Please remember author and 2006 Distinguished Alumnus Award winner Vince Flynn ’88 in your prayers. He died Wednesday, June 19, at a St. Paul hospital after a three-year battle with prostate cancer. Flynn was 47 years old.
Flynn was a native of St. Paul who attended St. Thomas Academy before enrolling at the College of St. Thomas to study economics.
Despite being recruited by legendary St. John’s University football coach John Gagliardi, Flynn knew at a young age he would attend St. Thomas. “Five of my seven siblings went to St. Thomas. My dad went to St. Thomas. My uncle went to St. Thomas. The way I grew up, it was always referred to as ‘The College,’” he said in a 2006 St. Thomas magazine profile.
The best-selling author admitted he was not a strong writer when he was a student. “I think I took only two English classes while I was at St. Thomas, and I got a C minus in both of them,” he said, noting that a lifelong struggle with dyslexia made reading and writing difficult. After graduating, he worked in sales and marketing.
He began thinking about writing in the early 1990s after he was disqualified from the U.S. Marine Corps Aviation Program due to several concussions and convulsive seizures he suffered growing up. To help overcome his learning challenges, he committed to a daily reading and writing regimen.
In 1997, he began what he referred to as his “dream job” when he self-published his first novel, Term Limits, which was eventually picked up by a major publisher and landed him on the New York Times Bestsellers list. He went on to complete 13 additional novels centered around the character Mitch Rapp, a top-notch CIA operative bent on stopping terrorists by whatever means necessary. His work has gained attention from readers such as King Abdullah II of Jordan and President George W. Bush, both of whom he had the opportunity to meet.
Flynn had three children with his wife, Lysa, a son, Dane, and two daughters, Anna and Ingrid. According to St. Thomas gift officer Tim Fischer, “Vince loved his wife and kids with everything he had. As incredibly popular he became, he always put God and family first. He was just a normal, solid guy.” Fischer also remembered Flynn as a generous person dedicated to countless causes. “He had a Movember team called Mitch Rapp and the Killer Mustaches that helped raise money for prostate cancer research.”
“Vince found exactly what he was put on this earth to do,” said Dr. Mark Dienhart, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “You can tell in his writing that he loved every minute of what he was doing.” Dienhart was head coach of the football team during the years Flynn played tight end for the Tommies. Dienhart went on to note that while Flynn struggled in school, he also learned a lot about himself and discovered what he wanted to do with his life. According to Dienhart, “He had the talent and the drive to make it happen. He left us way too early.”