Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dedication. Perseverance. Honesty.

Rarely do I encourage people to "stop what you're doing and read this article."  It's possible you won't like what I recommend...or that you're doing something even more important (like brain surgery or grief counseling or canning tomatoes).  

However, I encourage you to stop what you're doing and read Sally Jenkins' article about Pat Summitt - the greatest coach in women's college basketball history who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  

Oh, and grab a few tissues as well.

Last Thursday, Summitt, Barnett, and her 20-year-old son Tyler, who is a junior at the University of Tennessee, met with Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Athletic Director Joan Cronan to inform them of her condition. Barnett warned Summitt that contractually school administrators had the right to remove her as head coach immediately. Instead, Cheek and Cronan listened to Summitt’s disclosure with tears streaming down their faces.
“You are now and will always be our coach,” Cheek told her. With the blessing of her university, she will continue to work for as long as she is able.

What's most amazing to me is her ability to be honest with the world about her disease.  It's easy to stigmatize people with an illness like dementia...especially people with high-profile jobs.  Kudos to her for telling her story, and for the university for standing by her.

Also, she has an amazing 20-year old son by her side:

“I followed her everywhere growing up,” Tyler says. “I followed her on bus rides, airplanes, in gyms and in locker rooms all over the country, and I thought she taught me everything she had. But she saved this lesson, to always come out and be open, to not be scared, to have the courage to face the truth like she’s doing.”

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