The president of the University of Scranton, the beloved leader who returned to campus this summer after seven years away, revealed today that he is battling Lou Gehrig’s disease.
In a video message sent to the campus community, the Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., said this spring he began to experience weakness in his hands and arms and loss of grip.
The disease, officially known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. ALS weakens muscles and impacts physical function.
Doctors caught the disease early in its progression and started to treat the disease aggressively, Pilarz said. He said he has had no additional symptoms or side effects since treatment began.
Pilarz, 59, served as university president from 2003 to 2011, leading the school through its largest expansion. The university announced in March 2017, that he would return to the campus this summer, after serving as president of Marquette University and Georgetown Preparatory School.
In the video, Pilarz said he will continue to work and wants to become a spokesman for ALS.
“It’s a much misunderstood disease, and so far as I can help talk about it and help people come to clarity, I’m very willing to do that,” he said.
An average of 15 people are newly diagnosed with ALS, which is more than 5,600 people a year, according to the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit ALS Association. About 30,000 Americans may be affected by ALS, according to the association.
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