A Proud Highlander Duo

The love of a mother, the determination of a daughter

By Don Bowman

"I would not be here where I am if it weren't for Radford" says Robyn Hall (left) joined by her mom, Rachel Hall '17.

In the success story fashioned by Rachel ’17 and Robyn Hall, the Highlander values — responsive, resilient and real — are a salient theme. Simply put: The Halls’ journey reflects Radford University at its best.

Rachel Hall ’17 is now the senior assistant director of advising, who guides incoming freshmen as they begin college. Robyn Hall is a second-semester freshman, who, as her mother said, “is finding her way, making progress and making me very proud.”

For neither Hall was the path easy.

Rachel, a single mother, relocated from Patrick County to Radford in 1996. Her daughter had just been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, now considered a condition on the autism spectrum. At that time, Rachel felt overwhelmed. However, things pivoted positively for them when they joined the Radford University family.

Witnessing the Halls’ situation was Patti Williamson — recently retired, but then Rachel’s supervisor in Pre-Major Advising. At Williamson’s suggestion and with Radford’s support, the Halls connected with the clinicians in Waldron College of Health and Human Services’ Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COSD). There, they found a team to counsel and work with them both. 

The COSD faculty has a powerful ally, the men and women of the Virginia Scottish Rite. Together, they host summer camps that provide free services to children with communications disorders and the Speech-Hearing-Language (SHL) Clinic in Walker Hall.

In 25 years, the Virginia Scottish Rite Foundation has donated over $1 million to the COSD Department to support the camps, scholarships and fellowships for aspiring speech- language pathologists (SLPs).

Robyn, with support from her mother, the COSD Department and the Virginia Scottish Rite, worked her way from isolation to engagement. Rachel found professional help, guidance and support from the COSD clinicians to help Robyn.  

In six years, Robyn grew from a camper to a camp mentor within the Scottish Rite Camp framework. She became fully engaged at Radford High School in the choir, the small animal club and as a member of the flag team and color guard.

The Halls commend Radford City Public Schools speech-language pathologist Anne Goodman and the COSD clinicians, including Pat Rossi and Diane Millar, Ph.D., as well as the graduate assistants and the aspiring SLPs, who staff the camps and work under faculty supervision in the SHL Clinic.

Rachel Hall recalled an early incident typical of the invaluable help she and Robyn found at Radford.

“When Robyn was little, she used to get so anxious about what she was going to do next that she would physically melt down — crying, kicking and screaming.  The idea of transition and change was so hard,” Rachel said. “The COSD instructors taught me about visual schedules of little pictures of what she would be doing during the day. Even though Robyn could not process verbally what the changes in the day would be, she could anticipate them by looking at those pictures. It was a turning point for us.”

Rachel reflected on the impact of the care she found and work done by Radford’s COSD Department and its Scottish Rite benefactors: “To communicate with my daughter, they taught me ways to be a creative problem solver. What they did for us, they do for so many others.”

While raising Robyn and working full time, Rachel persevered. At the urging of Williamson, Rachel completed her undergraduate degree at Radford. In 2017, Rachel walked across the Moffett Lawn stage, achieving the goal of which she encourages the young people whom she advises.

Robyn, upon graduation from Radford High School, chose Radford University and is working to follow her mother’s example. She now studies graphic arts and design in the Department of Art in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Rachel and Robyn share a deep gratitude to Radford University and its commitment to service.

In Rachel’s words: “Radford has been a lifesaver. There are not enough words to express my thanks.”

Said Robyn: “I would not be here where I am if it weren’t for Radford.”

Robyn and Rachel Hall '17

In the success story fashioned by Rachel ’17 and Robyn Hall, the Highlander values — responsive, resilient and real — are a salient theme. Simply put: The Halls’journey reflects Radford University at its best.

May 10, 2019