JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -A-State students, faculty and staff are saying goodbye to one of their most valuable members.
Professor of physical therapy, Dr. Roy Aldridge Jr., passed away Thursday from colon cancer.
He joined A-State in the summer of 2000, after working for 10 years in Jonesboro, Paragould and Pocahontas as a physical therapist.
Aldridge completed his bachelor and master’s degrees at the University of Tennessee-Memphis, and his doctoral degree at Arkansas State.
He was known for his dedication to the physical therapy program in the College of Nursing and Health Professions.
Dr. Aldridge Jr. practiced in pediatrics and orthopedics and was instrumental in starting and leading the College of Nursing and Health Professions hippotherapy program.
Hippotherapy involves patients working with horses and their movement in order to connect and receive emotional assistance to physical treatment.
Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions Susan Hanrahan said Aldridge was more than an educator. He was a great person.
“Roy was a friend to everyone and never met a stranger,” Hanrahan said. “He was committed to Arkansas State, the Physical Therapy Program and the education of all the students seeking those degrees. He absolutely LOVED students and the PT profession. Long after students graduated, they would still stay in touch with Roy and he would remember every one of them. There was always a smile on his face, a note of positive cheer from his mouth or a query to see if you needed help with anything and an energy that was contagious. Even after his cancer diagnosis, those traits remained. He was a remarkable example of living life to the fullest despite all odds. His spirit was still evident even in his final days. We learned so much from Roy through his journey and we will be forever grateful.”
A research fund called the Roy Aldridge Hippotherapy Research Fund was set up to recognize Aldridge’s work with his patients.
PT SCS Director, St. Bernard’s Sports Medicine Andy Shatley said his contributions to the field of physical therapy are incredible.
“Roy Aldridge’s influence and impact on physical therapy in NEA and beyond is impossible to calculate,” Shatley said. “He will be forever remembered for his heart for people and his infectious smile. He embodied the true spirit of our profession by displaying compassion and selflessness every day. We are all better for having known him and we all carry his torch. His light of passion for patients will forever burn bright.”
Shanda McMillan Rogers, a former student of Aldridge, said Aldridge worked to help students and always had time to talk to students and former students about their family and careers.
“My heart is broken for the Aldridge family tonight. Roy Lee Aldridge Jr. was my first CI (Clinical Instructor) in PT school 20+ years ago. I was so nervous and had no idea what to expect as a student in my first clinical rotation. Roy taught me so much in a short period of time and solidified my idea of what a PT should be: an advocate for the patient, a problem solver who’s willing to think outside of the box, a humble and caring professional who makes each patient feel like they matter and that you have time to listen and really help them,” Rogers said. “He leaves an amazing legacy and heaven is rejoicing. Roy has come home fully restored and praising the Father.”
One of Aldridge’s final visits to A-State was on Monday night, where he witnessed the tower lit blue as a tribute to his career.
The color blue represented colorectal cancer awareness, at Aldridge’s request.
On Wednesday evening, Dean of the College of Agriculture Dr. Tim Burcham and Dr. Hanrahan visited Aldridge to present him with a replica of the plaque that will permanently designate the “Aldridge Hippotherapy Riding Center” at the Equine Center.
The Faculty Senate Historical Committee and Executive Committee have also recognized Aldridge as one of A-State’s Distinguished Faculty.
His name will be added to a plaque on the recognition wall in the Reng Student Union.
Aldridge’s family is planning a public celebration of life on Saturday, March 23, at 3 p.m. at Centennial Hall in the Reng Student Union.