by Blythe White
Every spring, a select group of about 80 students are chosen from the top five percent of the MSU freshman class to carry on the tradition of assisting MSU students with disabilities through their involvement with Tower Guard, a sophomore honorary and service society. Members are chosen based on strong character, leadership, and academic excellence.
Founded in 1932 by May Shaw (MSU First Lady) and officially named Tower Guard in 1934, Tower Guard is the oldest continuously active MSU-based student organization on campus. Its members’ main function is to complete 120 hours of volunteer service in the academic year, assisting MSU students who are visually impaired or have another reading-related impairment. Their time is spent reading exams and/or translating textbooks and other print materials into an accessible format through their partnership with the MSU Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD).
Through the ceremony known as May Morning Sing, the group upholds the tradition of gathering incoming members and their families at Beaumont Tower in the early morning for a surprise induction ceremony. This year, the May Morning Sing took place on a chilly morning in April.
Tyler Dubois, a Mechanical Engineering major, was the 2017-18 Tower Guard President, leading the group along with the Executive Board of 11 other sophomores. He was pleasantly surprised to be inducted in the Guard, “due to the high quality of applicants that are invited.” Even so, Tyler was motivated to take on a large role with the organization, and greatly enjoyed his time on the board, as they grew together in vision and leadership, and planned social and fundraising events. Over time, they figured out what they needed to accomplish and worked with RCPD staff to ensure Tower Guard was meeting standards.
For Dubois, the most rewarding aspect of the Tower Guard was working with a partially blind engineering student registered with the RCPD. Tyler says, “This student took weekly Fluid Mechanics quizzes throughout the fall semester, and I volunteered to help him with one of the quizzes by chance. After we finished taking the quiz, the student told me how nice it was to have another engineering student help him with an exam because I could explain the diagrams and units in ways that made sense for him. Over the course of the school year, we became good friends. Making a new friend while serving the RCPD has undoubtedly been the most rewarding aspect of working with Tower Guard.”
When asked what people can do at MSU to be more inclusive of persons with disabilities, Dubois suggests, “The most important thing to remember is that everyone at MSU is a person and everyone should be treated the same way. Students that are registered with the RCPD are no different from everyone else at Michigan State. Most of the students I have met have to embrace their disabilities and they can benefit from Tower Guard and the RCPD's assistance, but many of them don't define themselves as students with disabilities. They are students who are at MSU to obtain their degree and achieve success.”
Michael Hudson, Director of the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities states, “Tower Guard is service in action that brings together Spartans helping Spartans. The outcome is unmistakable, students with disabilities grow in capacity and those without disabilities gain valuable insights that last a lifetime.”
Tyler is grateful for his sophomore year on the Tower Guard, and says, “This experience has impacted the way I see service, leadership, and character in a way that I could have never expected, and I will be forever grateful to Tower Guard for forming me into the man I have become.”