Bryon is the very definition of perseverance. Despite a paralyzing accident early on in college, he went on to earn his degree, achieve professional success and establish the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation, aiding individuals and funding scientific discoveries that he hopes will lead to a cure.
“Marquette is where I endured some of my toughest challenges personally, but it is also where I learned to overcome them,” says Bryon, who was completing his freshman year in the College of Business Administration when he sustained a C5 spinal cord injury and was told he would never walk again. In the ICU, his father asked him: Could he continue to lead a productive and good life? Bryon decided he could.
He returned to Marquette just four months later, and with support from many but especially Rev. Andy Thon, S.J., he graduated with a double major. It’s his favorite among many good Marquette memories. “I knew then,” Bryon says, “whether I was a quadriplegic or not, I could accomplish anything.”
As he started his career in an IT position with Northwestern Mutual, he also established the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation. “I’ve always had a dream of walking again, and I wanted to help make that dream a reality,” he says. “I felt confident I could raise funds to support paralysis research and individuals coping with paralysis.”
Since then, Bryon, who now works as a project manager with his father and siblings at their family-owned business, R&R Insurance Services, says that depending on the time of year, “I’m always involved in some sort of event to raise awareness and money for the BRPF. That may include our annual golf outing, ‘This is How We Roll’ fashion show for individuals in wheelchairs, the BRPF Team Challenge or many others.”
The BRPF has raised close to $5 million to date, some of which has supported Dr. Murray Blackmore, Marquette associate professor of biomedical sciences and a researcher in traumatic spinal cord injury and paralysis. The foundation has provided seed funding for initiatives too novel for big federal grants, making it possible for Blackmore to test ideas, achieve promising results on at least one front, and attract federal money.
With the foundation and in all aspects of his life, “I truly try to live out Marquette’s mission on a daily basis,” Bryon says. “I try to do everything to the best of my ability and to lead by example.” It’s the gratitude of those he’s helped, and the hope he shares with them, that inspire him to persevere in helping others.