« TV depicting the law, inaccurately | Main | Getting New Prawfs Off the Ground »

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tri-4-Gey, and an update from Steve Gey

The folllowing is a press release that I thought would interest the academic legal community as well as the numerous fans of Professor Steve Gey outside the professoriate. I am also posting Steve's most recent update, which is both, and again, heart-breaking and inspiring.


Warriors against ALS Continue Battle for Ailing Professor

 

For the third consecutive year, a group of rowdy devotees are raising money on behalf of their favorite law school professor as he combats a fatal illness. Their story is one of love for a great man, dedication to a cause, and hope for the future. Competing in a triathlon is not easy, and fundraising during an economic crisis has proven difficult. However, knowing that every cent raised brings happiness and meaning to their hero’s final years keeps this team swimming, biking, and running to the finish line.  

 

In December of 2006, the colleagues, students, and friends of Professor Steven Gey received devastating news: he had developed a particularly aggressive form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Except in very few cases, the victims of this cruel disease endure slow paralysis and, eventually, death.
 
For those who know him, it is difficult to think of Professor Gey as being mortal. Sporting a thick Groucho Marx mustache, his explosive personality and endearing charm have made him a favorite at Florida State University’s College of Law since he first began teaching there in the 1980s. Blessed with the ability to speak almost as fast as he is able to think, Professor Gey’s unorthodox and impassioned teaching method has cultivated generations of students entirely devoted to him, whether or not they agree with him. As one former student, Sean Park, put it, “time was always short in his daily schedule, but whenever you had his attention, the spotlight was on you.”
 
It has been just over two years since his initial diagnosis, and the disease is taking its toll. Professor Gey jokes that being hand-fed and spending all day, every day, in pajamas makes him “feel like Hugh Hefner without the baby rabbits.” But this humor belies the truth: ALS has ravaged his body. Always wafer-thin, his weight dropped to a paltry 90 pounds at one point during 2008, prompting him to joke: “I won’t have the chance to die. I’ll just float away.” But even now, after losing control over his limbs and lungs, the kinetic fire in his eyes continues to burn mischievously. His abilities to motivate and influence those around him—the same characteristics that make him a powerful professor—have inspired a fundraising effort of monumental proportions.
 
After learning of Professor Gey’s illness, many of those who love him chose to proactively channel their grief into raising awareness about ALS. In the spring of 2007, a small group of students led by Atlanta-based lawyer Kristina Klein, a graduate of FSU law school, initially set out to raise a couple thousand dollars towards ALS research by competing in the Red Hills Triathlon in Tallahassee, where Professor Gey still resides. This modest goal snowballed into a three-year philanthropic endeavor. Over $40,000 were raised in 2007; the following year, the team doubled in size and raised another $60,000.
 
This year, the 60 members of the Tri-for-Gey III team aim to bring the total to $150,000—no small feat in the midst of a global economic crisis. With less than three weeks left until the April 4th triathlon, they are still $30,000 short of their goal, but they hold out hope that they will succeed.
 
Hope is all they have left.
 
The members of Team Gey are diverse. They are Christians, atheists, and Jews; they hail from Norton, Kansas, and Bowling Green, Kentucky. Very few are true athletes. To the contrary, many are doughy white-collar workers who, until recently, had not seen the inside of a gym since leg warmers were in style—the first time. Yet everyone who started the race succeeded in making it across the finish line. This determination evidences the formation of a positive-feedback cycle based on devotion and a sense of responsibility: the Team Gey members continue to be inspired by Professor Gey’s staunch will to live, which is in turn bolstered by the team’s determination and constant outpouring of love.
 
Orlando-based lawyer Melanie Shoemaker Griffin, a three-year Team Gey veteran and former student of Professor Gey, refers to his powers of motivation as “heroic.” She hopes that “as a result of Team Gey's efforts, I will see a cure for ALS found during my lifetime and know I played a small part in saving millions of lives.”
 
Another competitor, Atlanta-based lawyer Ranney Wiesemann, has never met him, but the devotion of co-workers inspired her to join the team. “As long as Professor Gey continues his courageous fight against ALS, I will be right there beside him,” she says, looking forward to the opportunity to meet him after this year’s triathlon.
 
It is no small wonder, then, that Professor Gey has drawn two conclusions from his experience with ALS. First, “fatal diseases are a bummer, but second (and more important), people's responses to fatal diseases make the human race look downright respectable.” In a recent letter to the team, he expressed regret that “I will never be able to repay any of you for what you've done. But please understand that if you could cash out gratitude, you would all be rich beyond belief.”
 
And yet his happiness is all the riches that the members of Team Gey seek.
 
Professor Gey’s story is a timely reminder that the ongoing debate regarding stem cell research has a very human face. Many argue that degenerative disorders such as ALS can be treated, if not cured, by such research. Never one to shy away from controversy, Professor Gey is a strong proponent of stem cell research and applauds President Obama’s recent reversal of the ban put in place by the previous administration.
 
Some who adore Professor Gey abhor the use of human stem cells for research; others roundly support it. Both wish that he could be cured. Reinforcing his legacy as an educator, Professor Gey continues to compel those who love and respect him to address and fully analyze a sensitive issue that, for the sake of comfort, they may have otherwise ignored.
 
Back in December of 2006, after she first proposed the idea of the Tri-for-Gey, Kristie Klein made a pact with Professor Gey: he would keep living as long as the team kept competing in the triathlon. He has thus far held up his end of the bargain and continues to insist that the team live in the moment. Just yesterday, he wrote: “For now, let’s all celebrate the fact that I’m still living and you are all still crazy.”
 
Perhaps they should also celebrate that their fundraising efforts have produced an immortal gift for future generations of ALS victims: hope.

 

Donations can be made in Professor Gey’s name at www.active.com/donate/Tri-For-Gey-III. Professor Gey personally receives an update every time a donation is made, and all proceeds will go to ALS-Therapy Development Institute, the world’s largest ALS research center.

 
 

Select Quotes from Professor Gey in letters to the Tri-for-Gey team:

·         “The basic plan now is the same as it was a year ago: figure out how to deal with an ever-diminishing number of body parts, until some doctor trips over a cure to ALS while trying to develop a new and improved version of Rogaine.”

·         “It's probably safe to say that I'm on track to fulfill the usual prognosis for all ALS patients, which basically gives me the life expectancy of a hummingbird. I've just decided to act as if that's not the reality, and I'm happy to say that all of you are helping me perpetuate my self-delusion.”

·         “If you crazy people are still willing to get up at the crack of dawn and jump in a frigid lake, and then run and ride yourselves silly, then I may as well try to stick around to see what you all look like in wetsuits.”

·         Regarding his new-found freedom to watch French movies: “Indeed, my present circumstances have given me a whole new perspective on the nouvelle vague. I now find Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend oddly comforting. So you see? This whole fatal disease thing isn't all that bad after all.”

 

Informational Websites:

 

Please direct any questions to Julia Breslin (jibreslin@gmail.com) or Melanie Shoemaker Griffin (mshoemaker@deanmead.com). 

Posted by Dan Markel on March 15, 2009 at 10:30 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Funky FSU, Life of Law Schools | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c6a7953ef0112796bac6e28a4

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Tri-4-Gey, and an update from Steve Gey:

Comments

"It saddens me that I will never be able to repay any of you for what you've done." -Professor Gey.

Professor Gey, your former students are saying the same thing--I know, I am one of them.

Posted by: ARG | Mar 29, 2009 11:51:04 PM

Post a comment