When Bob Tenczar '87 learns of the suffering of a fellow human being, his first response is to search for any way possible that he can help. He proved this by a sacrifice he made for a friend he hadn't seen for 15 years.
This past year, Tenczar donated one of his kidneys to his former friend and teammate Bob Boutin '87 in an act that he viewed not as a personal sacrifice, but as an opportunity to put his faith and values to the test. The surgery took place on Nov. 26, 2013 at Massechusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Tenczar and Boutin were both members of the Brandeis baseball team, Boutin as a recruit and Tenczar as a walk-on. As first-year students, they lived together in East Quad on the same floor and then again in Rosenthal Quad, which used to be primarily housing for juniors with a small group of soccer and baseball players. Tenczar recalls Boutin's incredible skill as a player and a captain of two years, leading Brandeis' baseball team during the late 80s, some of the most competitive years Brandeis baseball has had. During his time at Brandeis, Boutin was a two-time Academic All-American and was eventually inducted into the Joseph M. Linsey Brandeis Athletics Hall of Fame.
Boutin recalls Tenczar's intelligence and spirit of generosity. A gifted student, Tenczar was a willing tutor for his fellow teammates and classmates. "He had a great personality, and was generous to a fault, and great to be around. There wasn't a single person who didn't like Bob Tenczar," Boutin said.
The two shared similar familial backgrounds. Tenczar's mother is from the same place that Boutin grew up-Salt River, Mass. In addition, they both were raised in Christian households and attended the local Waltham church together during their time at Brandeis. Tenczar and Boutin agree that the friendships they formed during their time as college students are unique in strength and endurance. "It's your first time away from home, it presents a real time to mature and to go through all that with other people creates incredibly strong bonds," Tenczar said.
Those bonds were strengthened by a crisis Tenczar faced during his junior year of college. The sudden aneurysm of his mother, and her miraculous survival, had a lasting effect on Tenczar. "It was at that time that I was shocked into the role of God in my life, and the role of prayer. In that situation, I was completely helpless. There was nothing I could do. She survived, and it was a blessing and a miracle," Tenczar said.
This experience not only brought Tenczar closer to his friends at Brandeis who supported him but also changed the way he would live the rest of his life.
"Over time, the influence of religion has encouraged me to be culturally active, and encouraged me in doing things for other people. I'm involved in a non-profit, and the administration of our church. It does drive me in any given situation to consider what my values are, and consider what the right thing to do is," Tenczar said.
After graduating, Tenczar joined the military, which took him to the West Coast and eventually led him to settle down near Seattle, where he currently resides. This created distance between Tenczar and many of his former teammates, and they fell out of touch as many of them got married, started families and became consumed with their careers. "I have the kind of personality where I get really focused on what I'm doing, and due to that we unfortunately fell out of touch," Tenczar said. Then, two years ago, the Bobs reconnected through LinkedIn and began exchanging emails. Tenczar learned of Boutin's illness not through Boutin, however, but through mutual friend and former teammate Peter Kaslauskas '87. Kaslauskas is the fundraiser organizer for the annual golf tournament held by alumni to raise money for the baseball program.
Before Tenczar realized that he could become an organ donor for Boutin, he used prayer as a way to support his friend, including Boutin in his family's nightly prayers as well as his church's prayers. "When I first learned of [Boutin's] illness, I was shocked and immediately felt compassion toward him and his family and what they must be going through," Tenczar said.
Once Tenczar realized Boutin could accept a kidney donation, he immediately began researching the topic to find any way he could help. "I realized at some point there was a potential I could be a donor. I thought about it, prayed on it and asked my wife, who had sensed that I was already thinking about this. A large part of this was I had to do what I thought was the right thing to do, and that was certainly guided by my religious views," Tenczar said.
For an old friend, Tenczar did not see the operation as a sacrifice. "I viewed it as an opportunity to do something really meaningful that doesn't come around very often-the ability to really help somebody. I wanted to help him as much as he could. That was certainly motivation and helped me to assess the risk-benefit equation," said Tenczar.
The surgery not only changed the long-term health trajectory of Boutin but the life and perspective of Tenczar. "I really feel like I've been blessed by this experience. I've talked to other organ donors, and they all feel a similar way.
"It was an amazing opportunity for me to put my faith and values to the test. I feel so good now, so it doesn't feel like a sacrifice. My attitude toward life has changed, I reminded myself of my priorities and what's important," Tenczar said.