Courtesy Myers family
Alumna and graduate student Paige Myers was reserved, but a fighter dedicated to standing up for herself and others. She actively worked to spread awareness of the challenges those with disabilities face, and brought that passion with her to Case Western Reserve University.
Myers passed away on Sep. 3 in her apartment near CWRU from Friedreich’s ataxia, a degenerative neuromuscular disorder, which she was diagnosed with at an early age. Services for her were held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sep. 9 in Akron, Ohio. She is survived by her parents, Anne and Chris Myers, and her younger brother, Jared Myers, who is a third-year student at CWRU.
Paige was an active member of the CWRU community with a strong personality. As a child, she was “determined to stay on her feet as long as she could” after her diagnosis, using a walker until her junior year of high school. She was imaginative and always knew of her own intelligence, holding dreams of being the President of the United States alongside her childhood best friend. Shayla Birath, a childhood friend since kindergarten, recalled how she and Paige were always in the middle of an adventure.
“Her real dream was to … end up working in a nonprofit setting for disease or disability advocacy … using her smarts and her drive to really bring awareness and support for people who were suffering,” said Chris, her father. “It was something that really came together when she got to college.”
Her family requests that donations be made in her honor to help defeat Friedreich’s ataxia at www.curefa.org.
Paige graduated from CWRU this past May with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Many students felt pride and happiness at commencement in May, when Myers received a standing ovation as she walked to accept her diploma.
“[CWRU] was really great at supporting her,” said her mother, Anne. “When she decided to [walk] for her graduation, everybody was so supportive of her doing that … she just loved it there, every summer she just couldn’t wait to get back”
She returned at the start of the semester to begin her graduate studies in public health. She wrote about her excitement about beginning the graduate program in the “best school in the whole world” on Facebook on Aug. 28, days before passing away.
Paige was an active member of the Women in Science and Engineering Roundtable (WISER), the Civic Engagement Scholars Program and a founder of AccessAbility, an organization that aims to help students with disabilities adjust to college life.
“The WISER team would like to offer heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Paige Myers,” said Heather Clayton Terry, Associate Director of Women in Science and Engineering and advisor for WISER. “[We] were very fortunate to have Paige as an active member. [She] was a dynamic young woman who exhibited confidence, resilience and tenacity at every turn. Paige never hesitated to attend a WISER event, work with her fellow members to advocate for women in pursuit of STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics or Medicine) degrees or offer a heartfelt smile in passing.”
That same smile uplifted many of her fellow students. Maia Delegal, fellow alumna and graduate student, said “Paige was always warm, friendly, and welcoming—smiling at you every chance she got. She was always so helpful and wonderful.”
Delegal, among many others, is thankful for Myers’ work toward the acceptance of students with disabilities.
“She spoke … about how to be your own advocate—knowing the meaning of fighting for her rights since she was young. I’ve learned so much from her. I aspire to be like her. And when she rose up from her wheelchair and walked during graduation, I cried of happiness and pride,” Delegal said.
Her advocacy and involvement on campus earned her the Harriet Levion Pullman Award, given to second year students for outstanding leadership, scholarship and service, in April 2015.
“She was always very smart, very strong, very stubborn,” Anne said. “There were a lot of people who probably would not have fought as hard as she did to do the things that she wanted to do.”