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Keeping His Dream in Sight

Seventy-year-old Cliff Kyle didn’t let blindness or age keep him from earning a master’s degree at Moody Theological Seminary
  • Nancy Huffine
  • June 10, 2024

Moody Theological Seminary graduate Cliff Kyle


“On my first day of class, I plopped myself down in the very first seat in the first row.

“There were a couple of young ladies sitting behind me. I heard one of them say to the other, ‘I don't know if I'm going to be able to do this. I haven’t been in a classroom for more than four years.’

“I had to chuckle to myself, and I thought, ‘If only she knew I have not been in a classroom for more than 40 years!’”

For Cliff Kyle, just getting to any of his Moody Theological Seminary classes was no small feat. Every trip into downtown Chicago from Oak Park meant a ride from his wife or by bus to the “L” (Chicago’s elevated train) followed by a ride on the Green Line, a transfer to the Brown Line’s Chicago Avenue stop, then a walk to Wells Street and on to the Moody campus.

And every commute Cliff made to Moody had to have one more component: a thin white cane with a red band at the end.

“Glaucoma,” Cliff explains. “The condition began in 1992. By 2012, it had taken its full effect. That’s when I became legally blind.” Cliff describes his world now as being “mostly shadows.”

“When you lose your sight, you lose a great deal of independence,” Cliff says. “You depend on people to do things for you that you used to be able to do yourself.”

‘Go to Moody’

That loss of independence made his decision to come to Moody even more complicated.

In 2017, circumstances in Cliff’s life seemed to be colliding. He was experiencing relationship issues with one of his adult children, he had taken a sabbatical from his role as executive pastor at Rock of Our Salvation Church in Chicago, and his eyesight was continuing to diminish.

As he sought the Lord for guidance, Cliff heard an answer that he wasn’t expecting.

“While I was dealing with all three of those things at the same time in July of 2017,” he says, “I heard from God. He just simply said, ‘Go to Moody.’ After arguing with God a bit and saying, ‘Why Moody?’ and ‘Why now?’ and ‘I can’t do it,’ and things like that, God just sort of said, ‘Go do it!’ So I did.”

Cliff applied and was accepted for the fast-approaching fall semester.

Overcoming challenges

Cliff’s first challenge was learning to use the Logos Bible software, a requirement for MTS students. An introductory Logos class provided him with practical training and eventually with the familiarity and skills to use the platform confidently.

The “read aloud” function was a godsend, allowing Cliff to listen while written passages were read audibly to him. But the reality of studying at a master’s degree level with almost complete sight loss meant the challenges were just beginning.

“I remember talking to another student about the homework assignments and how long it took him to read and then write the exercises,” Cliff recalls. “He said it took him two or three hours to do each of them. He asked me, ‘How long does it take you?’ I said, ‘Ten to 15 hours.’”

Cliff’s sight loss made tasks that sighted people take for granted impossible.

“As a sighted person, you do one of two things when you read a book (for class). You take the highlighter and you mark important parts, or you might take out a pen and paper or a laptop and you record your notes,” Cliff says. “I can’t use a highlighter. In Logos, I could copy a portion of a chapter out of a book and put it in a new document if it was something noteworthy. I’d have to go back and figure out where the beginning of the quote was, highlight it with my mouse, then cut and paste and put it in a Word document. Then I had to go back to the Logos content, find where I left off in the reading, and start listening again.

“Just reading and taking notes was arduous.”

Even the simple spell-check function was an ordeal. “When you spell check a word, there’s a pop-up box that comes up. You have to choose which word is the right word that you're trying to use,” Cliff says. “I can't see those. I didn’t know which one was the right one. So I would just choose the first one, and then I’d have to go back and read the document line by line and listen to verify that it was really the right word for that particular sentence or paragraph. It all just took a tremendous amount of time.”

Support from professors

Cliff’s Moody instructors were not only understanding; they were ready with helpful alternatives so Cliff and others with disabilities could complete projects and exams.

