When they received an orange tote bag containing samples of the study aids that Virginia Tech Services for Students with Disabilities provides some of the young men and women it assists, both Regina Aultice Steeneck and Lee Steeneck were impressed by its usefulness.

Then the Southport, N.C., couple realized the bag was also full of thank you cards from students who had relied on the study aids, and they were moved by the gesture.

“It was very heartwarming and something we totally did not expect,” said Regina Steeneck, who along with her husband had made a generous donation to support programs for students with disabilities at their alma mater.

A fund the Steenecks established is helping provide the study kits and other resources, including software in the special services lab in Newman Library, Livescribe Pulse digital pen recorders, a therapeutic group for students with Asperger's syndrome, and financial aid for students who might not be able to afford the testing it takes to document a learning disability.

In order to receive any assistance from Services for Students with Disabilities -- which is part of the university's Division of Student Affairs -- students must present official documentation of a disability. Roughly half the students who receive assistance are not diagnosed until after they begin their studies at Virginia Tech. Just how many students go undiagnosed -- and unassisted -- for lack of testing is not known.

"There may be geniuses out there," said Lee Steeneck, who earned his bachelor's in mathematics in 1970. "You can name any number of famous people who were nurtured beyond their disabilities to become eminent in their field. ... It's important to allow a student to reach his or her full potential."

Helping students overcome their disabilities has been a longtime passion of the Steenecks, who spent their careers in Connecticut.  Regina Steeneck -- who earned her bachelor's in English in 1970, along with minors in mathematics and computer science -- is a former board member of the Connecticut Association for Children with Learning Disabilities. She and her husband are still members of the organization.

"We know the need far exceeds the money that is supplied for this cause," Lee Steeneck said. "Many people may not recognize the impact of what it means to be learning disabled. … This is a significant, important area to support, and we hope that the more exposure the area receives, the more people will designate some of their giving to [Virginia] Tech to this cause. There are some very good people working in the department [that assists students who have disabilities]. We’re just happy to be of service.”



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