Douglas Rester has had to defy medical odds and clear many hurdles to claim a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. Douglas has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, must use a wheelchair, and is almost completely unable to move and has great difficulty talking.
Most people with DMD don't survive their 20s. Douglas is 42 and proving that a goal can be achieved, even surpassed, no matter what.
After completing classes at two local community colleges, Douglas arrived at Sacramento State in fall 2003. Eight years later, he not only completed his degree but also was named the College of Arts and Letters Dean's Award Winner for his academic achievements, courage and commitment.
For most of his life, Douglas' mother served as his primary caregiver and education aide. But last year she suffered a stroke and died. Since then Douglas' father, Jeff, has assisted his son through the last stages of his education journey.
During the ceremony in which the medals were awarded, Jeff spoke on behalf of Douglas. "He says, 'I just did what I did with what I had,' " Jeff said. "He doesn't consider himself a go-get-'em achiever, although he is."
Communication Studies Chair Kimo Ah Yun said that when he asked faculty to submit nominations for the Dean's Award, there was a flood of email from professors who had Douglas in their classes. "Not only did a great number of faculty submit his name, they did it immediately, and said he was the best student in class, across many different areas."
And Douglas' influence went beyond what was being taught. "Many of his teachers say he was not only the academic leader in his class, but the emotional leader as well," Ah Yun said.
"Doug reminds us that communication occurs through many channels," wrote one of his classmates. "He has enriched our experience at this institution through insightful discussions, hard work and dedication."