Common Read Author Inspires Students to Find Happiness

The Charger Bulletin

By Donovan Linder

Kevin Michael Connolly, author of Double Take, the selection used as the 2012 Common Read at UNH, makes it clear in his memoir that obstacles don’t have to define you.

Connolly, who was born without legs, spoke to the Class of 2016 as part of Convocation during Opening Weekend.

. Though Connolly is by definition handicapped, he does not consider himself to be. “You are only disabled if you are incapable of overcoming the challenges presented in any given situation,” said Connolly, who also led discussions with faculty members and student leaders.

Upon graduating from college, Connolly traveled to 19 countries with the aid of a skateboard, taking more than 30,000 photographs of people’s reactions to seeing him. His “Rolling Expedition” has been featured at the Smithsonian Institute and Kennedy Center, and his story was featured on ABC’s “20/20” and National Public Radio.

Many people would be caught staring at him or would assume that Connolly was a war veteran. His experiences demonstrated, he told the students, that “people act the same all around the world.”

For many of the first-year students, the memoir was more than a piece of writing; it was an inspiration. “I read the book more as a work of art and took a different take on everything,” said Tom Stringer ’16, a music and sound recording major from Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Several students conceded that at first they were not thrilled about having a summer reading assignment. “When I originally got the book, I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it,” said Pierce Johnston ’16, a music and sound recording major from Beacon, N.Y. “But after reading the first five or six pages, I loved it.”

Connolly’s determination and willingness to take on a challenge resonated with first-year students Amanda Heath and Nicolas Weilmann. Heath, who suffered from Lyme disease, said, “I had adversity to deal with and I broke through my own struggles.”

Weilmann faced his own challenges coming to the United States as a child and being able to speak only Spanish. “There were times when I would come home from kindergarten crying because I couldn’t talk with anybody in school,” Weilmann said. “I was different from the other students, but I found my happiness.”

Connolly, who won a silver medal at the 2006 Winter X Games, will soon start working on a series for the Travel Channel that will bring him to rural areas of developing nations to see “cool” prosthetic inventions.

“You are going to meet people who are going to challenge your assumptions and maybe even excite your curiosity,” Connolly told the students. “Never be afraid to do a double-take when it comes to your own opinions, fears, or curiosities over the next four years.”