| Meeting Special Needs
Family Gift to SPU Benefits the Mentally Ill
Like many a promising student, Luke Dickinson began his studies
at Seattle Pacific University eager to earn a degree and make a
life for himself. But six weeks into his sophomore year, it all
came crashing down. Luke was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Ahead
was a lifelong battle against mental illness.
|Jacqueline and Lew Dickinson
Far from his family and home in Alaska, Luke was hospitalized
in Seattle. Though placed on medication, his condition worsened,
and he dropped out of school. The illness had only begun to take
its devastating toll.
We were fearful that our child would become a street person,” says
Lew Dickinson, Luke’s father. “About a third of the
homeless population in the United States is mentally ill.” Separated
from their son by distance and the demands of the family business,
the Dickinsons were at a loss as to what to do.
Former SPU Alumni Director Dick Frederick, familiar with the Dickinsons’ plight,
went to visit Luke, encourage him and help him find the specialized
care he would require for the rest of his life. “I have a
daughter with similar challenges, so I can empathize,” says
Frederick. “I felt it would help Luke to have a support base
during the frequent peaks and valleys common to his illness.” Frederick
maintains that connection today, meeting with Luke monthly for
dinner and accepting his occasional help around the house. Luke
has also worked part-time on campus.
The vital link forged with
Seattle Pacific moved Luke’s parents to consider the similar
needs of other families with loved ones suffering from mental disorders.
The Dickinson Fellowship Program in Community Mental Health and
Prevention has now become a reality at SPU through an initial gift
of $250,000 — part of a long-term financial commitment by
the concerned family. Other individual and family donors have
also contributed to the project.
The Dickinson Fellowship will support selected students in psychology,
marriage and family therapy, and the health sciences through tuition
scholarships up to $8,000 and extra mentoring opportunities related
to chronic mental disabilities. It will fund faculty development
grants, community workshops and conferences, and training to help
faculty and staff members identify issues of chronic mental disability
among students on campus.
The University is also expanding its asset management through the
Seattle Pacific Foundation (SPF) to include special needs trusts
that provide for some help to long-term victims of mental illness.
The Dickinsons rest even easier knowing that particular value
to the church. By consulting with church leadership and laity, and
providing them with educational materials and assistance, Brown
sees the day when the church will more effectively come alongside
individuals and families struggling with mental disabilities.
SPFC collaborates with the School of Health Sciences (SHS) to teach
undergraduate and graduate students that engaging the culture involves
service “to the least of these.” “The SPU Nursing
Program focuses on treating the whole person, including mental
as well as physical dimensions,” says Lucille Kelley, dean
of SHS. “We treat the family as well as the patient. Our
graduates are recognized for their high-tech and high-touch skills.”
Because of Seattle Pacific’s strong academic programs and
the generosity of people such as the Dickinsons, the University
is well-positioned to impact the area of mental health, says Bob
McIntosh, vice president for university advancement. “This
has tremendous potential for impact on families and the community.”
— PHOTO BY ERIK HILL
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