|State Journal profiles Centre triple major
RELEASED: July 14, 2005
DANVILLE, KYJustin O'Malley, who overcame a debilitating handicap to graduate from Centre College this spring with three majors, was the subject of a story in the Frankfort State Journal on June 14.
The story was written by reporter Molly Williamson, whose mother, Peggy (McGuinness) Williamson graduated from Centre in 1973. It is reprinted below, courtesy of the author and the State Journal.
The 2001 Frankfort High School graduate was either the first or among the few to graduate from Centre College in Danville with three degrees.
"Three majors is very rare," said Tim Culhan, Centre College registrar. "I don't think it's a first, but it certainly is a second or a third since I have been here20 or 25 years. It is quite an achievement. He was a very good, dedicated student."
O'Malley received degrees in English, history and religious studies on May 22. However, the accomplishment happened completely by accident, he said.
He started out pursuing degrees in English and history and met professor C. Thomas McCollough, who taught basic religion O'Malley's first year.
"I was so captivated by his enthusiasm and passion for his subject material that I continued to take religious studies courses over the course of my four years," O'Malley said.
The fall semester of his senior year, O'Malley said he found out he was two courses away from completing a third major in religious studies. So he pushed forward.
"It happened quite by accident, it was merely by chance," O'Malley said. "I did not come in with the preconceived notion that I would complete three majors. I was so captivated and moved, particularly by this professor's passion for his subject material."
However, if there were anyone who could do, it would be O'Malley, said Anita Bolen, his former math teacher at Second Street School and the woman he calls his second mother. She jokingly told him she was surprised he did not have four majors.
"He is a really hardworking young man with good goals that he strives toward," Bolen said. "He worked hard to get where he is and had to overcome a lot. He doesn't take no for an answer."
To finish with three degrees is fairly difficult, Culhan said. O'Malley would have to take five courses a semester instead of the normal four, which constitutes a full load.
Some of O'Malley's classes may have applied to all three majors, Culhan said. He said once in a while with double majors students have overlapping courses.
However, O'Malley said that only happened once or twice.
The whole experience has been "surreal," O'Malley said.
"Having not planned it and having the good fortune to kind of fall into it, obviously I am pleased to have done it," O'Malley said. "I don't want it to define me. The real work I have to do has just begun. I am in a position for social change, to change society to make it more compassionate."
He also does not want to be defined by his cerebral palsy. He said subconsciously he may have gone for the third major because he wanted to show his disability would not hold him back
He said he does not even consider himself disabled. O'Malley said everyone has something that could hold them back.
"Just some are more visual," O'Malley said. "We all have things we need to achieve in spite of. I am a testament to that. The message I hope people take away from this is that there is nothing more powerful than the will of the human spirit. The only limitations are the limitations in your own mind."
He said his disability has shaped and molded him "in profound ways," teaching him love, compassion, forgiveness and determination.
"I keep building my own success in my personal life to establish the kind of world I want to be a part of," O'Malley said. "I eagerly anticipate what awaits me in the future."
The next stop for O'Malley is a little rest. He is taking a year off before entering law school, where he plans to pursue equine law.
He said he has a "true passion" for horses and the horse industry. From the age of 2 he has ridden horses and said the animals and his therapeutic riding instructors gave him opportunities such as increased mobility, lasting friendships and a support system he would never have had without them. He said the equine community is a "wonderful group" and he is "blessed and humbled to be a part of their lives."
His love of horses is what endeared him to Bolen. She said it was a shared passion between them. However, she said as she tutored him in middle and high school math, their friendship grew.
"It is a gift to me to be his friend, I'm not sure how it happened, but it did," Bolen said. "It is a blessing and a gift."
O'Malley said the same thing.
"She is like a second mother to me, so compassionate," O'Malley said. "She has been there for me through it all and I am humbled and honored to have her be a part of my life."
In addition to his parents and Bolen, McCullough, history professor Clarence Wyatt and Herron Woods riding instructor Julie Congelton were inspirations to O'Malley. He said he was challenged by them.
He also wanted to become a better person and better the world through his classes, particularly Wyatt's class exploring America's involvement in Vietnam.
"It was particularly fascinating considering the cultural context we presently find ourselves in," O'Malley said. "We can revisit history and discern where we've been, and more importantly, where we're going. We've come of age under the auspices of terrorist activity. It allows us a period of critical self reflection so that we can create the kind of world we would like to see."
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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