Many people in India don’t see the value of teaching disabled children, whose handicaps are often perceived as a sort of spiritual penalty for ancestral sins. Yet despite the lack of understanding back home for his career choice, Pavan John Antony remains laser-focused on special education.
Pavan was one of six College of Education doctoral graduates at WSU’s fall commencement, where he was honored as the college’s highlight graduate.
So how did this determined fellow find his way from Kerala to Pullman? With the support of John Brewer, a retired WSU professor of German. John tells the story:
“I first met Pavan in 2003, when I went to India to distribute 330 wheelchairs to needy persons, a project funded by Rotary Clubs in our district. At the time Pavan was managing a school for children with disabilities. He was assigned to me to be my guide during the wheelchair distributions in seven different venues, which took at least two weeks.
“Pavan was a bundle of energy, full of ideas for raising funds and helping the children with disabilities in the school. The founder of the school suggested that Pavan would benefit greatly if he could experience what was being done for disabled children in other countries. I therefore offered to sponsor Pavan for one year at WSU, provided there was a course of study that would broaden his outlook and enhance his abilities in the special education field. Although I sponsored Pavan only for his first year, he continued his studies on the graduate level, leading to a doctorate in education.
“Pavan lived in my home for four and a half years, and I have followed his intellectual growth with deep interest. His work with Professor Paulette Mills and others in the College of Education has revolutionized his conception of special education, and I have no doubt that he will one day return to India and make substantial contributions to implementing humane, inclusive policies of education for all children, including those with special needs.”
Like so many WSU College of Education doctoral graduates, Pavan heaps praise upon faculty, including Paulie Mills. During the stress of prelims and dissertation writing for his Ed.D. degree, he says, “I could call Paulie at any hour and say `Hey, I’m freaking out, I don’t know what to do.’ ”