Professor turned MS diagnosis into motivation

Bruce Freeman, an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship and marketing at Seton Hall, is a syndicated columnist for the Tribune News Service, an author and a motivational speaker, according to Freeman’s speaker profile. He founded Proline Communications, a marketing and public relations service, and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, US News & World Report and Bloomberg Businessweek.

Freeman was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2008, but he continues to “turn adversity into opportunity,” which is the focal theme of his motivational speeches.

“I don’t need my legs to do my business,” Freeman said. “I need my brain.”
Photo courtesy of Bruce Freeman

The cause of MS remains unknown. However, the medical community knows the disease uses the body’s immune system to attack myelin, a mixture of proteins and phospholipids that surround many nerve fibers, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website. MS can cause immobility, fatigue, muscle spasms or weakness, poor vision, depression and other effects, according to the society’s website.

Although MS has greatly affected Freeman’s mobility, the acronym “MS” does not just mean “multiple sclerosis” to him. It means “mobility and strength.”

“The moral of my story is turning adversity into an opportunity and the good news is I don’t need my legs to do my business,” Freeman said. “I need my brain, my mouth, my education and my reputation.”

While on Seton Hall’s campus, Freeman moves around with his motorized wheelchair and receives help from his students. Freeman applauded the University’s cooperation and assistance with his limited mobility, saying that the University has been “phenomenal” in accommodating him.

Jordan Panella, a senior marketing major, interned with Freeman and took his two-and-a-half-hour Friday morning class. According to Panella, he would help Freeman get to his class and experience Freeman’s personable spirit inside and outside the classroom.

The way [Freeman] paid me back was by me getting the opportunity to hear a few more jokes before the class starts,” Panella wrote in an email.

Panella described Freeman’s amiable presence in the classroom. He explained that Freeman would stay after class, not only for students to discuss the course’s material, but also to chat about life.

“Professor Freeman eliminates the classroom atmosphere. He teaches as if you were one of his friends,” Panella wrote. “Bruce always takes time after teaching that two-and-a-half-hour class to talk with students. He would frequently have a line of students looking to talk to him and not always about the class itself, but just life in general.”

Besides writing a column called “The Small Business Professor” and winning the Journalist of the Year Award from the Small Business Administration in 2006, Freeman co-authored a book called “Birthing the Elephant.”

Freeman said he has spoken for the Livingston Advisory Committee for Disabilities (LACD), the Livingston School District, Woodloch Pines Resort, Crane’s Mill and the Abilities Expo. Freeman said his talks encompass the theme, “turning adversity into opportunity.”

Furthermore, Freeman described his grandmother’s emigration from Russia to the United States and explained how her life story serves as an inspiration for how he’s chosen to approach his diagnosis.

“[My grandmother] always said to me, you have two choices in this world: you can laugh or you can cry,” Freeman said. “And when I was diagnosed with MS I did my fair share of crying, but every chance I get I laugh.”

Thomas Schwartz can be reached at

Author: Thomas Schwartz

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