Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge honors former professor

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 8/22/2014

When Derek Chappell first heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a viral activity that has taken over the internet as well as Ottawa, Dr. Ronnie Averyt was the first person that crossed his mind. Averyt, a long time Ottawa University professor who passed away in July of 2005, suffered from ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” — which is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord resulting in the inability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement, according to the ALS Association website. Chappell, a former OU student, was one of several students who had a special relationship with Averyt.

“Everybody called him ‘Doc,’” Chappell said. “I remembered when I was a kid here and I ended up at OU and he was a professor of mine. He was a very good friend and very beloved in the OU community by the students. He was tough, but he was fair and always funny.”

When Derek Chappell first heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a viral activity that has taken over the internet as well as Ottawa, Dr. Ronnie Averyt was the first person that crossed his mind. Averyt, a long time Ottawa University professor who passed away in July of 2005, suffered from ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” — which is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord resulting in the inability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement, according to the ALS Association website. Chappell, a former OU student, was one of several students who had a special relationship with Averyt.

“Everybody called him ‘Doc,’” Chappell said. “I remembered when I was a kid here and I ended up at OU and he was a professor of mine. He was a very good friend and very beloved in the OU community by the students. He was tough, but he was fair and always funny.”

Averyt was a professor of history and political science at OU from 1961 to 1999, serving the university for thirty-eight years.

Chappell, an Ottawa native, is now an attorney at 313 S. Hickory St., Ottawa, and runs a voice-over business from his home. He, along with some of his OU classmates, saw first-hand the effects of ALS when Averyt was sick, he said.

“He was the first one that popped into my head because it was such a debilitating disease,” Chappell said. “To see what happened to him physically with this debilitating disease was just horrible. Here’s a guy who was full of life and the life of the party and it knocked him down to next to nothing.”

Chappell dedicated his ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to Averyt, he said. The Ice Bucket Challenge is sweeping social media across the nation and involves people video recording themselves dumping large buckets of ice water on themselves and challenging friends to do the same in an effort to both raise awareness and donations to the ALS Association in Washington D.C. Donations as of Friday have reached $53.3 million as opposed to $2.2 million at this time last year, according to a news release on the ALS Association website.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is a very positive use of social media, Chappell said, and he stands 100 percent for it.

“I’m very well versed in social media myself,” he said. “I know there are a lot of people out there who don’t like social media and there are a lot of reasons not to. There’s a lot of hazards for kids, but this is one of those reasons of how it can and should work. Just the fact that one person challenges another and everyone wants to see it, you know, it is a great thing.”

Donations for the cause may be sent to ALS Association online at www.alsa.org/donate

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