Son's Struggles Ignite Father's Passion
By Robert Schroeder
NLU Alumni Magazine
In 1991, Philip Gattone’s life hit a crossroads when his 4-year-old son was diagnosed with epilepsy. Gattone and his wife, Jill, enjoying successful business careers, made the decision to exit the corporate world and devote their working lives to securing resources and opportunities for Americans with epilepsy.
That exit took the Gattones through National Louis University, where the two built their social service credentials as Phil earned a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and Jill earned a Master of Adult Education in Adult Developmental Studies. The two walked across the stage at the 2000 Commencement one after the other.
Today, Philip, 49, is the CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of America (EFA), a national volunteer agency dedicated to promoting the welfare of the nearly 3 million Americans with epilepsy and their families. As CEO, he is leading the merger of two of the nation’s major epilepsy awareness organizations, as EFA merges with the Epilepsy Therapy Project.
“When our son began having seizures and [my wife and I] started going down this road, trying to find care for him, we both recognized how precious life is, how short life is, and we decided we wanted to spend our lives really doing something that mattered,” Philip said.
EFA focuses on education efforts to reduce the sense of stigma that surround epilepsy, runs a “Managing Seizures in the Classroom” program and works to ease access to employment for adults with epilepsy. Crucially, the organization funds medical procedures that lessen or eliminate the risk of seizures for some people with epilepsy. EFA is also working with partner organizations to bring new therapies to the forefont and in 2013 will be part of the roll-out of three new therapies.
“When you see a young man who is seizure free and has been for quite some time, able to move on with his life as a direct result of finding good care and aligning with a program and a foundation, that’s probably the most fun part of my job, seeing how when life is tough and this foundation intervenes, life can be better,” Philip said.
Read more from the Winter 2013 NLU Alumni Magazine.