NMU graduate is an inspiration

NMU?graduate is an inspiration

What is more frustrating and horrific than a random physical attack in which the victim is left for dead?

Fortunately, Travis Thetford overcame that assault — not only staying alive but graduating from Northern Michigan University earlier this month.

Thetford was a former star athlete at Escanaba High School who originally was enrolled at the University of Arkansas to study kinesiology. That probably wasn’t a surprise to those who knew him since he was a self-described “gym rat with 3 percent body fat.”

Thetford left Arkansas for California where he worked for his dad, a set decorator for television shows. While camping at Big Bear, a stranger hit him repeatedly on the head, which left him with a cracked skull in three places, a disrupted pathway from his brain to the left side of his body, and being in a coma-like state for eight months.

Eventually his family returned to the Upper Peninsula, with Thetford attending Bay College before transferring to NMU.

He needed help in his schooling, however — and he got it.

For instance, Jennifer Gorton, coordinator of NMU’s Disability Services, helped Thetford receive special testing accommodations that allowed him more time to complete exams, plus take them at alternate sites.

Of course, Thetford had to put in the effort, and that he did, with Gorton stressing he was appreciative, hard-working and committed.

NMU Public Safety Director Mike Bath helped arrange door-to-door transportation across campus though Marq-Tran for Thetford.

Peter Holliday in NMU Student Support Services was Thetford’s adviser so he could take the required courses in the semesters they were offered.

Thetford also credited Barb Coleman in the NMU School of Health and Human Performance for being an “awesome professor.”

In fact, he said there were too many people who helped him at NMU to mention.

A degree, though, will get Thetford only so far. He plans to undergo intensive physical therapy to start walking, and then share his story as a professional motivational speaker or work in the health and fitness field with individuals with physical disabilities.

This would be a classic example of giving back. In fact, Thetford already has given back, serving as a volunteer at Beacon House where he stayed as a guest while receiving therapy from UP Health System-Marquette.

A person in Thetford’s situation easily could have wallowed in self-pity or given up.

He didn’t, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Travis Thetford evolves from being a former high school star athlete to a star in the arenas of motivational speaking or helping others in similar challenging situations.