J. Harold Zook autographed copies of his book, “The Eagle Soars: A Story of Triumph Over Disability,” on Saturday, Feb. 21, in Martin Chapel of the seminary building at Eastern Mennonite University.
Zook, a 1959 EMU graduate, was named the 2002 “alumnus of the year.”
The Oley, Pa., native was born with a degenerative disability that greatly limited his mobility. Never able to run, to walk normally or to get up if he fell, he learned, through the wisdom and encouragement of his
parents, to compensate for his physical limitations and was able to make a full
contribution to work on the family farm.
Following two extensive surgeries, Zook was sent to what was then Eastern Mennonite College against his will by a wise father where he studied to become an English teacher. The year after graduation, he endured two severe innovative operations where foot bones were cut to allow him to walk with less pain.
Persistence and determination propelled Zook into becoming head of the English department and then vice principal of Indian Valley Middle School, Harleysville, Pa., where he served with distinction in spite of his continuing muscular deterioration. For the last 10 years of his career, his mobility was limited to a motorized cart. The school, largely due to Zook’s efforts, was cited as a National Blue Ribbon School.
Former students, parents, staff and administrators testify that Zook “demonstrated his faith, love and belief in the divine in every person,” reported James Payne, his EMU roommate who nominated Zook for the alumni award. Payne and his wife, Marian, were present at the book signing. The couple, who live in the greater Richmond, Va., area, are major benefactors to the CTP program at EMU and assisted Zook in preparing his book manuscript.