For Chasteen, National Award
Advances Lifelong Journey
By Anthony F. Shop ’05
Some people enjoy winning awards for the fame or glory. But not Ed Chasteen. The retired William Jewell College sociology professor used such an occasion recently to continue a journey he began nearly four decades ago.
Dr. Chasteen, who taught sociology from 1965 to 1995, was honored in January by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society with the prestigious MS Achievement Award. He was chosen from a pool of deserving nominees from 12 states because of the difference he has made in the lives of those with MS and in his community.
After being diagnosed in 1981 with MS, an unpredictable neurological disease that affects the central nervous system, Chasteen was told he would no longer be able to remain active. But he resolved to prove his doctor and the world wrong. Short bicycle trips to and from work forged the path for a monumental journey that would raise awareness of the disease, and even change the way the public viewed MS.
In 1987, Chasteen rode across America—from Orlando to Seattle to Los Angeles—traveling 5,126 miles in 105 days, penniless and alone. Along the way, Ed relied only on the generosity and kindness of others, proving that MS is powerless to immobilize a robust spirit, while also revealing the caring and compassion of his fellow citizens.
But his journey has not ended. Chasteen continues his efforts through fundraising for the annual MS150 Bike Tour, speaking to various groups and serving as ambassador for the Mid America Chapter of the MS Society.
“The MS Achievement Award honors what people with MS can and do accomplish in their personal and professional lives despite the obstacles they face because of their disease,” said Kay Julian, President of the National MS Society – Mid America Chapter. “Ed manages to touch so many people’s lives and change so many attitudes. He is a force to be reckoned with.”
On Sunday, Jan. 30, hundreds of friends showed their appreciation for Chasteen’s hard work. People of all faiths and ethnic and racial backgrounds joined members of the MS Society, local bike riders, members of the William Jewell community and members of Second Baptist, to congratulate Ed on the difference he has made in the lives of so many.
“There were all kinds of people who had nothing in common except they all know me,” Chasteen said of the large crowd. “They thought they were honoring me, but really I was just getting them there to meet each other,” he added, smiling.
Ed seized the opportunity the award accorded to continue his life’s work. More than 20 years ago, Chasteen founded HateBusters, an organization that brings people from different ethnicities and backgrounds together to find common ground. He has intervened in situations around the country where racially motivated hate has caused conflict in communities. And he regularly brings together diverse groups of people in his own community. By traveling cross-country with no money, visiting divided communities and sponsoring interracial and interfaith events, Ed has overcome obstacles many might simply avoid. But from
potentially volatile situations, Chasteen has emerged with enduring friendships.
“None of us is born knowing anybody,” Chasteen likes to say. “I think the purpose of life is to make as many friends as possible, and that’s what I try to do.” By doing just that, Chasteen has built bridges between otherwise divided communities. The MS award ceremony provided Ed with yet another opportunity to bring people together.
When the MS Society asked Chasteen where he would like to receive the award, he immediately knew the answer: Second Baptist Church of Liberty. Since 1986 he has served as the church’s ambassador to other communities of faith, facilitating interchange between his church and others. “We don’t go to change them, and we don’t go to join them,” said Chasteen. “We go to get to know them.”
Ed saw this day as an excuse to bring his various friends together to do what he’s always done. But despite their differences, the guests all agreed on at least one thing: it was really a day to celebrate the lifelong journey of a remarkable human being.
Chasteen Book Proceeds to Benefit Jewell
To show his appreciation, Dr. Ed Chasteen will donate to the College all proceeds from his upcoming book William Jewell College: My Camelot. Chasteen calls the book, “The story of the inspiration that drew me here and kept me here.” He recites the famous words from Lerner and Loewe’s musical of the same name to describe what Jewell means to him:
Don’t let it be forgot,
That once there was a spot,
For one brief shining moment,
That was known as Camelot
.If you request the book and send a contribution of $100.00 (or more) to William Jewell College, Dr. Chasteen will send you an electronic copy which can be read on line or downloaded and printed. For those who want a hardback copy, please contact Dr. Chasteen at firstname.lastname@example.org.