Pete Winslow realizes why people might stare when they see him for the first time. He looks different from most people, so it's only human nature to take a second look.
Winslow, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire senior from Woodbury, Minnesota, was born a congenital amputee, without legs or a right hand — and with only three fingers on his left hand.
"I know that when people first see me, they don't know what to think," Winslow says. "But I promise that if they take a minute to get to know me, their attitudes will change."
Frankly, Winslow doesn't have time to dwell on what others may or may not think about him. The broadcast journalism major and music minor has a lot going on — and he wouldn't have it any other way.
The accomplished trombonist — who uses a prosthetic arm when he plays — recently embarked on a research project that combines two of his passions: public speaking and music.
The goal of Winslow's research — a collaboration with Dr. Phil Ostrander, professor of music — is to increase awareness and exposure of the trombone as a viable instrument for upper-limb amputees. This past spring, Winslow spoke with and performed for local high school students — an experience that was powerful for everyone involved.
"I love performing for people and sharing my story," Winslow says. "And if I can help dispel some misconceptions about what people with disabilities can and cannot do, that's even better."
Funded through a Diversity Mentoring Program grant through the university's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs , the project also has helped create professional speaking opportunities for Winslow. Just this month he gave a presentation on musical instrument adaptations at a regional meeting of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists in the Twin Cities.
In addition to sharing his firsthand knowledge and perspectives with the public, Winslow has taught Ostrander many invaluable life lessons.
"Pete has taught me way more than I've taught him," Ostrander says. "He went on tour with the UW-Eau Claire trombone choir to the International Trombone Festival a few summers ago. I now look at all facilities in regard to their accessibility to people with disabilities — one of the most significant learning experiences I have ever had. And I do enjoy watching Pete call all of the webcasts of the Blugold men's hockey games — he's great!"
Ostrander is referring to Winslow's other passion — sports. Off the field, Winslow has found a niche for himself as a popular TV 10 sports commentator for Blugold athletics. And when he's not on air, he's in the gym training as a member of Team USA, the country's power wheelchair soccer team.
So what's next for Winslow? In the near term, he plans to focus on school and prepare for the Team USA training camp in October in anticipation of next spring's World Cup, where his team will compete for an unprecedented third championship win.
With Winslow's spring 2016 graduation on the horizon, what are his post-college plans? While he has numerous talents and aspirations, Winslow's dream job would be to work as a sports commentator for ESPN, while continuing to play trombone and compete in power soccer on the side.
Does Winslow have any guidance for incoming or current Blugolds?
"Put yourself out there, don't sweat the small stuff — and only worry about the things you can control."
That's exceptional advice from an extraordinary Blugold.
Top photo: Pete Winslow rehearses with a trombone ensemble in Gantner Concert Hall of the Haas Fine Arts Center at UW-Eau Claire.
Side photo: Pete Winslow training with his Team USA power wheelchair soccer team.
July 30, 2015, WEAU story: Brass Buddies: The power of prosthetics