“It’s the end of an era,” says Gregory Hannah, an advisor for the Office of Disability Services. Hannah is referring to his nine-year relationship as a mentor to a student here on campus, Frank Kineavy.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of being around Kineavy and Hannah at the same time, then you’re probably familiar with their bond, which makes it difficult to imagine that they will no longer be on campus together when Kineavy graduates in December.
Kineavy and Hannah seem to have been destined to be in each other’s lives. While attending Monmouth University pursing a degree in education, Hannah worked at a local bar named Frankie’s, and one day met the owner, Frank Kineavy and his entire family, including his son Frank, who at that time was in seventh grade.Two years later, before Kineavy’s freshman year of high school, the two met again and embarked on their nine-year partnership.
While Hannah was working at a high school in Ocean County, he received a phone call from his own former high school, asking if he’d be interested in working with a student who would be transitioning from middle school to high school. That student was young Frank Kineavy.
“It was kind of funny that I had worked at a place owned by his father and then two years later I’m working directly with Frankie,” Hannah says. “We’ve been together ever since.”
Kineavy and Hannah’s relationship has grown over the years, despite the first impressions each had.
“I could sense his ego and still do,” Kineavy says, but Hannah has another term for his so-called ego, calling it confidence in his abilities to communicate with all people.
“In my defense, I’m a very direct person,” Hannah says, and that quality enabled him to communicate with Kineavy well, despite Kineavy’s inability to speak due to cerebral palsy.
Hannah’s first impression of Kineavy was a bit kinder.
“I was very impressed by the way he presented himself amidst his disability,” he says. “When you see someone with such a strong physical disability like Frankie has, that person might not show a certain level of openness, but Frankie’s very open. You can see it on his face. He wants to talk to people, he wants to engage people.”
By working with Hannah, Kineavy was able to cultivate his love for engaging with others. “Having a young guy with me made it a little easier for my peers to approach me,” Kineavy says about his high school experience. Once his peers became comfortable engaging with him, they saw that Kineavy was no different from anyone else.
Hannah and Kineavy have shared countless memories over the course of their friendship, but one that stood out to Hannah from his time working with Kineavy at Manasquan High occurred when he and Kineavy were stuck in an elevator.
“All of a sudden we hear the theatre teacher of the high school, who’s this older, goofy theatre junky who loves this type of stuff,” he says. “He gets the cameras, and he’s like ‘Mr. Hannah you’re on Manasquan High School TV. How is it in there?’ and all of a sudden we became a television story.”
This would not be the first time Kineavy and Hannah would share the spotlight together. Though Hannah had no plans to come to Villanova with Kineavy following the young man’s high school graduation, an encouraging phone call from Steve McWilliams, advisor to Students Living with Disabilities, convinced him to join Kineavy in college.
He at first declined the offer but eventually accepted it. It was not long until the two starred in a documentary together, “Coming Off the DL,” produced to change the way people view ability.
“We had no clue the film was going to happen, zero,” Hannah says. “We’re not even here a year, and we make this documentary, and it gets national recognition, and it gets on the cover of the New York Times. All of a sudden you’re on college game day, and thinking back, ‘I said no to this.’.”
Needless to say, Hannah says he does not regret his choice to join Kineavy at the University, because not only have they shared memories and watched each other grow, but they have learned things from each other that one can only to hope to learn over the course of an entire lifetime.
“From Frankie I’ve learned to never limit myself,” Hannah says. “There are a lot of things I know that people think Frankie can’t do, and I get that, but I’ve been around him for a lot of moments. I have learned about my potential and a lot about what I can expect of my family and of others because we’re so easy to say that we can’t do something, and there’s rarely a challenge that Frankie said he couldn’t do. And I think that goes beyond his disability. That’s who he is as a person. I think he’s brought out the best in me, and I’d like to think that I help bring out the best in him.”
One of the most special parts at the University that Kineavy and Hannah have been able to share is working with the student-based group LeVel.
LeVel gives students the opportunity to work with Kineavy and others with disabilities. Kineavy has built relationships and that he may not have had the chance to do otherwise.
“LeVel has helped Greg and I grow because, in the past, everything was done by Greg-—writing papers and taking notes-— but now everything is student-based,” Kineavy says. “I go to class with my classmates and leave with them. I’m held accountable for all my own work. It has given me the social network that I wanted and has allowed me to build a college relationship with my peers.”
After graduating and leaving LeVel, Kineavy hopes that new members of the club will have the same passion and vision that the founding members, who are also graduating come May, have shown.
Though this is the end of an era, Hannah is confident that Kineavy will leave the University having learned everything it takes to make it outside of the campus grounds.
“I hope that he has learned about relationships, accountability, networking, giving and taking in relationships, and ultimately the strengths and weaknesses that he has to make himself a better professional for his future,” Hannah says.
Actually, Kineavy will still be around campus next semester after he graduates, as he takes his talents from managing the men’s basketball team towards an internship in the Athletic Department.
The remainder of Kineavy’s journey post-graduation is, as he says, “to be determined.”