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From the Graduation Files: Student with cerebral palsy receives bachelor’s degree thanks to the help of a friend

Seth Walker earns bachelor's degree despite odds against him with the help of his friend and caretaker

Anna Moseley  | 

News - Seth and Ken in front of Stu Center

Seth Walker, left, and Ken Brassell, right.

In honor of the May commencement ceremony, follow the Graduation Stories Series to read about some of the experiences of the May 2019 graduates. Family and friends are invited to join in the celebration at commencement on May 4 at 10:30 a.m. for graduate students and 3 p.m. for undergraduate students in Allen Arena.  

From the Graduation Files: Student with cerebral palsy to receive Lipscomb Bachelor’s degree thanks to the help of a friend who was literally with him every step of the way

On Saturday, May 4, Seth Walker and Ken Brassell will walk across the stage together, but only one of them will receive a college diploma.

Walker, a Bible major from Gallatin, Tennessee, will fulfill his dream of earning a bachelor’s degree on Saturday, and Brassell will be right by his side, just as he has been for the past five years.

When he was born, Walker wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a heartbeat. Physicians brought him back to life 30 minutes later but as a result of the lack of oxygen to his brain for that time, Walker has a condition called cerebral palsy.

“Cerebral palsy affects brain function and is a lifelong condition with no cure,” said Walker, with the assistance of a device strapped onto his forehead and with the help of Brassell. “It can be severe or mild and can affect any area of the brain, from muscle control to speech to cognitive skills. My cerebral palsy is in the middle. It affects my muscles, not allowing them to work correctly, but God has blessed me with a sharp, bright mind.”

Because of his condition, Walker cannot walk or do any traditional everyday tasks, such as feeding, dressing, showering or even scratching an itch himself without assistance.

When he expressed adamant interest in attaining a college degree, his parents looked to their church for the perfect person to journey from class to class with Walker, assisting him in everyday and college tasks.

During the family’s search, Brassell was simultaneously praying and asking God to show him what he could do to help others.

News - Seth and Ken Portrait

Seth and Ken have spent nearly everyday together for the past five years.

“As I was praying, my computer dinged showing I had a notification from my church’s Facebook page,” said Brassell. “The new post was about a family at church, looking for someone to accompany their son to college. God spoke to me and told me I would be the one to help him.”

Brassell admits he was hesitant and a bit anxious about agreeing to accompany Walker to his college classes, because he didn’t have any experience caring for someone with this type of physical challenges.

Although he was hesitant, Brassell said God was persistent in showing him this is what he needed to do, and when he met Walker and his family, Walker was persistent as well, declaring he wanted Brassell to become his college caretaker.

Brassell agreed and the two became fast friends, spending most of the past five years together.

“I am his hands, his feet and his voice. If Seth has a question in class, I raise my hand and ask the question for him.”

— Ken Brassell

Walker earned his Associate Degree at Volunteer State and then received a full scholarship to Lipscomb University. Brassell, of course, continued with Walker on his journey to a bachelor’s degree.

Throughout most of his college career, Walker has taken two classes a day. Brassell leaves his house around 6:15 a.m., and Walker’s father drives him to campus so the two can meet by 8 a.m. Walker usually leaves campus around 12:30 p.m., but ventures to Bennett Campus Center whenever the two have free time.

“He loves to go to the student center if we have time in between classes,” said Brassell. “Seth points out people he wants to talk to and I push him over to whomever he wants to talk to. I can’t tell you how many friends he has made, maybe hundreds of friends, just in the student center.”

Brassell is faithfully referred to as the “Seth whisperer,” because after the five years they have spent together, Brassell is able to sense what Walker needs. What started as a request on Facebook has blossomed into a beautiful friendship, for which the two are thankful.

“Seth will probably tell you he is thankful for what I’ve done, but I can tell you I am more thankful that I did it because I think I got more blessings out of it than he did.

“He is one of the finest people I have ever met,” said Brassell. “He is so smart it blows my mind. Seth is the most patient person to be with. If we were all more like Seth, the world would be a better place.”

Walker has already been accepted to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He hopes to continue growing in his faith and knowledge of theology and plans to share his faith with everyone he encounters along the way.

Learn more about Lipscomb's College of Bible and Ministry