Walkers raise more than $10,000 to honor retired Professor Denise Askin, fight ALS


Courtesy/Fr. Jerome

Participants in the October 9th walk to end ALS.

Fr. Jerome Day O.S.B., Faculty Advisor

When she was teaching at Saint Anselm, Denise Askin had little trouble in reaching classroom capacity. Her energy, style and insight attracted students across disciplines in the college to her American literature classes. Last month, she demonstrated that same pull for an entirely different activity – the intense fight against ALS.

Diagnosed with the disease last year, Professor Emerita of English Askin herself, a former executive vice president and retired trustee of the college, was able to participate with her family in a walk around the lower campus common Saturday morning, Oct. 9, preceded by a rally for participants and followed by a reception in the President’s Dining Room of Davison Hall. Walkers raised more than $10,000 for the ALS Association of Northern New England, with an additional sum contributed to the Sean M. Healey Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. By denying nourishment to muscles, ALS can impede movement, eating, speaking, breathing and other functions. Drug therapy can retard the ailment, prolong survival and improve quality of life, according to the ALS Association, but there is, as of now, no cure. The ALS Association funds research worldwide in an effort to improve treatment and, in due course, eradicate the disease.

The event attracted more than 40 current and retired faculty and administration, alumni, Benedictine monks and students. During the rally, Mark Cronin, dean of the college and interim vice president of academic affairs, described the fight against ALS, commonly called Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Professors Meoghan Cronin and Ann Holbrook, colleagues of Professor Askin in the Department of English, gave her a light-hearted overview of her academic skills and interests.

A Bedford resident, Professor Askin said she was deeply touched by the generosity and support of the walkers, who have her thanks and respect.

Nancy and Dennis MacDonald and Dean Cronin organized the event with the support of Denise and Walter Noyalis, her husband, their son, Joseph, and their many friends.

“Denise, a very private person dealing with an exceedingly difficult illness,” said Dennis MacDonald, retired professor of business and economics, “demonstrated great courage in her promotion and support of these efforts to raise funds to help defeat ALS. Denise’s family worked very hard securing contributions, and her son Joe was the top fundraiser for Team Denise.”

He added that “the turnout of so many current and retired members of the Saint Anselm community and their generous contributions is a testament to the love and respect they have for Denise.”

Lou Gehrig (1903-1941), the son of German immigrants, was a baseball standout at Columbia University, where he studied engineering. Having been scouted, Gehrig, nicknamed “the Iron Horse,” had a spectacular 17 season career with the New York Yankees, until ALS ended his Major League Baseball run in 1939. He died in 1941.