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Math Professor reflects on college years, parent's influence for 'Inside Higher Ed'

September 26, 2014

This blog post was written by Professor of Math Rosemarie Emanuele for insidehighered.com.

When economists model decisions made over time, we often assume that people have a good sense of how much time they have in their life and can make decisions based on that knowledge. While this makes the math work, it is, of course, is not usually the case. I found myself thinking about lately as I recalled the journey of a couple I have known all of my life.

They stood at the altar on a Sunday in May in the early 1960s, making promises that they would keep for over 50 years. He was a veteran who had returned from duty overseas that had kept him mercifully far from the conflict that raged in Korea. She was a sheltered daughter of Italian immigrants, whose father’s business depended heavily on revenue generated on Saturdays. They had therefore found the one church in the area that was willing to perform a wedding on a Sunday. They stood there and promised the congregation, God, and, most importantly, each other, to stay together “till death do we part.”

In the 1960s, no one was surprised when a baby arrived in less than one year, a daughter that they named after a deceased relative. Surely another child would join them soon. However, that child took a long time to arrive, and when she did show up, she came too early in a pregnancy and was too tiny. At the baby’s one year check up, the pediatrician taught them a new word; “Cerebral Palsy.”
It was a word that they refused to let define their younger daughter, and, before such approaches were popular, they employed techniques taught by physical and occupational therapy to help her live as typical a life as possible.

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