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Staff Spotlight: Frank Tucci, Ph.D.


He may not leap buildings in a single bound, but SLU staff member and alumnus Frank Tucci, Ph.D., (Grad Ed ‘05, ’18) shares the adjective “super” with the Man of Steel.

As a “super donor” with the American Red Cross, Tucci has given blood and platelets more than 220 times in addition to donating bone marrow that helped a young girl battling leukemia beat cancer. Since giving his 100th donation in 2017, Tucci has contributed 118 additional times to local blood drives.

Frank Tucci and his family, including his daughter, celebrating her SLU graduation.

SLU financial aid counselor Frank Tucci, Ph.D. (left) joins his daughter, SLU alumna Gabby Tucci (center) and wife, Liz, celebrating another milestone in their Billiken story - Gabby's SLU graduation. Submitted photo

Now, as the St. Louis region and the world battle the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), blood donors are needed more than ever. As St. Louisans shelter-in-place, Tucci continues to answer the call he heard to help others while in high school as a blood donor, while observing social distancing best practices.

At 228 blood and platelet donations as of April 22, Tucci, a financial aid counselor in the Office of Student Financial Services and SLU staffer since 1999, said his donations honor his mother, who passed away after a fight against cancer while he was in his early twenties. He had already begun to donate blood when I was a junior at Affton High School.

Frank Tucci donating blood
Frank Tucci, a blood donor since high school, gives his 100th donation in 2017. Submitted photo

“When my mom was diagnosed with cancer in the early 1990s, I decided to donate platelets to help her and others who have cancer,” Tucci said. “Although I was not able to save my mom's life, I know my donations have saved many lives.  I think about my mom every day and my donations are a way for me to keep her spirit alive and hopefully save someone's (mother) life.”

Tucci is a familiar face around campus, teaching spinning classes at the Simon Recreation Center at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I teach the 6:30am classes on Tuesdays and Thursday for almost four years.  He has been on the “Helping Our Own” fund committee for the past 15 years, and, for the past ten years has served as a University 101 (U-101) instructor. 

Since 2016, Tucci has been a member of the SLU Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and he is also a Safe Zone Campus Ally.

In 2016, he was chosen as a Missouri Susan G. Komen “Pink Tie Guy” in recognition of breast cancer awareness and fund raising.

Why Frank Gives Back

Tell us about your SLU ties.

I have earned my master’s degree (2005) and my Ph.D. (2018) at SLU in addition to a certificate in Contemporary Adult Spirituality (2009). My dissertation was The Relationship Between Participation in Campus Recreation, Instructor-Led Group Exercise Classes and Students' Sense of Belonging at a Four-Year, Private, Mid-Western, Jesuit University.

My daughter, Gabby, is a SLU alumnus, earning a Bachelor of Science in occupational science in 2019, and her master’s degree in occupational therapy in 2020. 

My older brother, John K. Tucci, is a 1991 graduate of the School of Law.

My cousin, J. Kim Tucci, was a past member of the Saint Louis University Board of Trustees and was chairman of the SLU Billiken Club. Kim was inducted into the Billiken Hall of Fame in 1989.

How do you see your donations as aligned with your way of living out our Jesuit values and mission?

The Jesuit mission asks each of us to think about how we can improve our community and help others.  As an alum and staff at SLU, I know the institution's goal is to integrate the pursuit of higher education with service to others and the glory to God.  The focus on social justice and improving the quality of life for others is what motivates me. 

In a small way, I believe continuing to donate platelets twice a month is my life-long contribution to our community.

How do your donations fit in with your life and interests overall? 

Years ago, I read the book The Last Lecture (2008) by Randy Pausch and it changed how I looked at life.  The author writes about his last lecture (life lessons), what he learned, and how he wants to be remembered. 

A few of the lessons I learned are:

  • We are all unique and special.
  • We all have potential for greatness.
  • Everyone has a story and has the ability to change (improve) their future (destiny) through education, hard work, and a positive attitude.
  • You are the writer (author) of your life's story; write an honorable, fun, enjoyable, and loving novel which your family and friends can be proud contributors.

With the current public health crisis, what is the value, as you see it, in continuing to donate regularly?  Social distancing has severely reduced the number of blood drives. With less traditional blood drives, there a fewer people donating. The Red Cross needs regular donors to continue to avoid a shortage of both blood and platelets.

How else have you served others as a donor?

On June 12, 2007, I donated bone marrow to a 15-year-old girl who was battling leukemia.  I found out early in 2007 that I was a match to a girl from the East Coast.  Everything was very general to protect the patient's privacy. 

About five years ago, I responded to then-University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J.’s monthly message. Within Fr. Biondi's message, he mentioned a National Bone Marrow Registry (now, Be The Match) registration drive. This was in conjunction with the American Red Cross' blood drive at the Simon Recreation Center. 

At that time, it was an extra vile of blood donation to the National Bone Marrow Registry, and I figured, “Why not?”  It would be awesome to donate bone marrow. 

I remember the nurse telling me to be selected as a potential (match) donor, the odds are similar to winning the lottery.  Aside from the birth of our daughter and marrying my best friend and high school sweetheart, Liz, the day I donated bone marrow was one of the best days of my life. I still have the email from Alexa, who received my bone marrow.  I still cry every time I read about her story.
In your view, how can our SLU community help others?

I encourage anyone in good health to join and donate blood and/or platelets. To join the “Be The Match,” I believe it's a simple cheek swab. Be a hero.

Want to Help?

The American Red Cross is accepting blood donations locally and around the country.

In order to protect the safety and health of its donors, staff and volunteers, the Red Cross has instituted a number of protocols including:

Other safeguards are also in place, Tiffani Cole, account manager for donor recruitment with the Red Cross, said.

“As always, and especially during this crisis, the safety and health of our donors, volunteers and staff are our foremost concerns as they contribute to saving lives by donating blood and platelets to help others,” Cole said.

To find an opportunity to give near you, visit the Red Cross. Enter your Zip code to find the nearest location.

For the SLU community, the Red Cross’s location at 4050 Lindell Blvd., in St. Louis, offers appointments to give and, although still accepting walk-ins, prefers scheduled appointments to best manage donation volume and to protect donors, volunteers and Red Cross staff members.

Staff Spotlight is an occasional series dedicated to revealing the stories behind the name badges of SLU's staff members. To suggest a staff member to shine a light on, contact Newslink or call 314-977-2519.

Story by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications