News, Fall 2015

Supporting Disability Services and the Academic Resource Center

Weldon family The Weldon family celebrating Whitney's graduation weekend at her Senior Ball in May.

All first-year students face challenges when they go to college. Will they make new friends? Can they learn to manage their time? Whitney Weldon (C’15) had an even greater challenge: Could she successfully navigate the Hilltop in a wheelchair?

Whitney, who exudes courage, determination and joy, credits Georgetown’s Academic Resource Center (ARC) and its staff for much of her success here. But even with her optimism, Whitney recalls her first year as “tough and eye-opening.” The Academic Resource Center became Whitney’s ally, assisting her with all aspects of accommodation and accessibility.

“Whitney radiates energy and cheerfulness. She knows how to advocate for herself and possesses an incredible work ethic,” recalls Jane F. Holahan, the center’s director. “She lights up a room with her sense of humor.”

A Gift That Keeps Giving
Following her graduation, Whitney’s family—her parents, Bill and Hillary, and her brother, William—made a $100,000 gift to establish the Whitney Weldon Endowed Fund—and gave Whitney a role in planning it. The gift, to the Academic Resource Center, will be used to enhance the center’s operations and programming, specifically disability support services.

When she was nine years old, Whitney was diagnosed with an extremely rare connective tissue disorder, Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP), which is characterized by the abnormal growth of bone in soft tissue, causing muscles, tissues and ligaments to develop into bone. FOP progressively disables the body as new bone fuses joints and creates immobility.

By her senior year in high school, Whitney faced significant physical challenges due to her condition. Worried about her safety, her parents told her she would need to use a wheelchair when she went away to college. A young man from the Weldon’s hometown of Morristown, N.J., was attending Georgetown and using a motorized scooter. “This gave me comfort,” she says. “I felt like if he could do it, so could I.”

A Resource on Campus
Georgetown’s Academic Resource Center serves students with a variety of disabilities and challenges, providing them with the tools and guidance they need for academic success. In addition to disability support, the center runs academic tutoring services and the writing center. In her years of working closely with the center’s staff, Whitney noticed that “they are very busy all the time. They are so good at getting things done and helping everyone, but when you’re a small office in a large university, I think it can be difficult to be noticed and recognized.”

“With the gift, I hope the staff can now invite more people in, to create more opportunities for more students who might need a little help,” Whitney adds.

Whitney has moved on to her next academic challenge, applying to a graduate program in corporate communications. Now living in New York City, she’s looking forward to connecting with the many Hoyas there. “I just wish I could take the ARC with me,” she says. “They made Georgetown comfortable for me. I’m grateful my family and I can do something to help them out.”