Articles

DBA Program Director Matt Mullarkey Still on the Mend After Bike Wreck in June

By Keith Morelli

Matt Mullarkey

TAMPA (September 28, 2017) -- Matt Mullarkey pedals his bicycle about 30 miles every other day, most often around the sunny, sea-breeze-swept streets near his St. Pete Beach home. This day started out no differently. He was making his way toward Fort DeSoto Park, cruising at about 24 mph, a pretty good clip. It was a Monday afternoon near the end of June and the next day he was leaving for South Africa to deliver a keynote address at a business educational conference.

He was in the bike lane, glancing at traffic on his left and keeping track of vehicles on right pulling out into traffic. He glanced down at his water bottle and was thinking about grabbing a drink when the world went black.

Mullarkey, an instructor in the Executive MBA program and program director of the Muma College of Business Doctor of Business Administration program, had struck an SUV that had broken down and pulled into the bike lane. His last dash of memory: reaching for the brakes. When he came to, he was in an ambulance.

"I was told I didn't do much damage to the SUV," Mullarkey recalled. "But I did break five vertebrae in my back."

The damage was done near the top of his back and lower neck. And then, there's this:

"They told me they had to resuscitate me in the ambulance," Mullarkey said, "that I was unresponsive and that my heart had stopped."

It would be months before he would return to any sense of normalcy, and even now he sports a cumbersome neck brace that would put Queen Elizabeth and her collared court to shame. He still walks stiffly, without glancing to either side. He winces from time to time, even when he's standing still.

"This will take time to heal," he said. "But I'm looking forward to the MIS capstone, Executive MBA and DBA teaching this fall and, especially, being there to hood our soon-to-be alumni in the first DBA cohort in December."

His biggest regret? Not being able to attend that conference in South Africa.

"I feel like I've let them down," Mullarkey said.

A month-and-a-half after the accident, just before the fall semester began, he returned to work for the first time.

"I've got six weeks in the brace," he said. "Six weeks to go."

The good news, if there is good news out of this, is that there is no permanent spinal injury and no brain damage. He already has hopped on a stationary bike, keeping in tune for the day he returns to a two-wheeler and the streets of St. Pete Beach. Still, he said, there is quite a bit of pain.

In the meantime, Mullarkey, 55, undergoes intensive rehabilitation therapy.

"This now is not as bad as it has been," he said. "The first two weeks, the pain was incredible."

That's a lot coming from an U.S. Army Airborne Ranger who said the last time he felt pain like this was while in the service, when, in 1985, he broke his knee in a training exercise in the jungles of Thailand. Four days passed before he was airlifted to a hospital for treatment.

"That," he said, "took me a year to recover."

Mullarkey is a West Point graduate with a bachelor's degree in engineering. He earned his doctoral degree in business administration with a concentration in information systems at USF. Besides his teaching duties and administrative responsibilities, he also serves as the editor-in-chief of the Muma Case Review, in which some student research from the MBA and DBA programs is published.

The outpouring of support from faculty and staff at the Muma College of Business in the wake of his accident has been huge, he said.

"So many people in the Muma College of Business family have reached out to me with their thoughts and prayers," Mullarkey said. "It's been overwhelming and quite incredible. So gracious and generous."