Professor Holly Clynch on her APTA lifetime achievement award and a career of collaboration

The PTA professor and program director reflects on her 2022 national recognition.
Professor Holly Clynch

Professor and director of the associate and bachelor’s physical therapist assistant (PTA) programs, Holly Clynch, PT, DPT '09, MAOL '02, has been with St. Catherine University since 1998. One year ago, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) honored her with the Lucy Blair Service Award, recognizing her lifetime achievements and accomplished work in the field of physical therapy.

Clynch has been a member of the APTA Minnesota Branch for over 35 years, but didn’t take an active position in the association until she began working at St. Kate’s, and credits the flexibility of her teaching role with her capability to take on a more involved role.

"I’m very lucky that St. Kate’s has supported my involvement,” says Clynch. “My supervisors over the years have encouraged me to be involved; they’ve recognized the value of it. It’s afforded me opportunities to present on things, and I was even asked to write a textbook on PTAs."

She says that she didn’t even know what the APTA House of Delegates was until a coworker nominated her to run for delegate. “I did it and got hooked. I love the process of being with 500 people in one big room, and you’re all super passionate about the profession, with very different ideas of how we should proceed, what we should do in the profession, what our mission should be… And you can have lots of disagreements but then be best friends with those people that you disagree with.”

Holly Clynch, ReBecca Roloff, and Anita Thomas

Holly Clynch, PT, DPT '09, MAOL '02 (center), was honored in 2022 with the Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Award for Faculty Excellence. Pictured with President ReBecca Koenig Roloff '76 (left) and former provost Anita Thomas, PhD (right).

After serving as delegate for several years, Clynch was elected to chief delegate of Minnesota, and partially credits the honor to the name recognition she’s gained working with students. She was elected to the APTA National Nominating Committee, where she served through her term, and then was elected president of APTA Minnesota, where she served for another three years. 

Clynch chose not to run for reelection to focus on her work at St. Kate’s, but laughs as she recounts being “talked into” running for a position on the Academy of Education, a subgroup of the APTA, where she currently serves as a board member.

Clynch says that she was very surprised to receive the Lucy Blair Service Award, which recognizes longitude of exceptional service to the APTA, and didn’t know that her chapter colleagues had nominated her until it had already happened. “They surprised me at a meeting and said, ‘Well, this is one of the few times you’ve been speechless!’” 

The national award ceremony took place in Washington, D.C., and was attended by Clynch’s friends and peers. “When I actually received the award last August, having colleagues in the audience who cheered and high fived me when I walked past them coming off the stage — I respect those people so much and to have them respect me, it helps combat imposter syndrome that even people like me who’ve been around forever still feel. It’s pretty humbling and pretty amazing.”

Clynch doesn’t think she’ll run for “too many more” APTA positions, but is paying her honor forward by nominating other deserving colleagues for APTA awards, including writing letters of recommendation for the Lucy Blair Service Award. Clynch remarks, “At the beginning of my career, I never in a million years would have thought that I would’ve done anything I’ve done within the APTA. I tell students all the time that you just never know where your career is going to take you and it’s really important to just say yes when people ask you to do things."