Bob Preston ’76: Parkinsons’ Association Volunteer of the Year

Bob Preston ’76

National Volunteer of the Year

By Thomas Harkins ‘76

Recently, it was my pleasure to have lunch and an enriching conversation with classmate Bob Preston ’76.  Bob’s brothers Bill ’71 and Brad ’79 also graduated from Bishop Hendricken as did his son Dan Preston ’01.  A board member on the American Parkinson’s Disease (PD) Association, Bob was recently named the National Volunteer of the Year for that organization.  His involvement and commitment to actively fighting PD is a story that is both inspiring and compelling.

Bob was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in 2007 at age 48.  Since then, he has fought the disease with every ounce of his being as a fundraiser, spokesman, and supreme optimist.  In 2008, Bob and Bill sold the Preston Insurance Agency which they had grown into a major player in the Rhode Island insurance market.  Bob has actively taken up the cause of helping those with PD by creating and funding a program that helps PD patients seek complimentary care such as yoga, acupuncture, massage, tai chi, and other beneficial therapies.  In 2011, as an avid and accomplished sailor, Bob and Becky Preston took their boat “Family Ties” from Maine to Florida and the Bahamas on what they named the “Optimism Can Take You Anywhere” tour.  He repeated the same trip in 2013 and will do it again in 2016 leaving Wickford on July 27th the 9th anniversary of his diagnosis for what will be a 10,000 mile cruise. These trips helped Bob raise over $400,000 to date and are designed to promote awareness of Parkinson’s Disease, its effect on 1,900,000 Americans as well as demonstrate the power of a positive attitude in fighting ANY chronic illness.

Bob, a former Hendricken board member, is one of many members of the Class of ’76 who have remained connected to the school.  I asked Bob how his years at Hendricken prepared him for his current life circumstances, a life that he will not let be defined by the disease.  “It’s all how you approach life.  Brothers’ Loftus, Maus, and Sheehan always taught us to live our lives with purpose.  I really believe that my life is part of His plan, put in this position for a reason and I’ll continue to work as hard as ever to execute His plan.”

Most recently, Bob has taken up boxing three times per week as clinical research has proven the value of rapid and repeated muscle movements for those with PD.  He is now actively involved with Rock Steady Boxing, a program specifically designed for Parkinson patients and is volunteering his time to promote and expand the boxing program throughout the region.  But it’s Bob’s supreme optimism and spirituality that is most impressive.  As he says: “Whatever the disease or malady, don’t let it define you, it’s immeasurable how much a positive attitude and optimistic outlook can impact your health.”

Bob Preston ’76 is always interested in being a resource and support to others with Parkinson’s.  He can be reached at (401) 575-2004 or at