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A quiet stream runs over stones of different colors, shapes and sizes. The once rough stones now look like shiny pebbles. On the surface, the stream appears soft and gentle, but its powerful undercurrent can sharpen and cut solid rock over time.

"When I picture Lou, I think of a stream of water. He's a strong silent leader, but his impact runs deep," said Carlita McCombs, a graduate assistant in the Office Disability Services. Water is one of the most flexible substances, but the strongest in the end. As Director of Disability Services, Lou Hedrick has influenced the lives of over 400 persons with disabilities in the JMU community. Lou treats every student as a unique individual with a variety of skills and abilities. He looks into the eyes of each student and listens very loudly.

"Lou treats every student who walks through our doors like they are the only student that he has seen that day," says McCombs. Once Lou understands a student, he gives them eyes to see and discover their own gifts and encourages them to be self-advocates. Lou puts the student's needs at the core of everything he does.

"He is committed to providing an equal opportunity for all students so that they can fully experience and participate in all that is going on here at JMU," said Scott Rogers.

Gina Anzuini was in a tragic automobile during winter break of her freshman year. Gina was in a coma for 3 months and went through 8 months of rehabilitation. Gina, now a sophomore, says that Lou helped her to see how she could use this struggle in her life to encourage others that are going through rehabilitation.

Anzuini appreciates Lou's role in her life because he believes in her. "He doesn't do things for us, he provides us with the support and resources and trusts us to do things for ourselves. It is very comforting to know that he's there."

Lou makes every student feel valued and understand the important role that they fill on this campus.

"I think that Lou's compassion and tenderness helps students to feel immediately at ease. I think that many students see Lou almost like a father," said McCombs.

Lou, who worked in the Virginia Department of Rehabilitation Services upon graduation, admits that his first love is JMU. "I love coming to work everyday," he says as his bright blue eyes light up. "Everyday is different and I always come home feeling inspired."

"Lou is the perfect example of a learning professional," says his supervisor, AVP Randy Mitchell. Lou is constantly striving to learn new things and share his love of learning with others, especially his co-workers.

Lou met Ellen, his true love, as an undergraduate at JMU, 16 years ago. "She got up really early on the first snow day of the season. She raided my suite in Weaver Hall with some friends and hit me in the head with a snowball," he said, as he began to blush. Lou and Ellen have three children, Kathryn, 13, Andrew, 11, and Ryan, 5. "Life is full for us," says Lou as he tells me about his son"s baseball games and the Church bible study that he leads for young couples.

I sit for a moment in silence. Then, I think of a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. "It"s not the length of life that counts, it"s the depth of life." Through a single interaction with Lou, you can see the depth and richness of his relationships, his heart and his faith pouring out of him.

Emerson sat beside streams that quietly transformed stone. It was nature scenes like this that convinced him an enlivening spirit resides in all things. And it"s a man like Lou Hedrick that could convince him the same is true for human beings.

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