College of LAS « Illinois

Gifts in Action: Robert and Linda Hauser

Inspiring courage and perseverance

In 1985, Robert (AB, '67 history) and Linda Hauser received a gift that would forever change their lives. Their daughter Alex was born with Down syndrome.

"In our lives, Alex is a blessing who's been given to us," says Linda, who works for a human resources consulting firm in the Chicago area. "Life with Alex or any child with disabilities is a series of joys, sorrows, disappointments, unbelievable highs. You're sad one day because you see that she doesn't fit in the 'regular kids' and then you cry with joy when you see her win a medal, figure out a hard word, make a basket, or remembers how to do something that she was only shown once."

The Hausers have two other daughters who do not have the condition, but both are also at the heart of a scholarship they have established in LAS. Linda explains. "Because of our experience with Alex and our two other daughters, we've noted that families with special needs children put so much emotion in that child that there is often not a lot left over for the other children."

With sensitivity to that family dynamic in mind, the Hausers established a scholarship in LAS that is awarded each fall to a LAS undergraduate student who has a full sibling with Down syndrome. The Alexandra H. Hauser Scholarship is awarded to students in good standing who have demonstrated experience with people with disabilities—especially Down syndrome—and complete a 500-word essay on their relationship with their sibling.

"We are looking for students with an active participation in the lives of their special needs siblings, and who want to give back to society," Linda says. "We want someone who understands that they have been blessed with such a sibling and is willing to give back those blessings, not only by working with special needs kids or adults, but simply by understanding how important the small things in life are: the smiles rather than the grades, the ability to tie shoes or read a few words rather than tackling applied physics or being the star basketball player."

The Hausers are one of around 350,000 families in the United States affected by Down syndrome. Approximately 5,000 children are born each year with the condition. That number is expected to double in the next decade as women wait longer to become mothers. Chances of birthing a child with Down syndrome increases with a mother's age: especially after 35.

The Hausers chose LAS for these scholarships because of the formative experiences Chicago native Robert Hauser had at Illinois. He wants to help other students take advantage of all the college and University has to offer. While at U of I, Robert was a member of the honorary societies Phi Eta Sigma, Tomahawk, and Sachem and he served in the Student Senate for three years.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in history with honors from LAS, he attended Harvard Law School, where he earned his J.D. He then returned to Illinois' Lake County and built a successful law practice. His high-profile civil cases have garnered the attention of Court TV and at least two of his cases were used as plots by the TV show Law and Order.

Robert's other great passion is helping those with disabilities. For that reason, he serves on an Adult Matters Commitee as part of the National Association of Down Syndrome. Linda also devotes time to charity. She is on the board of the Center for Companies that Care and is working on an initiative called Invisible Differences, which is intended to provide support and resources to parents, children, and young adults with disabilities. To reward and inspire others to help those with special needs, Robert and Linda established the Alexandra H. Hauser Scholarship.

Robert and Linda are continually impressed with Alex's growing list of accomplishments. In 2009, she graduated from the PACE Program at National Louis University. Alex works at a preschool where she is an assistant teacher. She also participates in a variety of Special Olympics sports programs, including swimming, basketball, bowling, soccer, bocce ball, and sailing.

"When she was born the doctor suggested that we might want to put her in a home because of her disabilities," Linda recalls. "But every challenge—walking or running, learning to read and master simple math, learning to swim and do other sports—she has met and exceeded our expectations."