On September 1, 2014, Carleton University lost an extraordinary first year Bachelor of Science student, Thomas Sorensen. Thomas passed away from a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. He was an intelligent and caring person inspiring many throughout his life. His life was selflessly devoted to helping others and spreading awareness for disabilities. Thomas achieved his dream of attending Carleton with hopes of one day studying viral vectors to cure various diseases. He was the first student with a permanent disability to go through the faculty of science.
In the words of Thomas’ brother, Jamie…
Eighteen years is a beginning. The beginning of adulthood, of starting one’s life away from the constraints of societal pressures to go to school, and be a part of a system of limitation. At eighteen years, the world is your oyster and you are free to pursue any path you wish to take. My brother Thomas passed away at eighteen. However, his eighteen years were not by any means average. Thomas had a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. And though he was physically confined to a wheelchair from an early age, his mind was brilliant and limitless. He was defined by his disability, but not in the way you would think. Thomas utterly refused to let his disease serve as an excuse, and instead wore it prominently for the world to see.
Throughout his life, Thomas was passionate in his quest for disability advocacy. He would never turn down an opportunity to educate anyone who was willing to listen, attending countless events and charity fundraisers as a speaker and representative. Thomas would not see life challenges as such, but rather as opportunities to prove they could be overcome. He would not avoid or even find a way around obstacles, but rather charge through them head on. As high school was wrapping up, Thomas was determined to confirm his independence and decided to pursue an education at Carleton University. Thomas’ dream was to study viral vectors as a means to cure disease. He successfully petitioned the government for funding to allow him to attend the University outside the province, which he deserved.
While Thomas’ story is inspirational, there is more to it than his accomplishments. Thomas was an extremely caring individual. He would always find time for his friends and family, and was never afraid to introduce himself to someone new and include them in his life. He was full of wit, able to make anyone smile on their worst days, and was not one to complain about the problems he was facing in his own life. Whether it was determination or sheer stubbornness, there is no denying his internal drive to make the world a better place. Even in his final hours, he was not ready to go. Not out of fear, but out of an undying will to accomplish more. It is the hope of our family that this scholarship is a means for someone to assume the mantle Thomas has started. Eighteen years is a beginning. The beginning of a legacy of Thomas Sorensen.
The Thomas Memorial Scholarship will provide financial support to an undergraduate student with a permanent disability who is proceeding from one year to another in any program of study or starting their first year of study at Carleton University. The award will be granted annually, on the recommendation of the Paul Menton Centre and an application by the student will be required. Eligible recipients will be Canadian citizens.
This fund was endowed in 2016 in loving memory of Thomas Sorensen by his family and friends.
Thomas had big dreams, was a true advocate for persons with disabilities and devoted countless hours volunteering and fundraising for various charitable organizations. He would never turn down an opportunity to educate anyone who was willing to listen.