ITHACA, N.Y. -- "You could be a bricklayer," adults suggested kindly to the husky youth, Kevin Wallace, although they didn't think he even had the brains for that. And teachers were less charitable, in the days before dyslexia-type reading and learning disorders were understood, Wallace remembers: "I asked the nun how I could make the letters hold still on the page, and she said the devil was working in me." Repeatedly punished without knowing why, he carried feelings of shame and confusion until age 28. Then Wallace confessed to his 7-year-old daughter the reason he told such marvelous bedtime stories but never read them: He couldn't read, a secret he withheld from employers, friends and even from Thea, his wife. Today, the other 76 graduates of Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine D.V.M. Class of '97 are in awe of a phenomenal power Wallace developed, while managing his learning disability. It is said he somehow absorbed so much information about veterinary medicine that he can read an ailing animal like a . Better, actually, than a book, of which he figures he has read two.