It’s never too late to achieve a goal. The key is to be persistent and remain focused.
For 84-year-old Ron Robert nothing could stop him from getting his college degree — not even Alzheimer’s disease.
Ron was diagnosed with this brain disorder in 2015. The former radio and television reporter explained he struggled initially when he got the diagnosis, but chose to go to school as a “personal experiment that has succeeded by setting an example.” And what an example it has been!
For the last four years, Ron has taken more than 30 college courses in the areas of history, political science and cross-disciplinary studies at King’s University College in London, Ontario, Canada. His hard work paid off as he recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree.
“It’s such a wonderful feeling,” the graduate said. “It gives a lot of people hope that they can live, they can still live a good life with Alzheimer’s. There will come a time when I won’t be able to, and I fully expect that. But in the meantime, I’m living a full life.”
While his condition worsened during his four years of school, he believes that the regular mental engagement helped slow down the disease’s progression.
“My short-term memory is terrible… but my long-term memory is not bad,” he said. “It’s actually improved.”
Ron’s wife Catherine Cornelius saw his persistence and hard work up close. She couldn’t be more proud of him.
“He worked hard,” she said. “I definitely believe that his focus on his studies stopped his Alzheimer’s from progressing.”
In 2019, while he was still a student, he spoke to a group of medical students about how to interact with Alzheimer’s patients. More than anything, he wanted them to know that the patients are so much more than their diagnosis.
“You have no idea how much of an effect you have,” Robert told the students. “When you’re dealing with this kind of thing as doctors, two keywords are kindness and patience.”
Ron’s accomplishment has been a true testament to the importance of lifelong learning. Jeff Preston, one of Ron’s professors, is simply moved by his student’s achievement.
“We have this perception that people with disabilities like Alzheimer’s are wholly incapable,” said Jeff. “I think what Ron has shown is that all sorts of people can succeed in a university classroom when provided with the right environment and support to nurture success.”
Ron is grateful that his teachers provided a learning environment where he could learn at his own pace and still keep up with his lessons. His diploma solidifies a 60-year dream of attending a university.
His recent walk across the graduation stage is just the beginning for Ron. He plans to continue his education and pursue a master’s degree researching ways to improve life for those living with Alzheimer’s.
Talk about a great role model!
Share this story of inspiration to congratulate Ron on his graduation.
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