John and Houston graduate

Tuesday May 7 2013

 

john pastoriusWhen John Pastorius ’13 and his guide dog Houston arrived at Lynchburg College four years ago, there were some concerns about a blind student finding his way around campus. John quickly dispelled them.

In fact, when asked about his biggest challenge, John didn’t hesitate. “The hardest part of any day is trying to get Houston up for early classes,” John said. “Having a guide dog is like having a kid.”

While John is an early riser, his dog isn’t. Houston also dislikes rainy days because he doesn’t like getting his feet wet. But he is a perfect companion in many ways. He sat obediently at John’s feet as he played his French horn or taught fellow students how a blind person learns math.

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Almost everyone on campus knows John and Houston, and people often paused to watch the beautiful yellow lab romp around the Dell when John let him off his leash for some exercise.

Despite the challenges John faces, he fit easily into the LC community. A lot of that can be attributed to his attitude.

"John is one of the most upbeat students I have ever met,” said Dr. Oeida Hatcher, dean of the School of Communications and the Arts. “He is always positive and ready with a good joke or spin on any situation; the glass is always half full.”

“I don’t consider blindness a disability,” John said, “but society does.” He has been blind since birth from nerve damage caused by leukemia. He can make out a few colors, but not much else.

John’s classmates quickly learned that his blindness is accompanied by a remarkable memory, honed by the necessity of remembering what he hears and where things are. When he played for his senior recital, for example, he had to memorize all the pieces. There was no peeking at sheet music. “You need to remember everything,” he said. “I pay attention more because I can’t see.”

“It’s neat how amazing his memory is,” said Megan Paugh ’15, who had two classes with John. “If we all had that memory, we wouldn’t have to study.”

Megan sat in to watch John teach in A.J. Eccles’ math methods class. John used circles cut into pieces and musical notes as a way to teach blind students fractions. He also asked them to wear blindfolds.

“It really makes you take a step back and say, ‘Is that going to work for John?’” said Tori Dott ’14, a classmate.

“John's lesson was really great,” Shelby Furlough ’13 said. “I loved how he connected fractions to something he is so interested in. Although I have no idea about music, he taught in a way that it did not matter. I love how it was hands-on and how he wanted us in blindfolds. Although we all know that two halves make a whole, it was different to actually feel that two halves make a whole.”

John initially thought he would major in music education and eventually teach braille. But college convinced him otherwise.

“You find out who you are,” John said about his college experience. “You find out what you want to do.”

John discovered that he didn’t have the patience to teach so he switched to music performance. Along the way, he had a chance to tune a piano and a new career path was born.

A native of Smithfield, Virginia, John will be attending a two-year piano tuning school for the blind in Vancouver, Washington this fall. At graduation, everyone cheered as John and Houston received their diplomas. After all, Houston attended every class that John did.