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Power to the Petersons

After a debilitating surgery, Dr. Dwight Peterson, a professor of New Testament at Eastern University, has spent the last four months on bed rest. He is finally ready to return to the front of the classroom, except for one thing: He needs $13,500 to pay for a power wheelchair. Through the “Power to the Petersons” program, Eastern has teamed up with Peterson and his wife Margaret to raise the funds and bring the professor back.

This will not be Peterson’s first return to Eastern. Shortly after his extensive surgery, which treated a pressure sore that had developed, Peterson resumed teaching in the fall of 2011. Not long into the semester, he had to return to bed rest as his wound was not completely healed.

However, things are on the rise for Peterson and his family. “I should make it clear that, so far, my wound is nicely on the mend,” he said. “As of now, things look pretty good.”

Peterson has been eager to get back to doing what he loves most: teaching. “There are a few students who will be taking a 4th semester Greek class with me in the spring semester. They’ll be coming to my house in King of Prussia for class. I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. The next milestone on which he has set his sights is the fall of 2012, when he hopes to bring his classes back to campus.

The strains of this difficult time have impacted Peterson’s entire family. Margaret explains that, in some ways, she and her husband have experienced a role reversal: “Dwight is the one who likes to be out and about, and I’m the one who likes to spend time alone, so we are both playing to our weak suits,” she said.

The long struggle from illness to surgery, and now to physical therapy and being confined to a bed, has been more than just a physical challenge for Peterson. “Being so sick for such a long time poses its own challenges,” he said. “I think about death more than I used to, and it’s troubling. I have more I want to do, relationships I want to deepen, and a little boy (Mark, his ten year old son) I want to see grow up.”

Nonetheless, Peterson remains grateful for those who have impacted him on this journey: “Loads of people have helped me. Various people from the music and theatre departments have helped raise money for me, and Joe Modica and Betsy Morgan have spearheaded the ‘Power to the Petersons’ fundraiser. Students have called, written and texted me, and faculty have kept in touch and visited. I feel supported and loved by the whole community. It’s quite moving and humbling to be the recipient of such deep and grace-filled care.”

Margaret is also optimistic. “We hope that gradually, with the help of the new power chair, we can find a new ‘normal’ where Dwight can do more of what he likes to do, like teaching,” she said.

As Peterson and the people that he has influenced so much remain hopeful for his recovery, the Eastern community sends prayers and hopes for his speedy return to the job he loves.

“I miss the people and the classroom. The coffee in the Jammin’ Java, the chats in the hallway and the conversations with the students. Not meetings, however,” said Peterson.

To stay updated, check out the “Power to the Petersons” Facebook page.

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