In honor of National Disability Awareness Month, Miamian shares story of living with Goldenhar Syndrome
By Jesús F. Jiménez, assistant director of digital content
When professionals recommended that Scott Noonan ’10 be enrolled in a special needs program, his mother insisted that he belonged in a traditional school.
Born with Goldenhar Syndrome, Scott has spent his entire life exceeding expectations. In 2019, he was honored as a recipient of Miami’s 18 of the Last 9 Award, which honors outstanding young alumni for their achievements.
“When I went to Miami I wanted to prove that I belonged,” Scott said. “Getting the 18 of the Last 9 Award, I don’t know how to put into words, but it not only validated that I belonged, but it also validated that I exceeded my ability to not only be a productive person at the university when I was there, but someone that Miami could be proud of.”
From his education to his professional realm and public service, Scott and his accomplishments would make anybody proud.
In honor of National Disability Awareness Month, Scott shares his story in hopes that it can inspire others.
‘Lo and behold, I think I have’
According to healthline.com, Goldenhar Syndrome is a congenital disorder that causes certain abnormalities in the formation of the face and head and is present in one out of every 3,500 to 25,000 babies at birth.
Scott estimates having about 25 surgeries to correct his facial deformities. He was born with only one ear canal and had a steel implant installed into his skull for a bone-anchored hearing aid. The syndrome also caused him scoliosis and he had two titanium rods installed when he was 10 years old.
“I’m 34, about to turn 35, so obviously, roughly 25 years ago, being bed-ridden for three weeks and obviously having a back-brace for six months, that was probably my most intense surgery,” he said.
Throughout those struggles, Scott’s mother showed confidence in his abilities early on.
“My mother, who at the time was a single mother, pushed for me to still stay at a normal learning environment because of my personality and my intellect that she saw,” Scott said. “She felt that I could flourish in those environments, and lo and behold, I think I have.”
‘They’d be proud of me going there’
When it came time to start thinking about college, Scott had three schools in mind: Toledo, Bowling Green and Ohio State. Then, he visited Miami.
“I didn’t truly love Miami until I actually visited the campus, and when I visited the campus, it was a clear-cut No. 1,” he said.
Additionally, as a fan of history, Scott enjoyed the Greek architecture and, due to his hearing problems, felt he could excel in some of the smaller-sized classes.
Unfortunately, Scott’s ACT score was just on the fringe of Miami’s acceptance, so he was initially placed on the deferred list.
“After visiting, I wanted to go there so bad. Everyone else was kind of on the backburner and I focused solely on trying to get accepted into Miami,” Scott said. “Once I received my most recent transcript, my father and I actually drove to Miami and physically delivered my transcript in the effort to prove to them that I seriously wanted to go there. Once I got accepted, I knew that I had to go there and prove to myself that, ‘Hey, they deferred me, but they’d be proud of me going there.’”
Continuing to prove people wrong
In 2010, Scott earned a bachelor’s of arts in history, just six points shy of graduating with academic honors. He spent time as the AFL-CIO labor liaison for the United Way of Greater Toledo and currently works at the Lucas County Probate Court, which handles estates, trusts, guardianships and adoptions. He also is a city council member for Maumee, a suburb of Toledo.
Scott serves on a variety of boards and commissions including Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Toledo/Lucas County Commission on Disabilities, Toledo Police Athletic League and Goodfellows Old Newsboys.
“I think in addition to the education and the professional realm where people had the stigma about me or told me I couldn’t do something, I think running for public office, and eventually becoming an elected official, further drives home the point that I exceeded expectations for someone who’s looked at with certain disabilities and it’s kind of the old adage of continuing to prove people wrong,” Scott said.
“It’s very satisfying to me, because I feel like Miami’s proud of what I’ve done at the university and beyond.”