Stephen Hawking Visits with DO-IT Scholars Again
DO-IT Scholars and other students with disabilities had some special time with world-renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking at the Pacific Science Center on April 14. Hawking was in Seattle to deliver a public address on the possibilities of time travel.
The DO-IT program co-sponsored his appearance with The Institute for Science, Engineering, and Public Policy. Twenty students were treated to free tickets to the evening lecture. But Hawking also found space in his tight schedule to chat privately with DO-IT Scholars and other youths with disabilities for the second time in the last three years. The visit was highly publicized, garnering front page coverage in both major Seattle newspapers, stories on all three local network television news shows, and a mention on CNN, the national broadcast news network.
DO-IT Scholars who attended were impressed with Hawking as a scientist and a person. Hawking has the nerve disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), uses a wheelchair and travels with two nurses. He conversed with the students and delivered his evening address by using a computer-based voice synthsizer. He holds the same chair in physics at Cambridge University in England once held by Sir Isacc Newton and works from 11 a.m. to the early evening each day, correcting papers, seeing students, attending lectures, and writing. He is well-known for his dry wit and answered many questions with humor. He began his evening lecture with a limerick:
"There was a young lady of Wight,
Who traveled much faster than light.
She departed one day
In a relative way,
And arrived on the previous night."
DO-IT Scholar Todd asked Hawking about his personal life. Hawking replied that he is married and has three children, one of whom works at Microsoft and was present at the gathering. Matt, a DO-IT Scholar who is deaf, asked through an interpreter if Hawking has experience communicating with those with hearing impairments. Hawking answered that he uses the computer screen mounted on his wheelchair to communicate with his mother who cannot hear the synthesized voice.
Priscilla, a DO-IT Scholar who also attended the event, shared her experiences with everyone on the DO-IT electronic mailing lists:
"Hi All, I had the pleasure of being one of the lucky ones to meet with Stephen Hawking, plus got to hear him speak at his "Space & Time Warps" lecture yesterday. Let me tell you, I'm amazed at what he can do and what he's accomplished, in spite of his challenge with ALS. He's such a great role-model and a very inspirational person. I don't know what else to say, except that Dr. Hawking left me speechless... See how special we all are to be part of DO-IT and get wonderful opportunities like this? After all, these things don't happen everyday. Thanks DO-IT!" *Priscilla* <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Susanna, age 11, came all the way from Spokane to be part of the group. Her mother talks about the visit.
"She took the article from the newspaper back to her classroom at Jefferson school in Spokane, Washington and used the information and her impressions to educate a great number of students. Susanna also was so pleased to meet the students there and to see that there are many ways to succeed and to see the incredible attitude of both Hawking and the students able to attend. Susanna was able to understand that in the long run the human spirit can overcome anything if you continue to choose to. She was proud and pleased to be able to come. Sue SSweeney@gonzaga.edu