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Gratitude for Kelly green A farewell from Hunter Pinke, '21

After becoming paralyzed in a skiing accident during the winter of 2019, UND student-athlete Hunter Pinke didn’t let the life-altering experience slow him down.

Overcoming the odds, Hunter graduated this spring from UND with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and served as a captain of his football team. He is currently enrolled at the University of Arizona in the Master of Architecture program and will compete for the Wildcats on the adaptive track & field and road racing team.

Hunter’s “no bad days” attitude, resiliency and faith have contributed to the growing support of the #pinkestrong movement and recognition across UND, the state and the nation. Throughout Hunter’s journey, UND alumni have supported him with equipment, funds and encouragement.

As Hunter takes up residence in the Grand Canyon State, he shares his parting words.

Dear UND,

As I reflect on the past five years, I am filled with a variety of emotions. Joy, sadness, and admiration all have their place, but one stands above the rest: gratitude.

I am a different person today than I was when I first got to UND. I have learned that adversity can bring about the most substantial change in one’s life. Depending on your response, it can either send you tumbling down a slippery slope of despair or shoot you upwards on a trajectory toward success. My adversity helped me grow up: I came to UND as a teenage boy, and I am leaving a young man. I am grateful for changes in my life over the past five years.

Wearing Kelly Green with “North Dakota” across my chest was one of the greatest honors of my life. Not because of what I got to do, but rather because of who I got to do it for. I took pride in representing UND and the state of North Dakota. This is my home. These are my people. Three FCS Playoff appearances, two conference championships, and one bachelor’s degree later, I can say that all the hard work was worth it. I am grateful to have been a Fighting Hawks student-athlete.

I hope when people see my story, they don’t just see a kid in a wheelchair. Instead, I hope they see how powerful faith can be. I hope they see that joy comes with every sunrise. I hope they see how a community helped me take the next step when I couldn’t on my own. I am grateful for my story.

It would be impossible to repay what you all have given me. I wish I could shake your hand or give you a hug – maybe someday I will get that opportunity. To the UND administration, professors, cooks, janitors and support staff, thank you. To my coaches, teammates and friends, thank you. To you, the UND alumni, thank you. You have helped me improve, overcome and grow. I am grateful for you.

UND, I am grateful.

Forever #UNDProud,

Hunter Pinke