You might agree that George Miller a 42 year-old part-time student at Temple, leads the average hectic college life. George darts between classes and stresses over mid-terms, all while trying to squeeze in lunch. The only difference is when George is on campus and he needs a guiding shoulder if he’s not familiar the rugged Temple terrain. On our way to the Draught Horse for lunch, he grabbed onto my shoulder, and I had the privilege of being his eyes for a bit.
“Because I’m blind, I have a responsibility, just like my professors do, to work around it,” George said. “I’m here because I’m serious about my education.”
George’s trust was evident as we walked along Broad Street discussing different classes and subject matter. As the street lights changed, I let George know, and we would continue on our way. Our stomachs growled in a frenzied hunger as we made our way to lunch.
If you ever have the chance of meeting George one on one, you would be able to sense his bright personality from a mile away. He sure did put a smile on my face.
Still waiting for our burgers, we fell into a conversation about school. George had his share of experience with different schools before coming to Temple in the fall of 2003. A Pottsville native, George came to Philadelphia in 1971 to attend high school at Overbrook School for the Blind. He graduated in 1979 and went on to attend Villanova. After a short time at Villanova, George decided to take a break from the college scene.
Eventually he came back, this time taking classes at the Community College of Philadelphia in 1998. After leaving CCP, George decided to give Temple a shot and major in American Studies.
Based on his experience over the years, George said he really feels a positive vibe from Temple and the solid, brotherly love atmosphere.
“A lot of people are really open and friendly, they’re really eager to know who you are,” George said. “Everyone has a past and a background, we all have roots. These are great things to be able to share with other people.”
But George does have specific needs. Just how does Temple facilitate those educational demands? Temple’s Disability Resources and Services provide a wide array of tools for George and students just like him. Many of George’s books and tests are available in audio form.
There are also community based organizations off campus such as Blind and Visual Services located at 1400 Spring Garden St., Room 206, which can be reached at (215) 560-5700. Organizations such as these provide educational funding for students like George.
Cooperation between George and the school is intricate. “I like to be as independent as I can, but DRS provide some very helpful resources,” he said. George literally turns his ‘handicap’ into rather something of pure illusion.
Not only is George submerged in schoolwork, but he’s also happily married to his wife Tonya, and works part-time as a masseuse at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia. He plays some guitar, writes a little poetry, never misses an Eagles game, listens to everything from The Grateful Dead to Beethoven’s symphonies, and above all, loves to read. We spent some time discussing our favorite books while still waiting for our long lost burgers.
“Life just isn’t complete without a book in my hands,” George said.
Another outstanding aspect of George’s life is he also sits on the chair of North Philadelphia’s chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous every Tuesday to offer his experiences to anyone that might need a helping hand. “It’s somewhere people can just come to talk,” George said. “And if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s talking.”
After a hungry conversation about George’s life and experiences, he demonstrated how patient he can be after waiting close to an hour for our cheeseburgers to arrive. He always had a smile with a story to tell that would only end in a fit of laughter. In that hour I had the fine opportunity of learning who George really was. His life has been an unbelievable stream of ups and downs. As one of his favorite bands, The Grateful Dead claim, “even a blind man knows when the sun’s shining.” That is exactly what keeps George smiling, even when the cooks at the Draught Horse seem to be napping.
When our burgers and fries finally arrived, you can just imagine how long that food lasted. We left the Draught Horse on full stomachs and I walked George to the subway. He left me with encouraging words as we parted.
“The momentum of life’s rollercoaster works in two ways; just when you think you’re about to bottom out, soon enough you’re on your way right back up to the top,” he said.
I thought George might be quoting one of his favorite books, one of those novels you simply cannot put down. It was then I realized that it was George himself who reminded me of one of those empowering stories.
T.C. Mazar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.