You will never see a smile on the face of Thaddeus Law ’99. The 20 year-old was born with Moebius Syndrome, a rare condition characterized by lifetime facial paralysis.
But the condition has not prevented him from pursuing mountain climbing, traveling to China and participating in the Presidential Scholar’s program.
With sufferers of Moebius Syndrome, two important facial nerves do not fully mature during embryonic development. Law’s specific symptoms include hearing problems and the inability to blink or smile.
Last year, the Discovery Channel aired a program on the syndrome, which featured Law and his sister, who also suffers from the disorder.
Law’s sister had an operation which moved some of her thigh muscles to her face, allowing her to partially smile.
Law has not had the surgery and said he does not particularly want it.
Frank DeLeon ’99, Law’s freshman year roommate, said the syndrome does not bother Law. “He never pays much attention to it,” he said.
Although Law has no visible smile, friends describe him as a jokester. Adriano de Rose ’99 described Law as “very witty” — during the freshman Dartmouth Outing Club trips this year, he worked as a climbing crew member and tried to convince his “tripees” to skinny dip in a nearby pond.
Shrugging off the disorder, Law has become an accomplished mountaineer, as well as a talented rock and ice climber. He started rock climbing as a freshman and served as president of the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club for part of his sophomore year. He is co-teaching a rock climbing class this winter.
Law also instructed skiing sophomore winter but, he said, that sport has taken a back seat to climbing for now.
Kevin Hand ’97, who was president of the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club Law’s freshman fall, said Law has “a fantastic sense of adventure.”
He said of Law, “You mention some crazy activity and other people’s jaws will drop, and his eyes will light up.”
Hand said that Law “is one of the best all-around climbers Dartmouth has.”
Displaying his adventurous spirit, Law said “it might be neat” to hike the Pacific Crest trail which runs from Canada to Mexico and would take around seven months to complete.
Last summer, he traveled to Beijing through one of Dartmouth’s Foreign Studies Programs. He recalled riding a bus in Beijing and watching a man with a stab wound flailing wildly.
He said China is a place where foreigners have to be aggressive.
He also spent a semester of his junior year of high school in Germany, which was a homecoming of sorts for Law, who was born in West Berlin.
But he moved to moved to Tacoma, Wash. when he was in the first grade and has lived there since.
A physics major, Law said he is also interested in space. Through a Presidential Scholars Research Assistantship in physics, he works with Physics and Astronomy Professor James LaBelle and reviews visual and radio scans of the Northern Lights.
Regarding his plans after graduation, Law said he has “a collection of little schemes” for the future and thinks “it might be neat to mountaineer.”