Fifty years have sped by, haven’t they? I won’t be at the reunion to catch up, but wanted to share a few reflections and many thanks with classmates and others reflecting on reunions.

When we were in school, students with disabilities were just starting to be integrated (as we called it then) into public schools. In many ways it paralleled the situations described in Hidden Figures. As the first blind student to graduate from the Kalamazoo Public Schools, I felt the fear of failure, the need to break barriers, the pressures of being a role model, and the dual minority statuses of being both blind and a woman. High school teachers gave me role models of people who bloomed where they were planted. They cared about their students and in most cases tried to accommodate my learning differences long before there were laws requiring it or courses to teach them how to do it. Fellow students gave me friendship, help when requested and relatively little bullying. I was lucky enough to find my niches, like chess club and honors classes. I was a nerd before the word was invented.

I went off to Michigan State, scared stiff about being able to make it. My dream of being a physicist morphed into being a clinical psychologist. Those skills of finding friends and a niche and giving my work 110% effort honed in high school carried me through a rewarding career. I worked at four universities as a faculty member, administrator and psychologist. In retirement, I’ve focused on giving back to the community by serving on boards, guest lecturing, writing three books and advocating on disability issues. Partly because I didn’t have children to raise and educate, I’ve been able to start some philanthropic projects including a statue in honor of guide and service dogs, a pet food program to take pet food and supplies to elderly and disabled in the community, some awards for children’s books and good journalism about disability issues and a fund called Access Eau Claire to help local non-profits meet access needs of their participants. In retirement I’ve gone back to playing some bridge, taken up Trivia Crack with a vengeance, joined four book clubs and become more active in my parish. I love having the time to connect with people over a cup of tea or a Facebook post.

Living with blindness and starting in middle age with fibromyalgia has been challenging, but also rewarding in many ways. I wrote my most recent book Occupying Aging: Delights, Disabilities and Daily Life to share tricks of the trade with the 50% of people over sixty-five who will develop disabilities. Among other things, I’ve learned much about interdependence—both giving and taking help. I’ve come to have pride in and gratitude for the full life I’ve had, disabilities included. I’ve learned to notice the positive, and find the humor in some of the tough interactions around my disabilities. Patience with myself and others as we try to be humane with each other is still a work in progress for me.

To have a little fun with the Billboard Top 100 songs for 1967, in closing, I send out “To Sir with Love” to our teachers. I’ve got to “Tell It Like It Is”, I’ve got “Respect” for each of you. We each went “Up, Up and Away” in our own way. I hope each of you can say “My Cup Runneth Over” as I can. “I Can See for Miles” and I see each of you “Groovin’” into the next part of life. I send all my best wishes to you.

I’d love to hear your “Reflections” on your fifty years!

schneiks@uwec.edu