Margaret A. Staton: Supporting Success

In contrasting her high school career — juggling three jobs and wrestling with learning disabilities to maintain a 3.5 grade-point average — with her time at Georgia State University, Cassidy Cain doesn’t even try to contain her enthusiasm.

The Margaret A. Staton Office of Disability Services has ratcheted down her stress level and boosted both her academic success and her happiness.

Since Cain arrived on campus two years ago, she has made the most of the office’s services for her learning disabilities, which include dyslexia, and last semester she earned a 4.0 grade-point average. Along the way, she has found a role model for perseverance and success: Margaret A. Staton herself, a GSU alumna who has worked tirelessly on behalf of students with disabilities. In the years since she graduated, Staton has given generously to the university, including the endowment that funds Cain’s scholarship.

“She’s definitely someone I can look up to and say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it,’”Cain said.

Staton, who has used a wheelchair since she was two, entered GSU in 1965, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in counseling. On campus Staton lobbied for students with disabilities, focusing on issues ranging from physical access to buildings to rehabilitation and counseling. In 1999, after Staton’s more than three decades of dedication to GSU, the Office of Disability Services was renamed the Margaret A. Staton Office of Disability Services to recognize her contributions.

One of the many people Staton inspired is Linda Mona, who received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from GSU in 1998 and is a nationally recognized expert in the field of sexuality and disability. Staton helped fund Mona’s research, and in the process, forged a mentorship with Mona, who also uses a wheelchair.

“She was very much a catalyst in facilitating and promoting research on disabilities at Georgia State, and an unexpected byproduct was this amazing mentoring relationship,” Mona said, describing Staton as a “silent angel to the community.”

Today, the Margaret A. Staton Office of Disability Services serves nearly 700 students annually. According to Rodney Pennamon, director of the office, approximately 11 percent of GSU’s 30,000-plus students have a disability.

“We serve everyone from A to Z, so that in itself is a challenge,” he said. “As the university grows, we want to stress the impact and importance of what we do on campus.”

Pennamon’s goals include securing more space if possible, increasing the staff and making sure GSU has the latest technology — technology that helps people like Eric Smith, a 2009 graduate of GSU who was also a recipient of the Margaret A. Staton Scholarship.

Though he went blind when he was a teenager, he is today an accomplished musician, aspiring jingle writer and legal mediator. Sitting in his office in a midtown Atlanta skyscraper, Smith described the technology that read his exams aloud and his struggle to learn math without being able to see.

As he worked toward a degree in history with a minor in music, Smith knew the Staton Office was always there to advocate for him. “I knew they would make it right,” Smith said. “If I needed to voice my opinion about something, they’d always hear it.”

—Contact Donor Relations Director Kim Cretors, (404) 413-3424