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Dr. Ronald Stoffey

Professor of Psychology

Difference Maker

Nominator: Rebecca Morales Tantillo '96

Rebecca's Memories: I came to Kutztown University in the fall of 1992 and enrolled as a psychology major. 

My choice was no surprise to people who knew me; I had a personal interest in how the mind worked.  I had been suffering from panic disorders since the age of nine. In retrospect, I have no idea how I ever made it to college. It impaired me in many ways, but I moved forward and lived my life as best as I could, though I often felt that I was barely managing. As fate would have it, I was placed in Dr. Stoffey's class that year. 

I remember the usual things that would happen as I developed panic attacks in certain settings; I hated it when it happened in the classroom setting. It would slowly affect my performance to the point that I would often stop attending class. Then it started happening in Dr. Stoffey's class. 

My grade began to drop. I knew this was not like high school; this was going to be a big problem.  I was scared and embarrassed to meet with him to explain what was wrong with me, but I knew I had to. As I remember it, the conversation lasted no more than 15 minutes. Dr. Stoffey told me that he, too, experienced panic attacks in college. He asked me what I felt when I experienced a panic attack. I gave him several symptoms (I felt dizzy; I felt like I was having a heart attack; I felt like I was going to pass out, etc.). He asked me if there was anything else, and I listed at least five more symptoms. Then he asked me if any of those things had actually happened to me as a result of a panic attack. I told him that none of those things had ever occurred. 

Next he said a few short sentences that forever changed my life. He said, "Guess what? It never will. So next time when you're having a panic attack, just let it happen and don't fight it." That was it. 

After a decade of living in my own personal hell and visiting many therapists and doctors along the way, Dr. Stoffey was the one person who made a difference. I was able to completely stop my panic attacks by just relaxing when they were starting. I never took medication, and didn't need therapy. I just needed someone who understood and really listened. He could have chosen to keep his own story private, or to not really listen to me that day, but he didn't. Instead, he changed me. 

In the four years I knew him, he always touched base with me to make sure I was on the right track. I went on to graduate from Kutztown, which I am certain I would not have been able to do prior to our conversation. 

I have had a long career in the pharmaceutical industry and in the field of psychiatry all because of him.  I am grateful to this man, and will never forget those 15 minutes that changed the direction of my life. 

 

 

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