Four years ago, during Bob Eagle’s first week as a freshman at Mt. Spokane High School, he became the subject of a rumor circulating the halls. Students kept coming up to ask if he was supersmart.
“Someone started a rumor that I was a child genius. It was really funny,” said the 4.0 senior and valedictorian, explaining that he has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita.
At 4-foot-9, Eagle is the height of an average fourth-grader, though he’s tall for people with his genetic condition, which creates physical challenges and medical complications like joint problems that will eventually necessitate hip and knee replacements.
“I will be a bionic man, I’m sure,” he said with characteristic humor and nonchalance.
Eagle is known for downplaying his challenges while demonstrating a positive, confident attitude and obvious intelligence. Though he isn’t a child genius, he has an impressive transcript filled with A’s in rigorous courses from Advanced Placement to leadership and debate. But it’s his character and demeanor that stand out most to those who know him.
“He has an infectious personality,” said debate teacher Anya Gumke. “He says ‘hi’ to everybody in the hall. He has an outgoing, bubbly personality. He makes everyone feel welcome. He is a hard worker, too, and has an intense course load.”
Outside of school Eagle has volunteered weekly at Providence Holy Family Hospital for four years, which he said helped him learn a lot about people dealing with crisis and grief. To show compassion he makes a point to create a positive interaction for the families he meets at the hospital.
“You can see the sadness on their faces. I’m trying to help those people. Putting a bounce back in their day helps make my day better,” he said.
His supervisor at Holy Family, Shirley Alexander, described Eagle as dependable, eager and cheerful, with great people skills. “He would take on any task I gave him. He’s a good listener. He’s very compassionate and caring, intelligent, and has good morals,” she said. “When he came in he just lit up the room. I always got compliments from the people who would interact with him.”
His humor was also evident at school and on the debate team. Gumke described a December tournament when energy was flagging. Eagle had dressed up earlier in the day as an elf for a pep assembly and had the costume with him. So he changed and cheered the room.
“It was late at night and people were getting run down,” she recalled. “One of the coaches hugged him. He just makes people happy. He’s a fun kid.”
“I’m off the wall, random. I like to put spice in the day,” Eagle said. “I like to make the day a little brighter for people.”
Next year Eagle will take his humorous, helpful and hardworking approach to Carroll College in Montana, where he plans to major in biology in the pre-med program. “I want to be a doctor. That’s the end goal,” he said, adding that he’s not ruling out other medical fields.
Alexander said he will be missed but is a young man who is going somewhere. “He was always eager to help anybody who needed help. For a small young man, when I looked at him, I saw a tall guy who had a lot of heart. I think he is going to go very far in life.”