Brianne M. Jones
childhood illness instilled a sense of urgency in Elienne Lawson.
As an adult, she believes the Eagles song Get Over
It embodies her attitude towards life: Dont
waste time. Just do. And do well. And do much. And live richly.
age 10, after relocating from southern California to New Jersey,
Lawson developed viral encephalitis, which left her comatose for
three weeks. She awoke blind and deaf. Her sight was later restored,
but Lawson never regained her hearing. My lives in California
and New Jersey were worlds apart, she said, but my
life in New Jersey forced me to become stronger faster.
Lawson is as strong as they come. She maintained a 3.9 grade point
average as an Echols Scholar, focusing on art history, studied
abroad in Rome and was named to Phi Beta Kappa.
with such academic accomplishments under her belt, Lawson feels
most proud of the relationships she fostered with her professors.
They taught me academic humility and curiosity and
they taught me joy and now they are my friends. Many
professors touched Lawsons life but she believes Katharine
Maus, Allan Megill and Lydia Gasman opened her eyes to new ways
of thinking. Every lecture was an adventure, Lawson
day she attended those lectures aided by a court reporting system
that allowed her to read transcribed words on a laptop computer
almost instantaneously. Outside of class, she functioned like
most other students. I insist on learning! [In that respect]
I was a particularly tough case for U.Va. to accommodate, but
[they] didnt need to accommodate my private life,
being deaf, her unique academic journey involved learning several
foreign languages including Latin, French, Italian, German and
American Sign Language (ASL). Although modest about her influence,
Lawson was pivotal in getting ASL approved to fulfill the foreign
language requirement. She was pleased that a passionate speech
she made convinced a group of faculty members that ASL should
be considered a legitimate language. Other people worked
on that for years, she said. I just kind of stood
up and had a beautiful moment.
moment was perhaps a result of Lawsons supportive upbringing.
She credits her parents with shaping her fearless approach to
life. I was raised to speak my mind to be seen and
heard at all times, she said. [As a result] Ive
got a lot of guts. I am not afraid to do anything.
recently finished an internship at Sothebys auction house
in New York City. She will study Contemporary French Art at the
Courtauld Institute in London and hopes to become an international
art lawyer. Until then, she says, I suppose Ill keep
doing what I always try to do Live richly. Live much. Just
M. Jones is a sociology major who also graduates May 20. She wrote
this article for an upcoming issue of the Arts & Sciences