Amherst Magazine

Letters

Keith Millner’s candor

“Life with Neavey” (Summer 2008) was a lovely story and one to which I can very much relate. I have two children with Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic condition that causes autism, low muscle tone, language delays and seizures. My life isn’t as I imagined it would be, though in some ways it is more fulfilling and richer than I had ever dreamed. It’s certainly not easy to describe well in the quick blurbs of the Class Notes each quarter. This article so nicely expressed the love and the challenges of raising special needs children. Thank you to Keith Millner ’92 and his family for their candor. I felt more connected to the Amherst community than I have in a long time.

Becky Shoemaker Zorovic ’91, M.D.
Sharon, Mass.

My thoughts exactly

As soon as I saw the cover of the magazine and before even reading a word, I knew from the picture of Neavey that there was something meaningful for me inside.

I am the father of a daughter who is remarkably like Neavey. While I am certain that the moving and thoughtful article in Amherst magazine will have a profound impact on all readers, I doubt it could mean as much to others as it did to me, given the uncanny parallels of what my wife and I are going through in raising our daughter, Ashley.

Unlike Neavey, Ashley, who is 7, has a fairly specific diagnosis of cerebral palsy and seizure disorder. She is immobile, nonverbal and in need of full feeding and drinking assistance. She cannot sit or crawl and has only limited use of her right hand for awkward and inconsistent grasping. Despite all of this, she is a beautiful and joyful little girl to whom we are as dedicated as Keith and Kelly Millner are to Neavey.

Keith’s words about Neavey’s effect on his life captured many of the ideas and feelings I have about Ashley and what a blessing she is to me. Thank you for sharing his family’s story with me and the broader Amherst community.

Bill Wolf ’87
New York City

Every moment of every day

We, too, have a special needs child. Cole, 19, falls under the Autistic Spectrum umbrella and has many issues. I very much appreciated hearing about how Keith and Kelly Millner are dealing with the myriad situations they face every single moment of every single day. I have a great admiration for Keith’s energy, outlook, determination and love. I know it is very difficult for people to realize that our special children do, indeed, bring us such joy and comfort. It is not easy, but it is a responsibility we happily bear and I believe God gave us Cole for a reason. We never take anything for granted and we appreciate all of the little victories that he achieves.

Sean Clancy ’78
Bal Harbour, Fla.

Breaking prison rules

Convicts punished for breaking prison rules (“Two and a Half Hours a Week,” Summer 2008)? Not to worry about bringing justice to the criminal justice system! An Amherst professor and her students alike were “angry,” according to the article, and so saw to it that the prisoner passed his course without having to complete it.

God-fearing Calvinism and [belief in] the criminal nature of man have long left the College on the Hill, replaced by an ignoble Romanticism that worships only the low and proposes that sympathy alone fill in for the other 90 percent of human virtues.

William Vesterman ’64
Piscataway, N.J.

Attack of the fruit flies

I have very fond memories of Bill Zimmerman (“The Next Stage,” College Row, Summer 2008). His intelligence, warmth and sense of humor and his willingness to join in fun and laughter with his students were always greatly appreciated.

While tending to my fruit fly colonies maintained for my biology thesis, for which Bill was my adviser, I accidentally dropped the container top, and thousands (maybe even millions) of fruit flies made successful efforts to explore my mouth, ears and nose and down my clothes. I was feeling rather “creepy crawly” and disgusted with myself at letting the flies get back at me for desiccating them. Perfect timing: in walked Bill. He took one look at me spitting, swatting and squishing flies in my clothing, and he started to laugh. Soon we were both laughing. The event definitely made my thesis more memorable.
 
Many thanks to Bill for his knowledge, support and friendship, which made the education of his students at Amherst superior.

David Stoeckle ’68
Blacksburg, Va.

Correction:
He Typed. She Typed., by Amy Turner and Mark Van Wye ’90 (“Short Takes,” Summer 2008), was published in 2008, not 2007, and is 240 pages long, not 226. In addition, the correct Web site to hear the authors talk with Dr. Drew Pinsky ’80 is www.HeTyped SheTyped.com/News.html.