EDINBURG - Dr. Irmo Marini - a professor at The University of Texas-Pan American and Graduate Coordinator in the Rehabilitation Counseling Program - was honored on Jan. 4, in his home country of Canada when his university jersey was retired during a ceremony at a hockey match.
Marini played hockey for Lakehead University during the late 70's and early 80's. In 1981, then 23 year old Marini suffered an accident that left him paralyzed for life.
"It was the first half. I got off a shot that was deflected in the far corner and I proceeded to skate around the net. I didn't make it and instead careened headfirst into the end boards. I was conscious but knew something was very wrong and felt an excruciating neck pain," Marini remembers.
Marini was forced to undergo delicate spinal surgery and months of sometimes painful physical therapy.
"This was an extremely rough time for me as one minute you are able bodied and in excellent shape, the next minute you are lying in a hospital bed with very little arm function," Marini said.
Marini persevered and became as successful at academics as he was once was at athletics. He eventually received a bachelors and a masters degree from Lakehead and later a doctorate from Auburn University in Alabama. He came to UTPA as an assistant professor in 1996 and was recently promoted to professor. Officials from Lakehead University have high praise for their alumni and his accomplishments.
"He has epitomized courage while showing us all the strength of the human spirit. Irmo, quite simply put, is an inspiration to us all and we at Lakehead are very proud of his accomplishments," said Tom Warden, the athletic director of Lakehead University.
Marini is modest about his accomplishments and credits his wife Darlene as being the key to his recovery and to his success. He says she inspires him and has taught him never to give up.
As for the game of hockey, Marini is as big a fan as ever. He says returning to the ice at L.U. was a real honor.
"The ceremony provided me with a chance to put a happy closure to what I will always fondly remember as a great and pleasurable time in my life," said Marini. "I am forever indebted to LU for the opportunity to play the game that I love."
During his seven-year tenure here at UTPA, Marini has received two faculty research awards and has written over 45 refereed journal publications.