Thankful for the medical care he received following a devastating injury that occurred during the PEPCON disaster in Henderson in 1988, Patrick Thomas Rose decided that when he died he would help others facing medical challenges.
The UNLV School of Medicine is one of the benefactors of Rose’s generosity. The school received $200,000 following Rose’s death from a heart attack in 2017 at the age of 51.
The medical school is using the money to establish the Patrick Thomas Rose Endowed Scholarship, which will provide scholarships to Nevada residents enrolling in the school.
Rose was just 20 when his life changed in a flash.
On May 4, 1988, a series of massive explosions rocked the Pacific Engineering & Production Company (PEPCON) plant in Henderson where ammonium perchlorate, an oxidizer found in solid fuel rocket boosters used for NASA space shuttles, was being produced.
The explosions were heard — and felt – for miles. Two plant employees were killed and hundreds of others injured. Shock waves leveled many buildings, and shattered windows, cracked walls, and blew off doors. Schools were evacuated. So were nursing homes. Property damage to businesses and homes within a 10-mile radius hit $74 million.
A NASA case study found that the three explosions were the largest domestic, non-nuclear detonations in recorded history, with two of the biggest blasts measuring 3.0 and 3.5 on the Richter scale. Researchers even compared the blowout, which could be felt throughout the Las Vegas Valley, to a 1-kiloton air-blast nuclear blast. A report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal said that smoke from the fire could be seen 100 miles away.
Rose and a friend were headed to Lake Mead to spend a day on the water when Rose pulled his small truck over on Lake Mead Drive, about 2,000 feet from the plant, to watch what was going on.
And then something happened that Rose never could remember for the rest of his life
A rock dislodged by one of the blasts, described by attorney Elizabeth J. Foley, the administrator of his estate, as the size of a cannonball, flew through the roof and windshield of his truck, leaving a yawning hole on the left side of Rose’s skull.
“It’s a miracle he survived,” Foley said recently.
Rose’s resulting brain injury, according to his brother, Mike Rose, required retraining himself, with the help of therapists, to read and write and speak and use one side of his body.
“He would get frustrated because he knew what he wanted to say, but it was difficult for him to do it,” Mike Rose said. “He was self-conscious about it.”
As a result of his injuries, Patrick Rose received a settlement from PEPCON. In his will, he left $600,000 evenly split between three organizations, all of which are linked to medical care — The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the Wounded Warrior Project and the UNLV School of Medicine.
Thinking of Others
“His mother had to deal with breast cancer,” Foley said. “And he felt a kinship with Wounded Warriors, military veterans who suffered brain injuries from explosions. He grew up feeling close to UNLV in the community because of athletics and his family believed the school of medicine would be best because of how thankful he was for his medical care, how the school will turn out doctors that stay in Nevada.”
Foley said that Rose could have given two full medical school scholarships with his money, but the decision was made to make his gift in the form of an endowment. Rather than spending Rose’s gift outright, the UNLV Foundation invests these gifts. Each year, a portion of the investment earnings is allocated to support the program or area designated by the endowment donor, and the remaining income is reinvested. The original gift — the principal — remains untouched, and it continues to earn interest. As a result, the endowment grows and lives on forever, creating a lasting legacy.
The yearly amount of the endowed scholarship eventually will grow from $7,000 to $15,000 and beyond, Foley said. The scholarship recipient must be from Nevada.
“Though his injuries made Mr. Rose’s life more difficult, with his gift he chose to make life less difficult for medical students for years to come,” said UNLV School of Medicine Dean Marc Kahn. “His generosity will not be forgotten.” .
Rose, who was in training to be a motorcycle mechanic at the time of the freak accident, received emergency surgery at Valley Medical Center and rehab at University Medical Center.
Carol Rose, who is Mike Rose’s wife, was a registered nurse at UMC when Patrick did his rehabilitation there.
“He really appreciated what doctors, nurses, and therapists did for him,” she said, explaining that Patrick was well aware that medical expertise allowed him to have a life where he could still enjoy the outdoors on recreational vehicles.
Patrick’s three sisters, Phyllis Rose McFadden, Lillian Rose Squire, and Frances Rose all are immensely proud of their brother leaving a legacy of giving to others.
“Pat was always a little shy and the brain injury made him a little more reclusive,” Phyllis said. “He never got to marry or have children but the fact that he made this legacy is pretty special. He was able to leave his mark on the world.”
Lillian said that the decision made by her brother to help others “warmed my heart.”
Frances Rose remembers playing hide-and-seek with her brother when they were small. What she’ll always remember now, she said, “is that he had a big heart, that he always wanted to help others. Now other people will understand that, too.”
To learn more about leaving a legacy to the UNLV School of Medicine through an endowment, contact Annette Carter, senior director of development, at 702-895-0211.