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 50 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:

DOCTOR OF HUMANE LETTERS
Honoris Causa
JANE BOLTON SCHULZ and WILLIAM ROBERT SCHULZ

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:
http://news-prod.wcu.edu/2012/12/wcus-fall-commencement-set-for-dec-15-at-ramsey-center/

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.

What’s the Word?

Advocate, Community Participation, Courage, Disability, Education, Inclusion, Inspiration, Movie Reviews, People with Disabilities, Special Education No Comments »

There is a new film released entitled “My Idiot Brother.” Following the current, intense battle against the use of the word “retarded,” I wonder if the use of this pejorative term will attract the same attention as the R word. Is idiot different from retarded?

When I first began my studies in special education, I learned the terms historically used to identify persons who had intellectual disabilities. The terms used were imbecile, idiot, and moron. After years of usage, these words became offensive and were changed to severely retarded, moderately retarded, and mildly retarded. Initially they were useful in identifying levels of disability and in planning educational programs. They also became used as hurtful words, slung at people in anger or rejection, such as “You idiot!”

See the connection? Whatever the term, as long as we remain insensitive to people who are vulnerable, those who have disabilities, and those who are unable to fight back, we will use terms in inappropriate and unkind ways.

Rather than fighting the word, let us fight the deeper problem – attitude. I think the answer is another R word: respect. In our family, we have words that we do not use. In addition to the words referred to above, we add “stupid” and “dumb.”

Billy asks me why we don’t use those words. I reply, “Because those words make people feel bad.” If we can teach that idea, we won’t have to stage battles to obliterate each objectionable word that comes along. And they will come along if we continue to believe that the word is the problem.

I, for one, will not see “My Idiot Brother.”

The Pure in Heart

Adults with Down Syndrome, Advocate, Community Participation, Down Syndrome, Education, Family Challenges, Inspiration, Parents, People with Disabilities, Special Education, Western Carolina University 3 Comments »

On April 9  Billy, Mary and I spent a delightful afternoon with a group called The Pure in Heart,  at Longs Chapel United Methodist Church in Lake Junaluska N.C. This long standing church/community group is led by Jackie Spencer, a former student and dear friend of mine.

Billy Schulz, Jane Schulz, Fred Spencer, Jackie Spencer reunite for the Pure in Heart

Billy Schulz, Jane Schulz, Fred Spencer, Jackie Spencer reunite for the Pure in Heart

Jackie describes Pure in Heart as  “a group of adults who share Acts 2:42 dinner together, followed by a variety of activities with emphasis on fun, fellowship, and service. We work around and from our challenges, knowing that God’s strength is evident in how He enables us and calls us to help one another.”

What a reception we received from the Pure in Heart! Thank you!

What a reception we received from the Pure in Heart! Thank you!

The Pure in Heart includes persons with disabilities, their parents, teachers, and friends. They welcomed us with open arms (literally), listened to our stories, and shared their concerns and victories. We had revised our presentation to reflect changes in Billy’s life and my awareness of what I have learned from him. We called it Lessons From Billy.

Chris, who spontaneously led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance, is a photography enthusiast.

Chris, who spontaneously led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance, is a photography enthusiast.

A surprise feature was the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Chris, one of the younger members of the group. Following the presentation, we enjoyed delicious refreshments and energetic conversation.

The philosophy of The Pure in Heart was evident:  “Every person on earth has special needs. Some needs are more evident than others. Within our church, we all find love, acceptance, and a little  extra help when needed. Every person also has special gifts and our friends’ gifts are well worth discovering.”

A few days later we returned to North Carolina to speak with students and educators at Western Carolina University. Dr. David Westling has invited us to join his students for several years and we always enjoy being there. This time Dr. Valerie Mazzotti welcomed us into her class (SPED 413) for our presentation. Afterwards we were treated with a lovely meal and a conversation full of ideas for the future of education! It is such a privilege  for Billy and me to return to a place we worked and loved,  to see our old friends and to meet new ones.

WCU's Dr. David Westling, Dr. Valerie Mazzotti, Dr. Lisa Bloom, and Dr. Jane Schulz

WCU's Dr. David Westling, Dr. Valerie Mazzotti, Dr. Lisa Bloom, and Dr. Jane Schulz

Both of these events, with unique audiences, illustrated the positive contributions that many people are making to ensure that persons with disabilities have opportunities to develop into happy and productive adults. Thank you, Jackie and David, for your dedication and passion for what you do and for whom you serve, and for  your gracious hospitality.

