Monday, September 21, 2015

Remembering a Remarkable Young Man

Meeting amazing students is one of the great joys of working at Vol State. Jon VanDoran was truly a stand-out on campus. He may be best known in a public way for his ability to walk on his hands for distances. It was just one of the many things he learned to do as a result of  being born prematurely. Jon had a blood clot in his spine that left him paralyzed for the first year of his life. Even after his legs started working again, miraculously, it was with greatly diminished strength.

Jon died last week of a brain tumor. He was a student at Tennessee Tech, which was the next step in his journey, after graduating from Vol State in 2013. 

Jon walked around the Vol State campus using crutches, and only using a wheelchair when it became absolutely necessary. His reason for doing so was something that defined him, as he told us in an interview in 2012.

“My parents were very old fashion and they weren’t willing to take it easy on me,” VanDoran said. “I wanted to use my wheelchair and my father wouldn’t let me. They just wanted me to develop the discipline to be successful. They wanted to push me hard, but not too hard. Their big challenge was finding that balance.”

His drive to succeed helped him earn a second degree black belt in San Soo Kung Fu. He also built a motorcycle that he could use without his legs. His dream was to help kids with disabilities, by creating new adaptive technology. His mechanical engineering studies provided him with the tools he would need. Jon knew from experience that adaptive technology is often cumbersome and clunky.

“Kids want something that is cool. I want to develop pieces that kids would be proud to have.”

There are many of us here on campus who were both shocked and saddened to hear of Jon's passing. He touched many lives.

"Jon was an inspiration to all who knew him," said Parris Powers. "Truly a remarkable person and a great student while at Vol State"

"I have no doubt that when I retire and think about all of the students I've had, Jon will still stand out as one of my favorite people I've ever had the pleasure to teach," Pete Melvin said. "He was a good student, but it was much more than that - he was an inspiration. Jon didn't let his disability hold him back physically or psychologically. I think he viewed it as an extra challenge, which he triumphantly overcame again and again. That problem-solving drive led to his pursuit of an engineering degree, with a vision of designing mechanical accommodations to help others achieve more out of life."

This info on services for Jon comes from his family. We wish them the best in this difficult time. Jon will be fondly remembered here at Vol State.

The memorial services for Jon Ironman VanDoran will be held in two locations. At Presley funeral home in Cookeville Tennessee on Saturday, September 26, there will be a visitation at 3 PM and a service at 4 PM followed by a potluck picnic at Cane Creek Park in Cookeville at 6 PM. All are invited to the picnic and encouraged to come fellowship with us. The second service will be at First Baptist Church in Pulaski Tennessee on Sunday, October 4 with visitation at 2 PM and service at 3 PM followed by a potluck at the church. 

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