Dr. Billy

Adults with Down Syndrome, Advocate, Community Participation, Disability, Down Syndrome, Education, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Honorary Doctorate, Inspiration, Mainstreaming, Mother of an Adult with a Disability, People with Disabilities, Posthumous Award, Special Education, Western Carolina University 44 Comments »
WCU Honorary Doctorate William Robert Schulz

Western Carolina University has conferred on William Robert Schulz the degree of Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

William Robert Schulz and Dr. Jane Bolton Schulz received honorary degrees as Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the Fall 2012 Commencement Ceremony at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC, on Saturday, December 15, 2012. Billy’s Doctorate was awarded posthumously.

Following are the Honoris Causa, read by Chancellor David O. Belcher, and the speech given by Dr. Schulz:

Honoris Causa

Dr. Jane Bolton Schulz and the late Mr. William Robert “Billy” Schulz blazed a trail for what could be – and what should be – the educational, vocational, and social opportunities afforded to people who have Down syndrome and special needs.
Dr. Schulz, you were a wife and mother of three with a fourth on the way when a doctor diagnosed your son Billy, who was born in 1956, with Down syndrome. He advised you to take Billy home and love him. Love him you did, so deeply and so fiercely that you became a champion for him and for the quality of life he could have. Together you became pioneers in special education and champions for all who have intellectual disabilities.
Your journey involved risk. Refusing to accept that Billy could not start school until age eight, you secured a job at a school that allowed you, without a college degree, to teach kindergarten and to bring Billy with you. Billy thrived, and you were inspired to expand those integrated classroom experiences in a landmark textbook you co-authored, Mainstreaming Exceptional Students: A Guide for Classroom Teachers.
As Billy became a man, you both found vocations. After discovering your exceptional gift for teaching, you enrolled at Auburn University and earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Inspired by your son, you became a powerful force in the field of special education. You helped to bridge the gap between the theoretical and the “real world” by drawing upon what you learned in your own life and from Billy’s. As a faculty member at Western Carolina University for more than 20 years, you shared your experiences, ideas, and insights with thousands of students.
Along the way, Billy continued to show you that he and others with Down syndrome were capable of far more than many realized. He became a beloved staff member at WCU’s Hunter Library for 21 years. He also worked at a nursing home where he helped care for his father, and at a grocery store that earlier this year awarded him a pin for ten years of service. As you delivered hundreds of presentations and workshops on improving special education, Billy overcame stage fright to join you at some of those talks. In his own words, he helped you share the story of his life and dispel negative stereotypes of people who have disabilities, and encouraged all to seek their full promise. Together, you motivated and inspired countless others.
You also developed a statewide program to train teachers to better work with special-needs students. Your ground-breaking work challenged educators in traditional classroom settings to embrace a bold new perspective when teaching children with disabilities and to see the potential that exists beyond a disability. You were instrumental in organizing the Special Olympics program in Jackson County, an effort that spilled over to surrounding counties across Western North Carolina, culminating in a large district meet held on the WCU campus. Your love for your own child and your dogged determination to help build a better life for Billy have made it possible for many other special-needs children to reach far beyond what once was expected.
As you wrote in Grown Man Now, a poignant memoir chronicling the challenges and victories that you and your son took together: “Billy and I are like beans and corn planted together in an open field; one supplying the nutrient, the other providing the support. We believe that if you want to bring about change you have to be that change.”
Dr. Schulz, you and Billy have indeed brought about change by being that change. The rights and educational, vocational, and social opportunities for people with Down syndrome have only just begun to catch up with what you, Billy and your family envisioned. In Billy’s role as son and brother, boy and man, and your role as mother and educator, you both blazed through uncharted territory and helped others realize what was possible and what should be normal for persons who have Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities. The field of education is far better today because of the contributions you both have made.
In recognition of these many accomplishments, in appreciation for enriching our communities, and in gratitude for raising the bar of our humanity, the Board of Trustees of Western Carolina University is pleased to award, and the Chancellor to confer, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, upon Jane Bolton Schulz and posthumously upon William Robert “Billy” Schulz at this commencement ceremony, December 15, 2012, with all the rights and privileges thereto appertaining.

Chancellor David O. Belcher awards the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Dr. Jane B. Schulz and to William R. Schulz (posthumously)

Chancellor David O. Belcher awards the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Dr. Jane B. Schulz and to William R. Schulz (posthumously) at the Fall 2012 Commencement at Western Carolina University.

Dr. Jane B. Schulz
Acceptance Speech

Greetings: Chancellor Belcher, Distinguished members of the Platform Party, and Members of the Graduating Class:
I never dreamed of receiving such an honor, and wish Billy could be here. He really deserved this more than I do.