Independent Living (Part 1)

Advocate, Community Participation, Diversity, Education, Independent Living, People with Disabilities, Special Education, Teaching No Comments »

It is easy to forget that one method of housing for people with disabilities is still institutionalization in state facilities. Although this arrangement is gradually disappearing, it is still the only choice for many families due to lack of resources, family dysfunction, or other reasons.

Two years ago I was dismayed to learn of an event occurring in a state institution for persons with disabilities. The following article was, and is, my reaction.

Return of an Outrage

After five decades of observing, I thought it was over. I had hoped we would never again see headlines like the one dated March 27 on NPR.org: Abuse at Texas Institutions Is Beyond ‘Fight Club.’ The article described events in which staff members were charged with taking part in staging “human cockfights,” using residents with mental retardation for staff entertainment. Chronicled on a lost but retrieved cell phone, the evidence pointed to more than a year of staged late-night fights, some as recent as this past January, at the Corpus Christi institution.

My rekindled anger took me back to the 1960s, to revelations that changed my life. The first experience was made more real to me because of my son Billy, who has Down syndrome. I had just begun pursuing my goal to become a special education teacher. I wrote:

During that first summer, my class visited various facilities supposedly designed to educate children with mental retardation. A major event was the trip to Partlow, a residential institution operated by the state of Alabama. . . As a group, we walked into one expansive barn-like room, furnished with two long benches facing each other, no other furniture in the room, no curtains on the cloudy windows, and absolutely no stimulation of any kind. I stopped in the doorway, mesmerized by boys appearing to be around the age of ten or twelve, hands by their sides, staring blankly about them. This image was my nightmare for months to come, an image still present in my mind. I was so struck with the horror of “nothing to do” that I swore to myself, “That will never happen to my little boy.”

The second event occurred as I was progressing in my studies in mental retardation; I was shaken and outraged by the disclosure of conditions at Willowbrook, a Staten Island institution for children with mental retardation. Not only were children abused and living in squalor with little medical or mental health care, some of them were reportedly used as test cases for hepatitis studies. The nation as a whole was appalled when a young investigator, Geraldo Rivera, went into the institution with a hidden camera and revealed the unthinkable conditions at Willowbrook.

The Willowbrook expose was followed by a book written by Burton Blatt and Fred Kaplan, entitled Christmas in Purgatory: A Photographic Essay On Mental Retardation. As part of a research project at a Connecticut facility for persons with mental retardation, this book presented explicit photographs of residents being treated “less humanely, with less care, and under more deplorable conditions than animals.” In the Introduction, Dr. Blatt stated, “There is a hell on earth, and in America there is a special inferno. We were visitors there during Christmas, 1965.”

As a student, I felt sure that these dramatic disclosures would demand that residential institutions be carefully monitored and the persons living in them treated with dignity and kindness. The sad truth did not bear out my optimism.

When I became a professor in special education in the early 1970s, I took a group of students to visit a residential institution not far from our university. Although this was considered a model facility by many, my students and I witnessed an appalling procedure. As we were touring the grounds, we observed a fenced-in area where a large group of naked young men were being hosed off by attendants. We were appalled at the lack of dignity afforded these residents.

Almost half a century later we are still confronted with atrocities perpetrated on those persons most vulnerable in our society. Sure, in response to the article concerning abuse at the Corpus Christi institution, Texas state officials have announced steps to prevent more abuse. They intend to add supervisors to evening shifts, install security cameras in public areas at all 13 state institutions for people with intellectual disabilities, and to “continue to take swift and immediate action when abuse and neglect is reported.” But we know this does not address the real problem.

Originally placed in out-of-the way places, residential institutions were designed to protect the residents as well as the community. Such isolation seems to breed neglect and abuse that go unnoticed by citizens at large. The claim that this practice is less expensive for the state is not a valid reason for the continuation of such large, unmanageable facilities.

I have felt encouraged by the national trend leading to group homes, supervised apartments, family-supervised living, and other arrangements for people with developmental disabilities to live in communities and enjoy the rights of all citizens. In districts where this occurs, the population as a whole grows in many ways. The inclusion of persons with disabilities adds to the sense of diversity that makes us interested in each other and helps us develop sensitivity to the worth of all individuals.

The Texas incident reminds me that we must all be advocates for those less able to advocate for themselves. As advocates, we should be aware of past injustices, learn from our experiences, and be proactive in seeing that the past will not be repeated.

In future blogs we will examine alternatives to institutionalization. We will have several guest  bloggers who will describe solutions that offer favorable living situations for their family member who has a disability.

What solutions have you found or learned about? What questions or concerns do you have? Share with us!

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