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Jerome Max “Bruzzy” Westheimer Jr. ('65)
In 2022, the UNT Neurodiversity Training Program received funding from UNT alumnus and Oklahoma businessman Jerome Max “Bruzzy” Westheimer, Jr. (’65). The funds will support the development and implementation of comprehensive training modules to equip faculty and staff with the knowledge and techniques to facilitate successful interactions with neurodivergent students.
Neurodiversity refers to natural variations in the wiring of the human brain. These range from being a single variation in thinking or actions to more involved neurological diversity, usually warranting a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome and/or learning differences such as dyslexia and dyscalculia, according to the UNT Neurodiversity Initiative website.
Lauren Mathews, a clinical associate professor in the UNT College of Health and Public Service’s Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology department, expressed deep thanks for Westheimer’s support.
“After we talked, I could tell that he was passionate and caring,” she says. “We’re just so grateful he wanted to learn more and support the work we’re doing.”
Westheimer has a long history of giving to UNT, and was bestowed the 2019 Wings of Eagles Presidential Award in honor of his transformative impact on campus.
Westheimer is a member of the UNT Diamond Eagles Society, through which members help fund projects that positively impact the UNT campus community. He first learned about the Neurodiversity Initiative in November 2021, when it was one of the projects vying for funding from the Diamond Eagles Society.
While another project was selected for funding, Westheimer remained interested in supporting the neurodiversity training program.
“Once you understand it, you better understand that all of us need to work together to help them,” Westheimer says. “This is something that really needs to be done because it’s going to benefit so many people, and that’s what we’re after: benefitting people.”
The first module for the training program will begin filming in April, with Westheimer taking part in an introductory segment.
Through the UNT Neurodiversity Initiative, Mathews and her colleagues have worked tirelessly for years to expand campus efforts that serve the neurodivergent community. These efforts include the development of other neurodiversity trainings, the creation of the Neurodiversity Professional Network, which serves employees who identify as neurodivergent or as allies and the UNT Neurodiversity Network, comprising five different student support programs.
There have been several forward strides for the Neurodiversity Network in recent years, and Mathews is happy to see the network expanding and better serving the student community.
“We want to help neurodivergent students be successful—however they define successful,” Mathews says. “Whether that’s supporting faculty in their interactions with the students or supporting the students in meeting their personal goals. That’s what we’re here to help them accomplish.”