Excelsior College Student with Advanced ALS Presented with Special Graduation Ceremony


Excelsior College, a regionally accredited, nonprofit distance learning institution that focuses on removing obstacles to the educational goals of adult learners, today helped Ron Miller celebrate a milestone. Ron Miller, a 46-year-old ventilator-assisted resident of Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital, is completely paralyzed from the nose down and has been living with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) for the last 14 years. Miller could not travel to graduation, so the graduation, with full pomp and circumstance, came to him.

Ron Miller, at a younger age.

Ron Miller, at a younger age.

Miller first learned of Excelsior through one of his Registered Nurses (RNs), Maria Burkemper, a graduate of the College. He used eye-gaze computer technology to take classes and complete his degree. A positive role model for many, he doesn’t let life circumstances get in his way. He makes the best of the cards he is dealt. His motto is “I may have ALS, but it does not have me.”

Miller shared via his computer, “When I started using an eye gaze computer I found that it reopened doors that had been long closed by ALS. Going back to school for me was driven by several things. First, it was unfinished business. I had started college over twenty years ago but let life get in the way. Second, I decided many years ago that ALS would be just part of my life and not my whole life. I found that I could still make a difference by raising awareness and sharing my experiences with others dealing with the disease. I have always been an advocate for living with ALS instead of dying from it. My success in school helps me show others that it’s possible despite the challenges of ALS.”

Today, Congressman Scott Rigell, (R ) VA-02, provided a “commencement address” and was joined by President John Ebersole of Excelsior College, members of the college’s board of trustees, and Thomas J. Orsini, President/CEO of Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital.

“Ron Miller is an exceptional individual and his achievement in obtaining his Associate Degree in Science in Liberal Arts is an inspiring testament to the power of hard work and determination,” shared Congressman Scott Rigell. (VA – 02) “I am honored to have shared a few words at Ron’s graduation and to have joined his family and friends as they celebrated this special day.”

“Ron has a team from Lake Taylor that works with him every day, so we know how much work and determination it took to achieve this honor,” stated Thomas J, Orsini, President & CEO, Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital. “We couldn’t be more proud of him, and happy for him, in reaching this milestone.”

“I think it’s safe to say that most people here at Lake Taylor – staff, doctors, patients and their families — have heard his inspiring story.”

Ron’s family and friends, representatives of the regional ALS Association chapter and invited guests all gathered for a special graduation ceremony to witness the presentation of Miller’s diploma.

“Excelsior went to Ron because he couldn’t come to us.” said President Ebersole. “His achievement is too exceptional to not recognize and we wanted to help him draw attention to the need for research to find a cure for ALS.”