Although Dr. Richard Byrne considered other high schools, a recruiting visit by Wrestling Coach Bill Stevenson made Marist High School his first choice. Realizing his calling to pursue a career in medicine, however, Richard made the tough decision to drop wrestling his junior year. The team went on to win the state championship in 1983 – leaving Richard feeling as though he never reached his full potential on the mat.
“I remember my difficult discussion with Coach Stevenson explaining why I planned to drop wrestling during another challenging semester of all honors classes. I told him of my hopes to become a surgeon someday,” Richard recalled. “Coach Stevenson was disappointed, but understood, and wished me well. Twenty-five years later, I would operate on one of his close friends, curing him of his tumor and his seizures. A thank you letter from Coach Stevenson remains one of my prized Marist possessions.”
During his time at Marist, Richard was an active student. He participated in intramural sports all four years and was also on the soccer, math and chess teams.
“There were dozens of excellent teachers that made an impact on me at Marist so I hesitate to single one out. The one that must be mentioned, however, is Mr. Owen Glennon, my junior year college algebra/trig teacher,” Richard said. “Mr. Glennon made it clear that close was not good enough in math. Clear thought, precision and pride in excelling at math was the emphasis. My classmates and I loved the challenge, and took pride in being invited to participate in the state math competition.”
After high school, Richard completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois and received his medical doctorate at Northwestern University Medical School. He graduated from the neurosurgical residency-training program at Rush University Medical Center in 1997 and joined the faculty at Rush. A board-certified neurosurgeon, Richard specializes in surgical treatment for epilepsy and brain tumor surgery. He is actively involved in epilepsy and brain tumor research – authoring more than 100 manuscripts, book chapters and two textbooks on these subjects.
“Marist teachers and coaches should know that they make a tremendous and life-long impact on their students. By encouraging excellence and keeping their expectations high, they give all of their students an example to live by,” Richard said. “I do my best to follow their example every day as I train the next generation of neurosurgical residents. Despite what some teachers and coaches may sometimes feel, many of their conversations with students are never forgotten. Many Marist teachers remain my role models.”
Richard is an active member of many professional societies and has served as President, Chicago Neurological Society; President, Illinois State Neurosurgical Society; Chairman, Board of Directors of the Interurban Neurosurgical Society and is currently President of the Neurosurgical Society of America.
Richard and his wife Armita, a neurologist, reside in Oak Brook. They have two daughters, Nika, a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Kayla, a junior at Hinsdale Central High School.
“I am honored and humbled to receive a Marist Time and Eternity Award,” Richard said. “The many life lessons that I learned at Marist are carried with me every day and in everything that I do.”