“Every one of those professors was helpful,” Cliff says. “They would give me the syllabus a couple of months in advance so I could begin reading assignments early.”

For online testing, professors disengaged timers to allow Cliff to complete each exam in a manageable timeframe, and they allowed his wife to read questions aloud to him. “My wife would read the multiple-choice questions, and then she would read the choices. I would tell her which one to choose, and she would submit it.”

‘I am very proud of him’

Shirley Kyle, Cliff’s wife of 52 years, saw herself as a sounding board for Cliff’s Moody assignments and projects. More than just a ride to campus or to the “L” station, Shirley was an encourager. But, as she points out, Cliff’s dedication encouraged and inspired her as well.

Cliff Kyle and his wife, Shirley


“There are few people who, at the age of 70 and blind, would take on a master’s degree,” she says. “He is and always has been highly motivated to excel, and he’s determined to complete with excellence all that he participates in. He didn't allow his disability to define what he could accomplish, and I am very proud of him and his accomplishments!”

‘He had a significant impact on many students’

As Cliff grappled with the many hurdles of adapting to life as a seminary student with a disability, he began to realize that one crucial question needed to be answered: What field of study should he pursue?

“I really was not sure what I was going to focus on at Moody,” he admits. “I just knew that God told me to go. I sat down with Dr. Thrasher one day and had a long conversation with him about my life and about how I got to Moody.”

Dr. Bill Thrasher remembers not only Cliff’s dedication and hard work but the positive influence Cliff made on his fellow students.  “He was like having another teacher in the class as he shared his life and wisdom. He had a significant impact on many students,” Dr. Thrasher says. “I remember him sharing his life story on the last session of his first class. His life story—which only he can fully tell—is amazing!”

The meeting with Dr. Thrasher gave Cliff the clarity and confirmation he was looking for. “Dr. Thrasher told me about the Spiritual Formation and Discipleship degree, and it didn't take me very long to make that my focus,” he says. “It fit what I was charged to do at Rock of Our Salvation Church, and it fit what I was feeling in my heart to do.”  

In fact, Cliff’s internship later centered on bringing those concepts and skills to the elders at his own church. “I worked with the elders at Rock Church and began mentoring them on the specifics of how to be an elder. These elders had been Christians for a long time, but they had never received any specific training or insight on how to do that job administratively or otherwise. The spiritual formation and discipleship emphasis does just that—it teaches you how to grow yourself and how to help others grow.

“I realized I could apply my Moody training to the way I was beginning to mentor the elders in our church.”

Thankful for his graduate education

Cliff is grateful for his time as a student at Moody.

“Moody is student-focused. They care about their students. I wasn’t the only student there with special needs. The instructors know what they’re talking about. They’re experienced not only in the classroom, but some of them were pastors themselves. Those professors are Spirit-led, and they're well educated. Moody is a terrific institution.”

In the spring of 2022, Cliff Kyle proudly walked across the stage in Torrey-Gray Auditorium on Moody’s Chicago campus to receive his degree with the rest of his graduating class. He believes that despite his vision loss, God has brought goodness and blessings into his life. He also believes something else.

Cliff Kyle walking across the stage for his graduation ceremony


Cliff Kyle celebrates his graduation from Moody Theological Seminary

“I always pray that I receive my eyesight back,” he says. “I want to see again, and I do believe that God will completely restore my sight.”

He has had his share of down days, and he recalls one particular conversation with God.

“(Blindness) can be depressing,” Cliff says. “I was ‘reminding God’ just how difficult this is and that I want to see. I said to Him, ‘I think I would be a blessing and impact people if I could see again.’ And what He said to me was, ‘Do you realize how much of a blessing you are because you can't see? Do you realize how many people see you on that Green Line or when you traverse the campus or when you get to class? They are blessed because they see you doing what you're doing.’

“I'm grateful for that blessing, and I live with that. God has been good.”

About the Author

  • Nancy Huffine