I developed Bell’s palsy soon after Billy died, so please bear with me if my speech is difficult to understand.

My family and I came to Cullowhee in 1971, looking for a fresh start. Like others here today, I found the career of my life at Western, in an environment that was stimulating and rewarding.

For those who are graduating, my wish for you is that you find an equally
fulfilling fresh start.

Billy was the motivation for my career, and he was the one who made our presentations remarkable.

Here was this man, whose IQ measured below 60, relaying a message that inspired others.
Billy’s message, told in his unique language, repeated:
• that every day was a good day,
• that we all have work to do,
• that we have friends everywhere,
• that it’s nice to laugh and to relax,
• that you love your family,
and that you go to church on Sunday because people are counting on you.

Each of us can accomplish surprising things.

In his presentations, and in his life, Billy exemplified that friendship has no
boundaries, that each of us is important, and that all of us have contributions
to make in our community.

Billy made friends with everyone. “Hi, I’m Billy; you got a dog?” made it difficult for anyone to ignore him. We have heard from people we don’t even know who, frequently, would go in the store where Billy worked and be uplifted by his greeting and cheerfulness. We all miss him.

Even though he dealt with anxiety, frustration, and health issues, just like the rest of us, Billy ended each presentation with “an’ I got a good life.”

Looking out at all of you gathered here today, and thinking of the sense of purpose all of us represent, I think Billy would say, “Well, time to get to work!”

Last August, Chancellor Belcher called to tell us about the honor Western Carolina University intended to bestow upon us.

During that time, Billy was sick with the beginning of the illness that led to his death.
I sat on his bed and explained the honor to him.

He asked, “Then who I be, Mom? Dr. Billy?”

And so, speaking for my amazing family, our devoted friends, for myself, and especially for Dr. Billy, thank you.


Related Link:

The Saddest Post in the Whole Wide World

Adults with Down Syndrome, Aging, Community Participation, Courage, Disability, Down Syndrome, Education, Employment, Family, Friends, Inclusion, Inspiration, People with Disabilities, Special Education, Teaching, Western Carolina University 53 Comments »

Billy Schulz, 56. We are going to miss you.

William Robert Schulz

Kingsport — William Robert “Billy” Schulz, 56, born January 28, 1956, died peacefully on September 2, 2012, after a period of declining health.

Billy was a beloved and influential member of his family, and an ambassador of goodness wherever he went. His cheerfulness and optimism contributed to the communities in which he worked and worshipped.

In April, Billy received his ten-year pin for his work as a bagger at Food City, where he worked at Eastman Road and Colonial Heights branches. He was an active member of First Broad Street United Methodist Church, where he returned their warm welcome to Kingsport by welcoming church members frequently as an usher. He belonged to TeamMates and loved singing at One Thing.

Prior to moving to Kingsport in 2001, Billy worked in Cullowhee, NC, at Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library for 21 years as a security book handler. He was a member of Sylva’s First United Methodist Church, where he was a regular usher for over two decades. Billy graduated from Cullowhee High School in 1977.

Born with Down Syndrome, Billy’s special needs directed the career of his mother, Jane B. Schulz. Billy and Jane inspired thousands of people during their teamwork together, modeling for all how much can be accomplished in life with determination, humor, love, and courage. Jane wrote her memoir, “Grown Man Now,” about her life with Billy, who has been a devoted and generous caretaker to his mother in these later years.

From the Office of the Chancellor, Western Carolina University:
“In recognition of Mr. Schulz’s achievements, service and cultural contributions to the betterment of society, he was scheduled to receive an honorary degree, a Doctor of Humane Letters, from Western Carolina University alongside his mother, Dr. Jane B. Schulz. The award honors Mr. Schulz for not only developing skills, talents and creativity beyond his expectations but also courageously sharing his experiences in presentations at community, university, regional and national events to help dispel negative stereotypes of people who have disabilities and encourage all to seek their full potential. The honor will be bestowed posthumously during WCU’s fall commencement exercises on Dec. 15.”

A music, television and movie buff, Billy created an impressive collection of recordings, and enjoyed discussing these topics and telling jokes. He was a complex and spiritual person; his love and concern for others were boundless. His deep, abiding, and long-lasting relationships with others were inspirational and far-reaching. His loss is keenly felt by Billy’s communities and family. Surviving him are his mother; two brothers, John and Tom Schulz, and his sister Mary de Wit; their spouses, Dekie, Sheila, and Jos; Billy’s nieces, Carrie Schulz and Mary Geitner; and his nephews, Paul (Edna), John Robert (Christine), and Isaac Schulz; and Daniel and Warren de Wit.

