As Provost Terry King took the stage to present the platforms guests, he looked at all the eyes in the crowd, and all but two looked back.
Not much would set Dr. Tom Weidner’s appearance apart from any other Ball State University (BSU) faculty member as he walked down the aisle of the summer commencement ceremony, except that he walked with Cate, his seeing-eye dog.
He stood alone, clutching her leash and waiting by the door. The commotion from the post-graduation celebration startled the Labrador Retriever, who had begun to bark. Weidner reached down and stroked Cate to calm her down. From a distance, he looked like a man and his dog, but Weidner’s blue, offset eyes revealed more.
With a retinal disease called Retinitis pigmentosa, Weidner progressively lost his vision over time. He has been working with seeing-eye dogs for 23 years and with BSU for 22 years.
“I developed a variety of skills and techniques for teaching,” Weidner said. “My cooperative students regularly help me in setting up PowerPoint slides in the classroom.”
Although being blind has not impaired Weidner from his career, the new workplace initially presented difficulties when he first came to BSU.
“The greatest challenge was adapting to rapid change and needing the energy and ambition of staff and faculty,” Weidner said. “But now I enjoy the services of BSU in both small and large ways that I can promote development and success.”
He has seen success in various realms, being BSU’s chairperson of the School of Physical Education, Sport, and Exercise Science and a professor of Athletic Training. With a Bachelor and Master of Science and a Doctorate in Philosophy, Weidner has published numerous articles, books, papers, and lectures.
Speaking from experience, he encourages aspiring students to attend local and state meetings and seize on-campus opportunities.
“The academic major is a microcosm of the profession,” Weidner said. “To truly learn, engage in professional activity outside of the classroom.”