When the neurosurgeon entered the intensive care unit and told Keith Marlin
Anspach he was paralyzed from the shoulders down, the 17-year-old auto
accident victim asked, "How long will this last?"

"Probably for the rest of your life," the doctor replied.

"I can tell you this!" Anspach vowed. "I'm going to school!"

"It's going to be tough," the surgeon said.

And tough it has been for 17 years, but on Aug. 12 Keith Anspach will
receive his Ph.D. in engineering science from the University of Tennessee
Space Institute.

Anspach's plans to study electrical engineering at Tennessee Tech were
disrupted two months after his 1977 graduation from Tullahoma High School
when the car in which he was riding in the back seat crashed into a tree.
One of his friends was killed.

Anspach's neck and left leg were broken. He spent 19 days in intensive
care, another 82 days in the hospital and six weeks in UT Memphis'
Rehabilitation Engineering Center, where paralysis victims are taught to
use custom-designed electronic wheelchairs, communications devices and
other aids.

But Anspach, son of Gene and Roberta Anspach of Tullahoma, remained true to
his vow and in 1978 enrolled in Motlow State Community College in nearby

In 1980, he received an associate degree in mathematics from Motlow, then
two years later was awarded a bachelor's degree in computer science by
Middle Tennessee State University.

Keith Anspach's parents had moved with him into married students' housing
at MTSU, and his father commuted to and from Arnold Engineering Development
Center where he works for Sverdrup Technology Inc. On weekends, the family
returned to its home in Tullahoma.

In 1982, Keith received a scholarship, and in August 1984 he obtained a
master's degree in computer science at the UT Space Institute. That
December he began working for Sverdrup as a consultant and became a
full-time program analyst for the firm two years later.

Gov. Ned McWherter presented Keith the "Handicapped Citizen of the Year"
award in 1987.