Nathaniel S. Waters
March 11, 1978 – April 20, 2013
Nathaniel S. Waters (Nate) entered Tulsa Community College in the summer of 1999 at the age of 19. He graduated with an Associate in Science Degree in Business in Summer 2002. He then transferred to Oklahoma State University – Tulsa where he continued his studies and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing in May 2006.
The real Nate Waters story, however, is much more than a list of dates and degrees.
Nate began his life anew when he enrolled at Tulsa Community College in the summer of 1999 after undergoing a catastrophic, life-altering injury as a victim of domestic violence. Nate’s spinal cord was severed during that domestic altercation, and he had to learn live life as a quadriplegic. For some, such a drastic change in circumstances might have meant giving up; for Nate it meant working harder. He began by going to the disAbled Student Resource Center at TCC Metro Campus. Working with therapists there and in TCC’s Physical Therapist Assistant program, he slowly began to develop dexterity in his hand in order to use a pointer for the computer keyboard, then a roller ball and eventually was able to write again. He was a good student. Despite his limitations, he completed the required GED, became a full-time student and completed the requirements for an associate degree within three years.
Along the way, he became a community activist and advocate for people dealing with disabilities. His community involvements included service for The Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges, Tulsa Area United Way, Tulsa Sports Charities, the Mayor’s Commission on the Concerns of the Disabled, The Bridges Foundation, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, the DREAM Institute, DVIS, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Parent Child Center, St. Pius X, 3D Confidence, Center for H.O.P.E, Child Abuse Network, Transit Matters, Transportation Advisory Board, among others. In 2009, he was recognized as the inaugural honoree for the Live United Spirit Award, an award created to honor a volunteer from one of Tulsa’s 63 United Way agencies who serves as an example for others.
As a strong believer in education, Nate spoke often to students in area public schools, mentored students at Tulsa Community College and co-taught a psychology course devoted to the psychology of the disabled at Oklahoma State University. He talked about the importance of education, setting goals, dreaming big and never giving up.
Nate took his own advice. Over the course of the 16 years he spent in his wheelchair, he completed two college degrees, worked diligently with physical therapists to improve his spinal cord injury level from a C3 to a C6 so that he could move from living in a nursing home to living in his own home and secured a job with Williams Co. as an accounting assistant. He also continued to cultivate his own entrepreneurial spirit as a voiceover actor and as director of finance for CleanNG, a company started by a group of OSU graduates interested in developing a lighter weight compressed natural gas fuel tank with increased storage capacity for longer driving distances.
Ultimately, Nate met virtually of his goals. At the time of his death, he was living in his own home, preparing to pursue an MBA in order to become a certified financial planner and dreaming of opening a nursing home for people 30 and younger. He never tired of being an advocate for others who also were living with disabilities.
“You’ve got to think big,” Nate said in a 2007 interview with the Tulsa World. “You can’t be small-minded. You’ve got to be universal. You can’t be limited to be successful.”