Student Spotlight: Marty Lewis

Marty Lewis

Marty Lewis
Major: Management

Marty Lewis has his fair share of challenges. He was born with Cerebral Palsy and severe hearing loss. He uses hearing aids and, oftentimes, a translator to help him communicate.

But for all the obstacles he faces, Lewis said he’s not so unlike other students.

“Everyone has varying levels of disability,” he said. “Disability doesn’t mean a negative connotation. It’s just that we each face different obstacles and have different strengths and weaknesses.”

Despite a dire diagnosis by doctors who said he wouldn’t be able to walk or talk, Lewis successfully transitioned from a self-contained classroom to College of DuPage, earning his associate’s degree in 2000. Following graduation, he transferred to Northern Illinois University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Management and Human Resources.

Retired COD psychology professor Russ Watson, who would regularly invite Lewis back to the College to speak with students, said that while Lewis may have taken nine years to earn his degree, the success lies in the achievement, not in the process.

“If you think you’re having a bad day, take a good look at someone who’s overcome a lot of obstacles,” Watson tells his students. “It really puts things into perspective.”

Childhood can be difficult for the non-disabled, and Lewis said his often was more difficult because students teased him for the way he spoke or the way he ran. Cerebral Palsy impacts motor skills, meaning Lewis’ motions weren’t as fluid as those of his classmates. It was up to Lewis, therefore, to overcome the negative impact of teasing and take risks to achieve his goal of a college degree.

“In life, each and every one of us needs to take risks to achieve,” he said.

When pulled from his COD classroom in 1998 to speak to another class about his experience as a student with disabilities, Lewis said he was terrified but excited about the opportunity. He took the chance, risking embarrassment, and found that he enjoyed public speaking.

Lewis took a similar chance when deciding to attend College of DuPage.

“I had always been in self-contained classrooms and, to be honest, I needed that foundation,” he said. “It took me nine years to get my degree, but years from now, who cares? Does it matter how long it took? I did it.”

The alum credits his parents with his success. A doctor and nurse, they refused to accept Lewis’ early prognosis, instead encouraging him to excel and enlisting the help of various therapists to ensure their son had the same opportunities as other children.

“I never imagined being anything less than they are,” he said of his parents. “That’s not saying I want to be a doctor, but I will be successful at what I choose to do with my life. I wouldn’t have achieved what I have without them.”

Lewis applies the same risk-taking strategy to his other interests. While he may have been mocked for the way he ran as a child, he always enjoyed running and has completed full and half marathons.

“If you really want something, go for it,” he said. “We might all have some setbacks in life, but do the things you can do.”

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