Iowa Alumni Magazine | February 2009 | People

Miya Rodolfo-Sioson

By IAM Staff

Why was she in the news?

The lone survivor of the 1991 Gang Lu rampage of the University of Iowa, Miya Rodolfo-Sioson died this past December after losing a lengthy battle with breast cancer. Rodolfo-Sioson had spent the past 17 years in the limelight, often interviewed about that fateful November day in Iowa City when a disgruntled physics graduate student killed five people before turning the gun on himself. Rodolfo-Sioson, then 23, was shot in the mouth, an injury that left her paralyzed from the neck down. The tragedy made national headlines, but it never defined Rodolfo-Sioson. Instead, she forged ahead to create her own destiny as a champion for people with disabilities.

Why did she attract so much attention?

Although the shooting brought Rodolfo-Sioson unexpected celebrity, it's how she refused to succumb to tragedy that truly mesmerized people throughout the years. Rodolfo-Sioson, 91BA, completed her degree and soon became a staunch advocate for people with disabilities. In 1996, she moved to Berkeley, California, and set about making life better for the disabled. As chair of the city's Commission on Disability, she counted among her achievements a transportation program for people with special needs. Last November, an ABC station in the bay Area aired a segment celebrating her accomplishments, and Governer Arnold Schwarzenegger recently issued a proclamation honoring her work. Rodolfo-Sioson spent the last few years working with foreign exchange students, her boss often referring to her as "Miya of the Quiet Strength." He was so touched by his friend and colleague that he developed a documentary film about her.

What's her legacy?

Rodolfo-Sioson made sure that she would not be viewed as a victim. Refusing to dwell in bitterness, she chose to address her circumstances with strength and determination. In response to her death, the UI issued this statement: "She was a remarkable woman who inspired everyone she met. Despite her serious injuries, she courageously dedicated her life to the service of others. . . ." Indeed, Rodolfo-Sioson responded to cruel twists of fate with grace and kindness. Overwhelmingly, that's how she'll be remembered.