Accident Victim Perseveres, Completes Music Degree

A percussionist and music major, ORee Crittenden had become a successful entrepreneur and left school in 1993 to devote himself full-time to his custom car stereo installation career. About eight years later, he was ready for a new challenge.

Though my career was doing well, I wanted to finish my degree and I was excited about being part of the music school in its new setting in the RiverCenter, Crittenden said.

But just weeks into his return to CSUs Schwob School of Music in 2001, tragedy struck. A September weekend diving accident in Pensacola, Fla. left him permanently paralyzed from the neck down.

Instead of studio practices and classes in CSUs new state-of-the-art facility, Crittenden spent the 2001-02 school year in Atlantas Shepherd Spinal Clinic, followed by a stay at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, where he learned to feed and dress himself, an important step toward learning to live independently again.

However, independent living was not Crittendens primary objective. His determination was to earn his degree.

Crittenden approached his academic adviser, music professor Ron Wirt, to help him achieve a now challenging return to the classroom in fall 2002.

Wirt, associate director of CSUs Schwob School of Music, helped Crittenden acquire and learn a cutting-edge software package named Finale. With guidance from professor Bradley Palmer, the software enabled Crittenden, with only partial use of hands, to write notes and compose, arrange and produce his own music.

Unable to resume playing as a percussionist, Crittenden turned to vocal studies. The accident led me to open myself to interesting new opportunities, he said.

The opportunities extended to Web page design as Crittenden developed content and designed pages comprising the music schools Digital Schwob site (

Supervised by Schwob School of Music Director Laurence Kaptain, Crittendens Web design work earned independent study credit.

Crittenden, a lifelong Columbus resident, will participate in CSUs fall commencement and received his bachelors degree in music on Sunday, Dec. 18 in the Lumpkin Center with his grandparents in attendance.

The graduation ceremony, at 3 p.m. will recognize approximately 380 degree recipients. Seating for guests, beginning at 1:30 p.m., will be conducted on a first-come, first-served basis. Shuttles will be available to transport guests from parking lots throughout campus.

The commencement address will be delivered by Douglas C. Pullen, superior court judge in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit. Additionally, CSU will award an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to Aaron Cohn, presiding judge of juvenile court for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.

Cohn, a World War II veteran, is regarded as a tireless advocate for childrens rights. Such recognition has been reflected in numerous awards including the Amicus Curiae Award for his 40 years outstanding service. Educated in Columbus public schools, Cohn is a graduate of the University of Georgias Lumpkin School of Law. He also studied juvenile justice at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and at international conferences in Amsterdam and in Turin.

Crittenden, along with his graduating peers, will witness CSUs honoring of Cohn. Reflecting on his own approaching milestone, Crittenden credits the CSU music schools supportive faculty and staff particularly Wirt, Palmer and Kaptain. He also cites Joy Norman, director of CSUs Office of Disability Services, for helping ensure access to services and facilities on the main campus where he completed coursework for a communication minor.

Crittenden said his immediate post-graduation objective is to briefly enjoy a break from an intensive study routine. Subsequently, he will consider options including, but not limited to, Web design opportunities and graduate studies. Long range, he said music or video production is his ideal, and maybe lofty, career ambition.

A Webcast of the graduation ceremony will be available via the fall 2005 commencement Web site at For more information, call (706) 568-2030.