Scott Smiley is a new student at Duke's Fuqua School of Business. Capt. Smiley is an unusual student in many ways. A native of Pasco, WA, he was graduated from West Point and the prestigious Ranger School. In April of 2005 the Lieut. was in charge of a Stryker Brigade Combat Team platoon in Mosul, Iraq, when a suicide car bomb was detonated sending shrapnel through his brain. It left him temporarily paralyzed and totally blind.
Within days of Smiley's arrival at Walter Reed, a civilian social worker was encouraging his wife, Tiffany, to fill out forms to medically retire him. On instinct, she refused. Through months to come, as his body healed, as he learned to walk with a cane and read Braille, he was told by doctors and therapists that his Army career was over
Scott -- earnest, outgoing and devoutly religious - has proven them wrong. With the support of his equally devout wife, he is taking advantage of the Army's new willingness to allow seriously injured soldiers to stay in uniform.
In July, Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, who had known Smiley before his injury, and whose son was his company commander in Iraq, presided as Tiffany attached captain's bars to her 26-year-old husband's uniform. (While still a patient at Walter Reed, a purple heart had been pinned to his T-shirt.)
Van Antwerp, taking a personal interest in Smiley's case, had called on colleagues -- including the Army's surgeon general and the commanding officer at Walter Reed, for help. As a result, Capt. Smiley now has a job at Fort Monroe where he is playing a big part in the development of a program for severely wounded soldiers, aiding their transition back to duty, if they choose, or to civilian life, if they prefer.
In addition, "Scotty," as she calls him, is now a MBA student at Duke with Meena Dorr serving as his "eyes." In her words, "This is the first time Scotty has studied blind and the first time Fuqua has had a blind student. So this is new for all parties involved, including me. I attend classes with Scotty and help him understand what's happening because a lot of classroom content is presented in graphs and charts. After class, we study together to make sure he understands the materials. I also administer his quizzes and exams. I read the problems to him and write what he tells me to write down. He has such a sharp mind. It's truly an amazing experience to get to know him and his family. They have blessed me so much in the short time I've known them."
Earlier Meena had said she didn't quite know why she had been chosen for this position. Well, I have a pretty good idea. She was born of Asian Indian parents who came to America when her brilliant father was employed by a major telecommunications firm in the Chicago area. She had an international upbringing, spending time both here and in India, eventually earning her MBA at the University of Chicago's School of Business where she met her husband. Her father, though past retirement age, still serves as a world-respected consultant, sharing his knowledge internationally.
Meena's brilliance, her compassion and the Christian faith she and Jeff share with their three youngsters, and the Smiley family, make it clear to me why she is doing what she does. Smiley and his wife both credit their faith with sustaining them over these past months. He has been quoted as saying, "I just thank Jesus Christ every day that I'm even alive."