The Lane-McNally Scholarship is awarded each year in honor of David Neal Lane (1955-2020) who, despite his disability, diligently pursued his course of study and received several certificates in carpentry; our parents, Benjamin and Shiela Pearle Lane, who provided ongoing support for David throughout their lives, and whose savings made this scholarship possible; and Professor Peter McNally, David’s teacher and mentor at Montgomery College, who supported, encouraged, and inspired him to continue to believe in himself and his goals. The intent of the scholarship is to inspire others, especially those who face difficult challenges, to make the most of their lives.
David was born with significant disabilities, most of which stemmed from his diagnosis at birth of “minimal brain damage.” Although in 1955 not as much was known about the effects of his injuries, within a few years, several conditions surfaced — neurological, emotional, and cognitive. His cognitive and behavioral challenges made it difficult for him to attend regular public schools; instead, he received excellent care and teaching at the Episcopal Center for Children. At about age 8, he was diagnosed with epilepsy, and in his early teens, schizophrenia. He spent most of his teens and twenties in and out of mental institutions, until our parents found government and non-profit organizations that worked with David on a regular basis.
Our Parents’ Help
Ben and Shiela never gave up on David; they never stopped caring for him. Half of their basement became a workshop for David’s lifelong passion – carpentry. Even after David had his own apartment, they talked with him at least twice each day, and he had lunch with them every Friday and Saturday.
Our parents found doctors and other professionals to work with David, looking for ways to enable him to lead something close to a normal life. One neurologist in particular, Dr. Aven, prescribed a combination of medications that brought David’s epilepsy under control. This breakthrough enabled David to take care of himself – to keep track of his calendar, to learn bus routes and schedules, to take care of his own apartment, and, perhaps most importantly, to manage his own medications. From that point on, David’s growth and development took a positive turn. He continued to mature and grow until the day he died.
In his early thirties, David qualified for help from several nonprofit support programs. Threshold Services made it possible for him to live in his own apartment, relatively independently, with staff support nearby. Cornerstone Montgomery supported him with counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists for more than twenty years. These organizations made it possible for David to hold several part-time jobs, including two related to carpentry, which also contributed to his well-being. These organizations provided much of the support which kept him alive and relatively healthy.
Personal determination and persistence
David began taking carpentry classes at the Gudelsky Institute of Montgomery College in the early 2000s. One of David’s professors, Peter McNally, got to know David well enough to understand his fierce passion for carpentry, to encourage his work in classes, and to support David’s effort to keep going. David ended up taking almost every carpentry course offered, some more than once. He took most of the classes for certificates, rather than credits, due primarily to his cognitive limitations. For several years after he completed his last class, David continued to talk with Professor McNally by phone. Peter McNally was my brother’s connection to the world he loved – the world of carpentry. For his kind inspiration, as well as his teaching skills, this scholarship honors Professor McNally.
David applied his learning by creating projects in his apartment. He built sawhorses to make it possible to do woodwork on his patio. When he injured a knee, it became difficult to carry them, so he designed hinged wheels that would make it unnecessary to lift them. Not yet having a vehicle, he built several large, wheeled toolboxes that would enable him to carry many of his heavier tools on the bus. One of them had a carpenter’s level and an electric plug station built into the inside. When his father passed away in 2013, David repaired the 70-year-old wood desk he inherited, painted it, and made it his own.
David always had goals – to have his own apartment, to be a carpenter, to have his own truck. He was constantly making plans: the kind of carpentry work he would do; the kind of truck he would have – a tall van. He even had plans for the layout inside the van, including where each piece of equipment would be stored.
What those who knew David remember best about him is his enduring optimism. Nothing deterred him. Knee injuries? He pursued treatment with an orthopedist, took physical therapy, and practiced walking with his cane. 80% hearing loss in his right ear? Used his left ear. Colon cancer? “As soon as I get out of rehab, I’ll get back to my projects.” He was warm and appreciative of others, insistent on paying his own way, and focused on his goals. Despite disabilities that would have overwhelmed most people, David kept going. Once he got started on his life path, my brother never gave up.
The Lane-McNally Scholarship honors David, Shiela and Ben, and Professor McNally, in order to inspire others who face difficult challenges to make the most of their lives.