Brattleboro Reformer article, October 27, 2013
During the summer between his junior and senior years of high school in 1984, Phillip D. Rumrill Jr. was just an ordinary teenager looking forward to finishing his secondary education with his friends.
But that all changed when the Bellows Falls Union High School student developed Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, a degeneration of the optic nerve that results in poor central vision.
“I went from having normal vision and playing on the baseball team to not being able to read the headlines in the newspaper,” he told the Reformer, adding that he now has 20-600 vision, whereas that of the average person is 20-20. “The school was wonderfully accommodating. I didn’t want to go to a school for the blind. I wanted to stay with my friends.”
The Westminster native turned this adversity into motivation to help others with similar hardships. After earning a doctorate in rehabilitation, he eventually became the director of Kent State University’s Center for Disability Studies, which was recently awarded a $2.3 million grant from the United States Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The money will be used for a five-year project intended to ease the transition into college and, later, the workforce for people with traumatic brain injuries.