Allie Williams faces all the usual challenges of life as a college student — plus the challenges that come with spinal muscular atrophy. Her wheelchair is empowering but not limitless.
“Two inches can keep me from a world of opportunity,” Williams said.
“This chair can hop over a six-inch gap, but it’s stopped by a two-inch step or a doorway two inches too narrow.”
The music performance junior sometimes encounters unexpected challenges working toward her goal of becoming a music teacher. But she was recently bolstered by support as the inaugural recipient of the Janice C. Jones Endowed Wheelchair Scholarship.
“I checked my email just before bed and I saw the message,” Williams said. “I was
like, ‘Oh. Wait, what? This happened? What?’”
Megan Pitt, Williams’ academic adviser in the Department of Music, nominated her for the award.
“Allie works so hard,” Pitt said. “She has dealt with so many challenges in her life, and she just keeps coming back. She has so much courage and bravery, and I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of this scholarship.”
The scholarship honors Janice Jones, a 1972 family relations and child development alumna who died in 2017 from complications related to multiple sclerosis. Her husband, Brent, and sister, Gay, created this scholarship.
“I am so grateful for the generosity of Brent and Gay, who I met at the College of Arts and Sciences Awards Banquet,” Williams said. “They were really sweet, and we email now a little bit.”
One of Allie’s favorite performers is Ali Stroker, the first wheelchair user to win a Tony Award. Stroker was named Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Ado Annie in the Broadway revival of Oklahoma!
“Ali is very talented and has done so much even while fighting all the accessibility issues stacked against her,” Williams said. “She deserved to win the Tony, and that win magnified the fact that even in such a program, where there is lots of funds, prizes and fame, there is not lots of access. They knew she was nominated and she was performing during the show, and there still wasn’t a ramp onto the stage.”