A memorial service for Billy will be held at First Broad Street UMC of Kingsport on Saturday, September 8, at 3:00 p.m. with a reception following. Memorial contributions may be made to: The Jane Schulz Scholarship Fund / Western Carolina University / 401 Robinson Admin. Bldg. / Cullowhee, NC 28723; or to the Billy Schulz Memorial Prayer Garden Fund at First Broad Street UMC / 100 E. Church Circle / Kingsport TN 37660.

An Award for Billy

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“Mrs. Schulz, this is Alice at Food City…”   (my heart stops: what’s wrong?). “Billy is getting an award this afternoon at 3:00; I thought you would like to be here.”

Would I? I called Mary and we met at Food City a little before 3:00. Billy saw us and declared, “Mom, I getting a ward!” He was beaming as he led us to the meeting room at the back of the store. Chairs were arranged for seating and refreshments were placed on tables: chips, dips, vegetables, fruit -a generous assortment. Billy sat on the front row with his friend Michelle, I sat behind them, and Mary found a place where she could take pictures unobtrusively.

Brandon, the store manager, explained the awards to be granted for community commitment and for length of time employed at Food City. Billy was called to the front and presented with a pin representing ten years of employment at Food City, a chain of over 100 grocery stores in Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky. It is a beautiful pin with 3 small rubies and a diamond. Billy accepted the pin with a big grin on his face, sat down and showed it to Michelle.

With tears running down my cheeks, I recalled the difficulty of our moving from North Carolina to Tennessee ten years ago, the anxiety of  finding a job, learning new skills and trying to avoid stressful situations. I thought of Jonathan, the friend who taught Billy the unforeseen  ropes and offered his friendship.

And I thought of Billy’s work experience: 21 years at Hunter Library in North Carolina and 10 years at Food City. That represents an employment record to be envied by anyone.

Not bad for a man who was diagnosed “trainable” as a child.







Smile, Baby, Smile!

Down Syndrome, Inclusion 17 Comments »

The following news was distributed by Disability Scoop:

Girl With Down Syndrome Lands Modeling Deal By Shaun Heasley, November 28, 2011

At a mere 14-months-old, Taya Kennedy is poised to take the modeling world by storm. And it just so happens that she has Down syndrome.

The toddler was one of 50 kids recently selected out of 2,000 who applied to the sought-after Urban Angels modeling agency in London, which represents kids who model for Stella McCartney, H&M and other big names.

Kennedy is already slated to appear in advertising for Early Learning Centre — a toy store — and the children’s clothing shop, Mothercare, both of which have locations around the globe.

Officials at the modeling agency say they chose Kennedy because she’s an “incredibly photogenic, warm and smiley child.” They say her disability played no role in whether or not she was selected.

“That she has Down’s syndrome did not enter the equation. We chose her because of her vibrancy and sense of fun,” the owner of the agency told the (London) Daily Mail.

“That she has Down’s syndrome did not enter the equation.”

Now that’s what I’m talking about! — Jane Schulz

Self Advocacy at Work

Advocate, Disability, Down Syndrome, People with Disabilities 14 Comments »
Lauren Potter, who plays cheerleader Becky Jackson on Fox's "Glee," has been appointed to serve on the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. (Michael Yarish/FOX)

Lauren Potter, who plays cheerleader Becky Jackson on Fox's "Glee," has been appointed to serve on the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. (Michael Yarish/FOX)

Adults with Down syndrome are speaking up for their rights and participating in events related to their interests and needs. As reported on Disability Scoop, a recent opportunity has been presented by President Obama for a young actress, Lauren Potter, to serve on the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.
Lauren, who has Down syndrome, portrays a cheerleader on the award winning TV show “Glee.” The committee Lauren will join consists of 21 citizens and 13 federal representatives who are charged with advising the president and the secretary of health and human services on issues pertaining to Americans with intellectual disabilities. Her recognition on “Glee” led Lauren to become involved nationally as a self-advocate, speaking out against use of the word “retard” and the bullying of people with disabilities.
Lauren is pictured with Jane Lynch, who portrays the cynical physical education teacher on “Glee.” Ms. Lynch is the sister of a young woman with Down syndrome who died recently. This event was poignantly portrayed on an episode of the program. (A discussion of this episode appears on my blog entitled “Life Expectancy”.)

Television has the potential and opportunity to promote awareness of and respect for persons with disabilities. We celebrate the enlightenment that “Glee” has advanced.

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