Blind history professor earns Ph.D

Stephen Kissel teaching a class at St. Louis University. Kissel lost his eye sight to congenital cataracts bur recently earned a Doctorate of History.
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At St. Louis University, Stephen Kissel is passionate about teaching U.S. history.

"What it was like to walk in their shoes, how they adapted to their changing world," he told us.

He helps his students see the past even though he cannot see his students. 

Kissel was born with congenital cataracts and limited eye sight. Growing up meant he would eventually be go blind.

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"It was kind of more of a question of when, not if," Stephen Kissel explained.

Though his eyes didn't work well, he never lost sight of his goals, like becoming a straight-A student and an Eagle Scout — the highest achievement in the Boy Scouts of America.

"You're supposed to complete all these merit badges and obtain the rank of Eagle scout by the time you're 18 before you're an adult," said his youngest brother Mark Kissel. "And he did it before he was 16,"

He even saw the light when his world when completely dark during his senior year in high school.

"It takes a very special kind of person to be able to come out of that in a positive way," Mark told us. 

We asked him if there was ever a thought of why me?

"If there was, it wasn't for very long," he told us.

An obstacle for some was just a stepping stone for Kissel. After graduating with honors at McKendree University in Illinois, he came to St. Louis University for his Masters Degree. All on his journey to teach.

"His situation makes him more attentive to the different ways students learn, so he's a very empathetic teacher," said SLU history professor Lorri Glover.

And he's not just teaching college students. 

Working with the non-profit Lighthouse for the Blind, he's helped to assess accessibility for the disabled at venues like the Fox Theater.

"He completely understands what it's like to have some vision, low vision and no vision and so that perspective he has is like none other," said John Thompson, the President of the Lighthouse for the Blind.

They say when you lose one of your senses, your others become stronger. Stephen Kissel's strongest sense right now must be his sense of accomplishment. Just this month, he earned his Doctorate, which in it's own way was a lesson to us all.

"We all have obstacles in our lives that we struggle with," he said. "Nothing is impossible if you have the faith and determination."

A blind man with vision.  Dr. Stephen Kissel showing us all that you don't need your eyes to follow your heart.