Shining a light on mental health

Kevin M. Lynch ’11 donates $50,000 to create mental health scholarships at Lynn University.
Professor works with psychology student in a classroom

"I love helping people in their time of need," said Kevin M. Lynch '11, founder and CEO of The Quell Foundation based in Falmouth, Massachusetts. "It's just something that's in me."

Lynch helps students earn master's degrees in clinical mental health counseling at Lynn University by providing $50,000 in scholarships. His gift will fund four annual $2,500 scholarships for minority students for five years.

Dr. Debra Ainbinder, counseling and psychology program chair in the College of Arts and Sciences, said, "The Quell Foundation’s scholarships will be a lifeline for many students who are inspired to help others but may not be able to afford a graduate education."

Financial support for minority students is especially welcome. "It helps not only to increase the diversity and awareness of the program but also to fit the needs of the communities they will serve," she added.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults, or 51.5 million people, live with a mental illness. Lynn’s scholarships are the latest of $1.8 million Quell has provided for students at more than 450 colleges. The goal is to ensure more mental health professionals can meet an ever-growing demand.

Quell also is normalizing conversation about mental health through two powerful forms of storytelling—documentaries and podcasts. During the 2021 January Term, Lynch returned to Lynn to present Quell's Lift the Mask documentary. He also has enlisted Lynn communication students to develop a creative concept for an upcoming 9/11 memorial bike ride.

Kevin Lynch works at his desk.
Kevin M. Lynch '11, founder and CEO of The Quell Foundation

A path that began at Lynn

A dozen years ago, Lynch never dreamed he'd lead his own thriving nonprofit organization. A former member of the U.S. Navy Submarine Force, he was a successful senior manager at a South Florida hospital. Although he had some college credits, he needed to complete his bachelor's degree to advance professionally. In 2009 at age 45, he enrolled at Lynn while working full-time. In Mike Petroski, his academic advisor (now the academic dean), Lynch found invaluable guidance.

"I sat with Mike every semester and talked about what I needed to do. Mike reviewed all my credits so I could accelerate my studies," Lynch recalled.

Lynch earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration summa cum laude in 2011, as he returned to Massachusetts at a critical time. His son, Nick, who has bipolar disorder and had been incarcerated, was soon to be released. Lynch planned to help him start anew, together refurbishing a house and starting college degrees—Nick, a bachelor's and Kevin, a master's. It was not to be. Two weeks before classes started, Nick was found having taken heroin. He survived but had to return to prison. Kevin Lynch sank into depression.

"I couldn't see past that moment," Lynch recalled. "I called the VA suicide hotline."

Lynch got help and immersed himself in graduate school at Penn State, earning a Master of Health Policy and Administration. Determined to put his thesis to work, he established The Quell Foundation in 2015.

Today, life is better not only for Lynch and his son, now home, but also for the many people Quell has helped. Lynch is now busier than ever. Quell is working with the University of Washington on a psychiatric degree curriculum. A new podcast featuring healthcare workers is gaining subscribers. And future documentaries will cover two at-risk groups: first responders and student-athletes.

Lynch has never forgotten how the university impacted his future. "Had Mike Petroski not worked with me to the extent that he did, none of this would have happened. This was a series of events, and he was the spark. These scholarships are my way of giving back to him and Lynn University."