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Senior gives back to the University

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Despite complaints by some seniors about the scaffolding around the golden dome, one senior refuses to let the eyesore deter him from giving back to the school he has called home for the last four years. Keough Hall resident Johnny Walsh recently donated $25,000 to the Office of Students with Disabilities. Walsh met with Tom Blum, senior director of Principal Gifts for Notre Dame, Monday at 1 p.m. By the end of the meeting, Walsh had given Bloom a check to the University. Walsh explained that the check was then earmarked for the Office of Students with Disabilities. Walsh said he had developed a relationship with Blum during his senior year in high school and considers him a good friend.Walsh, diagnosed with Usher Syndrome when he was fifteen, said he sympathizes with fellow disabled students. He said he is losing his sight and hearing, and he already lacks peripheral and night vision. Walsh cannot drive and is often provided with note takers for his classes. “I didn’t have note takers for every class this year, but I still managed to get through it, still did it on my own,” he said. Nevertheless, Walsh said he appreciated the services that the Office of Students with Disabilities provides for Notre Dame students. Scott Howland, project coordinator for the office, reflected on the importance of the office. There are many services, both academic and social, for students provided by the office, including accommodations in dorm rooms, extended time for tests, larger texts, sign language and special software programs, he said. “Everything is geared towards what the students’ needs are,” Howland said. He also expressed gratitude toward Walsh for his generosity and stated that he wants to sit down with Walsh and make absolutely sure the money goes to the specific causes the senior envisioned. Howland said he does not want to let the money simply go toward covering operating costs. “The office has been in existence for 10 years, and this is one of the larger gifts it has received,” he said. “I want [Walsh] to be involved in how his money will be spent.”Walsh said his intention in donating the money was to show his appreciation for all the Notre Dame community has done to help him during his time here and to set an example for other potential donors. “The University has been such a big part of my life. I owe a lot to the University for everything they’ve given me and the opportunity to go here,” Walsh said. “I hope other people consider donating to the Office of Students with Disabilities so that more students like myself can come to the University and be provided with their needs.”Walsh’s donation came at a time when some seniors are angry with the University over the scaffolding around the dome. He said he read a Viewpoint letter in The Observer last week expressing anger and frustration at the construction, but decided the controversy would not deter him from donating, something he had planned to do for over a year. “I understand that someday I might not be able to see the dome, but I’ll still always have it in my memory, and that’s good enough for me,” Walsh said. “I just want people to donate to the Office of Students with Disabilities more than anything.”