunteers, including students, staff and faculty, helped create memorial for former Triton teammate

May 18, 2011

By Jade Griffin

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Léon Roach, III

The University of California, San Diego will pay tribute to Triton parents Léon and MaryAnn Roach May 23 for their generous contributions to the UC San Diego community in memory of their son and former Triton student-athlete Léon T. Roach III. The Roach family coordinated efforts and resources to install new block wall terraces for pole vault spectators at Triton Track and Field Stadium and established the Léon T. Roach Academic Scholarship for Athletes. More than 180 people, including the campus community and Roach family and friends, volunteered to make the impressive project a reality. 

A sophomore majoring in neurosciences, Léon T. Roach III was an avid pole-vaulter and member of the UC San Diego track and field team. He was injured during a training exercise in September 2009 and passed away two days later. Since then, the Roach family has dedicated countless hours and generous resources to benefit the campus that their son so enjoyed.

 “Our son loved UCSD,” said Léon and MaryAnn Roach. “He told us that his freshman year was the best year of his life.”

Léon III came from a family of pole vaulters—his father, Léon II, aspired to compete in the Olympics and Léon III tied with his half brother Curtis Hendrick for the second best mark in their high school’s history. Seeking an appropriate way to honor their son and brother, the Roach family decided that a spectator area near the pole vault facility would be a fitting memorial.  At first discouraged by the cost of such a project, the Roaches were unrelenting and did not give up. Léon Roach II drew up plans for block-faced terraces nearby the pole vault runway and pit, and together with UC San Diego Athletics, the family hosted a series of “vault-a-thons” raising more than $37,000 for the memorial project.
From there, 180 volunteers including family and friends, UC San Diego staff and faculty and student-athletes on the track and field and softball teams volunteered their time—mostly on weekends—to complete the terraces this spring.

“We have discovered for ourselves why Léon loved UC San Diego so much,” said the Roaches. “Everyone has been so wonderful—many have become like family. These are truly some of the best people you will find.”

The Roach family at the terraces built in Léon's honor

In total, nearly 3,000 hours were expended on the project making it one of the largest projects undertaken as part of Volunteer50: Chancellor’s Call to Service in honor of UC San Diego’s 50th Anniversary. Through the Volunteer50 initiative, Chancellor Marye Anne Fox has challenged all students, faculty, staff, alumni and university friends to perform 50 hours of service during the university’s 50th Anniversary celebration.  If contracted out, the terraces project is estimated to have cost $350,000.

“We are truly indebted to the Roach family,” said Earl Edwards, director of Athletics at UC San Diego. “Léon was a valued member of the Triton family. We are honored to have these terraces as a beautiful memorial for Léon. It would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the Roach family and the 180 volunteers who helped.”

The Roaches’ generosity reaches even beyond the track and field improvements. The family recently established the Léon T. Roach Academic Scholarship for Athletes in their son’s honor to help support outstanding student-athletes attending UC San Diego.

“Léon told me that ‘Education is the best investment,’” recalled MaryAnn Roach. “Our son believed that education was one of the most important things you could do for yourself. This scholarship in his name perpetuates his belief.”

Dustin Harris, a third year student majoring in human biology, with minors in theatre and psychology, is the inaugural recipient of the scholarship. A member of UC San Diego’s track and field team, Harris plans to attend medical school upon graduation. The support has made a significant impact for him and his family.

Léon's father prepares his approach at a vault-a-thon fundraiser in honor of his son

“The Roach family has truly blessed me with their generosity,” said Harris. “My parents both lost their jobs my freshman year and had to support two kids in college. The Roach Scholarship has helped pay for books, a new computer and even running shoes. I am deeply indebted to Léon, his family and all they have done for me.”

The ceremony to honor the Roach family and the volunteers who made the Léon T. Roach memorial terraces possible will take place May 23 at 2 p.m. in Triton Stadium. For more information, please call (858) 534-3540.


Media Contact:
Jade Griffin, 858-822-5309, or jadegriffin@ucsd.edu
Ryan Hall, 858-534-8437, or r2hall@ucsd.edu

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