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Louise Hammell ’95

 


 

 

 

 

 

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Ringo Adamson ’78
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Michael Adler ’83
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Jack Collins ’64, ’67
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Marvin Creamer ’43
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Joe Conte ’74
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Renai Ellison ’89
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Kevin Feeney ’78, Gregg Feistman ’80 & Sandy Maxwell ’69, ’84
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Michael J. Fowlkes ’81
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> Louise Hammel ’95
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Mike Iaconelli ’94
> Billy Lange ’94
> Termaine Lee ’03
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Mark Milan ’89 & Dave Gorham ’89
> Kenton ’85 & Kathy Iadicola Nice ’85
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Elaine Reed ’85
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Lindsey Roy ’04
> Mike Stengel ’78
> Dean Thomas ’72

 

 

A Mother’s Mission
By Allie D’Augustine

don’t think of my training as a teacher when I speak,” says Louise Hammell ’95, a graduate of Rowan’s education program. But Hammell does teach—she just doesn’t have typical students. Instead, she speaks to drunk drivers about her son, Matt, who was killed at age 17 by a driver with a blood alcohol count nearly twice the legal limit. “It never even occurred to me that I was teaching until people came up to me and said, ‘You are a teacher.’”

Hammell is a speaker with Atlantic Prevention Resources, which works to prevent drunk driving. After her son’s death, which happened several months before Hammell graduated from Rowan, she gave up plans to teach elementary school. When Kathy McFadden of Atlantic Prevention Resources asked Hammell to speak at the mandatory classes for DWI convicts in New Jersey, Hammell jumped at the chance. “When she asked, it was like a major “yes” in my soul.”

Hammell became a regular speaker at these classes, and is nearing completion of a book on her experience, which she plans to call, That You May Know God Has a Purpose. After Matt’s death, she began keeping a journal of the good things that have come since the tragedy. This comprises most of the book, along with descriptions of the pain of the first year. “Not that it’s easy now,” says Hammell, “but it’s easier. You can never get over it, but you can move beyond.” The book concludes with a section on forgiveness. Hammell hopes its publication will reach others who are troubled.

Throughout Matt’s youth, he had a similar desire to help others. As a member of his school’s junior varsity baseball team, he helped the freshmen players both on and off the field. His role model was his mother, who would ‘casually counsel’ friends and neighbors.

Hammell’s helping spirit is ever apparent. “My favorite thing to do is talk to convicted drunk drivers,” she laughs, and adds, “I see them crying and know that I’ve changed and helped at least some of them.” Some, she admits, sit impassively, but Hammell says it’s worth it if she reaches one person.

Occasionally she hears from her former ‘students.’ According to Hammell, several people quit drinking immediately after hearing her presentation. One day, a waitress at a diner recognized Hammell from her DWI classes and the two started talking. “She went on and on about how that class had impacted her,” Hammell says. “It’s not easy,” she says of her speaking engagements, “but the fruit of it is so great. I rejoice in the fact that things are changing.”

The Hammell family’s faith has been integral to their life before and after Matt’s death. As a young boy, Matt had narrowed his career choices to “baseball player” and “missionary.” He eventually became certain that he would work on a mission field instead of a ball field. In a very real sense, his mother believes it has happened.

Hammell’s talks in New Jersey DWI programs have been so successful that a video, “Matt’s Mission,” including footage of Matt growing up, was produced and sent to other states’ alcohol awareness programs. It’s now being shown in various programs, including similar classes in Massachusetts, and daily on a public access channel in Florida. The video helps fulžll both mother’s and son’s desire to help those around them, and Hammell plans for her book to continue that mission as well.

Before Matt’s death, Hammell envisioned herself as a teacher—it’s something she always pictured herself doing, ever since, as an eighth grader, she watched a kindergarten class during a break. Now, she teaches adults, and although it’s not in a traditional classroom, the impact she makes is real. She says, “You can’t change their minds until you change their hearts.”

 
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