Despite a Rare Neuromuscular Disorder, Duquesne Student, With a Little Help From Mom, Rises to the Top

Grant Stoner does not want his disability to define him or dictate his future.

Though he was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II at the age of 13 months and by adolescence had lost most of his motor skills, the Duquesne University senior was determined to go to college.

Numerous hospital stays have marked his five years on campus, but still Stoner soared in the classroom, earning a 3.8 GPA. His mother, Claudia, attends all classes with him to take notes, as Stoner can't write, type or feed himself and is confined to a motorized wheelchair.

His achievements will be recognized on Friday, May 12 at the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts Diploma Ceremony, where Stoner is being given the Liberal Arts General Excellence Award.

"I was shocked when they told me," he said. "I thought they would have given it to someone who has done more than me."
It is that humility that makes Stoner stand out, said Mike Dillon, associate professor of journalism and multimedia arts.

"His optimism and perseverance in the face of profound challenges have made a tremendous impression on his peers," Dillon said.

When tasked with finding and producing a story in Brookline for his magazine journalism class in 2015, Stoner chose to take the fact that the neighborhood is full of hills, steep curbs and has few ramps to give readers a glimpse of obstacles to mobility faced by disabled residents in that community. Dillon said it is just one of many examples of Stoner not letting his disability hold him back.

He will continue his education in the fall, entering the public history graduate program at Duquesne.

"I love it here. Everyone has been so kind to me. It's like a family."

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim. 

It's time for bigger goals
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