From article in On Campus newspaper, September 6-12, 1982
Henry Schreiner first got turned on to physics as a high school student in Midland. When he went on to college, he took more physics courses because they always seemed easy.
By the time Henry was a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, he had decided to major in physics even though some of his counselors tried to dissuade him. Physics is a demanding field, they told him.
But Henry was determined.
Now, 10 years later, be has a PhD degree from The University of Texas at Austin, and administrators in the physics department are almost certain that Henry is the first totally blind student to earn a doctoral degree from their department.
Henry, who prefers to be called Hank, is a firm believer that "blind people should try to do whatever they want to do.”
"'They have abilities like anyone else,” says Hank, who was blinded when he was 12 by a virus that damaged his optic nerves.
Today at age 30, Hank is a confident and personable young man, tanned by the summer sun and muscular from years of intramural wrestling. And, like many other August graduates, he is job-hunting, hoping to find a position in physics research.
His field is elementary particle physics, an area of basic science that seeks to understand the most fundamental constituents of matter and energy. He was drawn to theoretical particle physics principally because of Dr. Duane Dicus, an associate professor of physics at UT who became his dissertation advisor.
‘He Listens To Tofu'
"I respect the kind of physicist he is," explains Hank. “He is easy to talk to. He listens to you and you don't feel dumb talking to him."
“I treated Hank like any other student,” says Dr. Dicus. "He was a good student and he is a good physicist. He never asked for any favors.”
Hank didn't ask for any as a teenager, either. Where he went to school in Midland, no special classes existed for handicapped students. He had to make it right along with his sighted classmates.
Hank believes that in his case “it was probably an advantage not to have had special instruction." It helped develop his independence. He readily admits, however, that he was fortunate enough to have had cooperative teachers.
"I have never used a Braille textbook in my life," Hank says, noting that he had found Braille textbooks were not the most efficient learning means for him.
Terminal Had ‘Some Quirks'
He managed his studies by hiring people to read his textbooks to him and by tape recording class lectures. Most of his written assignments would be dictated into a recorder and then transcribed by a typist. Patty, his wife of one year, has helped with the proofreading and preparation of his dissertation.
“The biggest source of frustration while he was working for his PhD,” says Hank, “was a Braille computer terminal that sometimes wouldn‘t work."
"The terminal was really a mixed blessing because it allowed me to do the work myself," he says. "l didn't have one at first so I had to hire someone to read the print-outs to me. But it cost me time."
He explains that the terminal had "some quirks," like occasionally ripping up the paper in the printer or inserting an extra dot of Braille here and there which would wreak havoc with his calculations.
But to get away from contrary terminals and mind-bending physics problems, Hank would turn to physical workouts. He has been a wrestler since his undergraduate days in Norman and jogs to stay in shape for the sport. He‘s also run in the Capital 10,000, an annual 6.2-mile race in Austin that attracts runners from across the country.
Is being blind a handicap for his athletics?
"Not much,” says Hank matter-of-factly.
Carpentry is another source of pride for the young physicist. He has fashioned a table and a chest with an oak inlay top and looks forward to the days when he will have more space to work than what his small apartment affords.
Does he use power tools for his furniture-building?
“Well, yes, l do,” says Hank. “But I don't like to. They're too noisy.”
—JOYCE POLE On Campus, Sept 6-12, 1982, p-12
Friday, August 27, 1982
From Henry Schreiner, Jr. 's internet site:
Author Dr. Henry F. Schreiner, Jr. graduated with High Honors from Oklahoma University in 1974. He went on to earn a PhD in physics at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Schreiner worked for over fifteen years for the US Navy as a research physicist and oceanographer, receiving numerous achievement awards, including: The award for the Outstanding Employee with a Disability, for both the Office of Naval Research (ONR)—1988 and Chief of the Naval Oceanographic Command (CNOC) – 1994, and Special Commanding Officer recognition awards for achievements in computational modeling,1986, 1988, 1994. Hank, as he is known to his friends and family, has had a variety of interests and activities: he won 18 out of 21 wrestling matches while in graduate school, taught Sunday School, ran in four marathons, and built a house in the Texas Hill Country. He and his wife, Patty, have two sons, Henry III and Kaysen. Dr. Schreiner now resides in the Texas Hill country, devoting himself to full-time writing.
Henry F. “Hank” Schreiner, Jr. Photo Album