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Woman blind and disabled from premature birth graduates summa cum laude


lara martone | Shutterstock

Silvia Lucchetti - published on 08/03/20

Her health conditions did not deter the success of her brilliant mind and exuberant spirit.

Italian news outlet Il Mattino recently published the story of a young woman (26 years old), Maria Chiara, blind and disabled from birth, who has just graduated from the University Suor Orsola Benincasa in Languages and International Cooperation. She earned her PhD with the highest score possible, the Italian equivalent of “summa cum laude.” We can’t help but want to send her our enthusiastic and heartfelt congratulations!

Mary’s dynamic personality

Mary (as Maria Chiara’s friends call her) faced an uphill start. She was born prematurely at only 6 months’ gestation, due to a detachment of the placenta, which caused serious health consequences: blindness and spastic tetraparesis.

In spite of her disability, or perhaps even because of it, Mary has developed many talents: She loves languages (she speaks three), and she’s been studying music, singing, and composing songs since the age of 13. Her greatest gift, however, is her exuberant spirit.


Read more:
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Doctoral dissertation in French

When Maria Chiara was born, her mother decided to leave her job and stay at home to take full-time care of her little girl. Today that daughter is an adult woman, passionate about music and writing, crowned with a laurel wreath in honor of having earned her doctorate. Maria Chiara had already started specializing in languages in high school, and afterwards she enrolled in the university for a degree, for which she obtained the highest grade with honors, as she would later do with her doctorate.

She wrote her dissertation entirely in French “from the first to the last line,” says her mother, full of pride in her daughter. Her pride is well justified. Maria Chiara defied society’s expectations and, with tenacity and perseverance, excelled academically.

Earning a degree during a pandemic

Dissertation defense proceedings during the time of COVID-19 take place online, in most cases, so as to comply with current rules. The distant feeling of the internet seems to take away some of the occasion’s special solemnity, but it doesn’t affect in the least the joy of having reached the end of such an important path and of having finally achieved the title for which you worked so hard, body and soul, even on the days when you didn’t want to study or apply yourself.

The sleepless nights for each test, studying until the last moment, going over handouts with highlighters, feeling anxiety for each written and oral exam, the books to tackle, the dissertation to write, to correct, to format … Every student encounters his or her own difficulties during his or her university years, and surely Maria Chiara will have had her own, and not only those challenges related to her disability. But with her indomitable spirit, and thanks to the encouragement of those who love her –- we’re sure that her mother’s support was never lacking -– she has reached her goal in a blaze of glory.

Now that it’s all over, and a new world is about to begin for her, all that remains is pride, gratitude, and happiness! Congratulations, Maria Chiara!


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The incredible story of how a disabled Army vet became a Harvard Medical School student

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