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Retired professor struggles with disease

By Hayley Burgess
Staff Writer

On Feb. 27, ABC News 11 did a story on Dr. Mary Boyles, a retired UNC Pembroke professor with a PhD in American Literature, who was diagnosed four years ago with a disease that will leave her mute.

Dr. Boyles was diagnosed in 2004 with Primary Progressive Aphasia, which is a rare neurological disorder that is slowly causing Dr. Boyles to lose the ability to find and speak words. The problem comes from the shrinkage of the brain in the section that controls language.

“If I could just take off a leg or arm or both, that would be much better for me,” Dr. Boyles said.

The doctors are not sure when she will become mute, but they believe that it will be in the next few years.

She will be able to hear and see, but she will not be able to get the words from her brain to her mouth.

In order to slow the effects of the disease, doctors have encouraged Dr. Boyles to take up artistic and social activities, so she does drumming, meditating and drawing.

Since writing is easier for Dr. Boyles, she keeps journals. She wants to spread the news about PPA before she becomes mute to raise awareness about the rare disease.

Dr. Boyles is Professor Emerita, former Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and was the Director of College Opportunity Program, which helped new students with transitioning into college. She began at UNCP in 1977 and retired in 1999.

Dr. Dennis Sigmon, chair of the English, Theatre and Languages Department, said, “Dr. Boyles was very well known for coming into work very early, around 5:30 a.m., and took her job very seriously.”



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Updated: Saturday, April 12, 2008
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