Johns Hopkins evolutionary theorist
Steven Stanley is one of
four people receiving awards this week for overcoming their
learning disabilities and forging successful careers despite
Stanley, a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, will be honored with an Outstanding Learning Disabled Achiever Award from the Lab School of Washington.
The school, which serves learning disabled children and adults, chooses a few people each year to honor with the awards. Past recipients include Ann Bancroft, Tom Cruise and James Earl Jones.
At the age of 56, Steven Stanley is widely recognized for his work tracing the history of life and ecosystems. His theories about evolution and extinction have sparked debate around the world.
Nine years ago he learned that he has attention deficit disorder, a condition that makes it difficult to study and memorize. Although he has always excelled in analytical thinking, the affliction forced him to study twice as hard as other students in high school and college, and he was often teased about being absentminded.
"I worked five and a half hours a day just to try to memorize stuff," he says. "I would get C's in history automatically because I couldn't memorize dates. I'd get C's in algebra sometimes, or in arithmetic when I was younger because I was careless."
Later, as a student attending Princeton University, he found that the only way he could study effectively was to shut himself in his dorm room.
"I didn't know why, but I just knew that was the only way I could get anywhere," says Stanley, who later went on to earn a doctorate from Yale University and rise to the top of his field.
He said that his message to youngsters who have learning disabilities is to hang in there because the most difficult hurdles are at the beginning of their educational careers.
This year's other award recipients will be actor, director and producer Henry Winkler; magician and illusionist Jonathan Pendragon; and U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy from New York. They will receive their awards during a 7:45 p.m. dinner on Monday at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.
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