Fulfilling dreams

Michael Daniels honors his late son, Patrick, with a $25,000 matching gift to help Wright State students with disabilities

The family of the late Wright State alum Patrick Daniels helped create an endowment to ensure the personal attendant station can continue to provide essential services to students with physical disabilities.

Patrick Daniels surpassed everyone’s expectations.

Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy — a disease that causes progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass — when he was in the first grade, Patrick was using a wheelchair by the time he was a fifth grader.

While Patrick was only expected to live into his late teens or early 20s, he was determined to pursue a college education.

“His mom and I weren’t quite sure that we wanted to let him go,” said Patrick’s father, Michael Daniels.

As the family began their college search, they initially found only one school a couple of hours away from their Pittsburgh-area home that could accommodate Patrick’s needs. But that college congregated all of the students with disabilities together, and they thought Patrick would be too isolated and would not be able to enjoy the full college experience.

Daniels’ brother, who was a minister in Beavercreek at the time, was aware of Wright State University’s outstanding reputation for serving students with disabilities and suggested a visit to campus.

“The Office of Disability Services was extremely accommodating in answering any questions and concerns that we might have,” Daniels recalled.

Patrick was enthused about Wright State after spending time on campus and Daniels and his late wife, Margaret, felt more comfortable with Patrick being at Wright State since family members would be nearby.

“We had a support group if there were any issues,” said Daniels.

When the family attended new student orientation, they found out that Daniels’ brother was transferring to a church in Dover, Ohio. Even though their safety net was gone, they moved forward with their plans for Patrick to attend Wright State.

Patrick began taking classes at Wright State in 1996 and quickly adapted to college life. He lived in an on-campus residence hall during his first year and then in a nearby apartment.

“As the years progressed and his needs progressed, Wright State was able to meet every one of those modifications in lifestyle that were required,” said Daniels. “There was never a time when his needs were not met.”

Fellow students who served as Patrick’s personal attendants were key to meeting his needs. They helped him with getting in and out of bed, showering and dressing. They also provided assistance to Patrick as he ate his meals.

Patrick was also able to utilize the personal attendant (PA) station, which is operated by the Office of Disability Services and located in the Student Union.

The personal attendant station gives students with physical disabilities the personal care services they need to physically attend college. Station staff members provide assistance with restroom use, transferring in and out of mobility devices, clothing challenges and basic maintenance of mobility devices.

“It was a seamless experience for him that brought unbelievable comfort to Margaret and me, knowing that he was in good hands and being taken care of,” said Daniels.

Patrick Daniels’ father, Michael Daniels, is a member of the Wright State University Foundation Board of Trustees.

In 2000, Patrick graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

“Patrick enjoyed Wright State,” said Daniels. “It was a wonderful three-plus years of his life.”

Patrick returned home and went on to earn his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. After graduation, he worked in the litigation department at Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney, Pittsburgh’s third-largest law firm.

The young man who was only expected to live into his early 20s had overcome the odds. He enjoyed a wonderful college experience, graduated from law school and became a viable person in the workforce.

And he lived until the age of 31.

After Patrick’s passing in 2009, the family established the M. Patrick Daniels Fund at the Pittsburgh Foundation. The fund supports causes and organizations that were near and dear to Patrick’s heart, including Wright State University.

Along with creating the M. Patrick Daniels Scholarship for students registered with Wright State’s Office of Disability Services, the family has provided financial support for the personal attendant station.

Daniels was a lead donor to a recent campaign to create an endowment for the station, so Wright State can continue to provide these essential services, free of charge, to future generations of students.

Daniels is offering a match for all gifts to the personal attendant station, up to $25,000. That match includes gifts made by Wright State faculty and staff during the annual Campus Scholarship and Innovation Campaign.

Daniels credits Wright State with giving Patrick a springboard to a rewarding and fulfilling life. He hopes his matching gift will help provide students with the same opportunities that Patrick had and encourage new students to enroll at Wright State for the Fall Semester.

“The PA station gives the students a sense of safety and relief, knowing that there is somebody there to support them,” said Daniels. “At the same time, it allows them to pursue their dreams and interests.”

Along with his matching gift, Daniels — who also serves on the Wright State University Foundation Board of Trustees — has made a bequest in his will to the university.

“It’s a legacy gift,” he said. “Long after I’m gone it will continue to support those fine amenities at Wright State forever.”

After meeting several recipients of the scholarship that bears Patrick’s name, Daniels has witnessed firsthand the impact his gifts have made.

“A gift supporting their needs is a heartfelt gift. You see these students with life challenges that have so much energy, so much talent, so much willingness to pursue a dream,” said Daniels. “My hope would be that this match helps them fulfill their dreams.”

To make a gift to Wright State’s personal attendant station, visit wright.edu/give/PAstationfund.

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