From spina bifida to gold: Jean Driscoll at TEDxUIUC
Jean Driscoll was born in Milwaukee, WI with spina bifida (an open spine). It affected her ability to walk and included other neurological complications as well. Although there were challenges during childhood, her determination to get the most out of life was always there. She began using a wheelchair at the age of 15 and after learning about wheelchair sports from a high school friend, she started pursuing athletic opportunities with fervor. The Milwaukee Public Schools Division of Recreation provided her first wheelchair sports experiences. After being recruited to the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, world-renowned coaches developed her into one of the world’s most successful competitors.
During her career, Jean was the first eight time winner of the Boston Marathon. She set 5 new course records as well as 5 world best times and held Boston’s fastest time in the women’s wheelchair division from 1990 to 2011. Her record for the 26.2 mile distance was 1 hour, 34 minutes and 22 seconds. In addition to her success in Boston, Jean also won two Olympic medals, 12 Paralympic medals, and still holds the world record in the 10,000 meter (6.2 mile) track event that was set during the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Jean remains the only 12–time champion of the Lilac Bloomsday 12K Road Race held in Spokane, Washington and still owns the course record in her division from 1995.
Her successes have been celebrated by many. The University of Rhode Island and the Massachusetts School of Law awarded her Honorary Doctorate degrees in 1997 and 2002 respectively. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines provided Jean with one of its highest honors in 2003 when they named her the Godmother of their Voyager Class Series ship, Mariner of the Seas (pictured below). She is also in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ “Hall of Champions.” and the Wheelchair Sports, USA Hall of Fame.
Jean retired from her successful racing career following the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia. For over 20 years, she has offered encouragement and motivation as a speaker to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Through a partnership that began in 2001 with Joni and Friends, Inc., Jean began working with people who have disabilities in Ghana, West Africa. Her alma mater, the University of Illinois, has caught the vision and is now supporting this work as well. In addition to motivational speaking, Jean works as the Assistant Dean for Advancement in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois.
To book Jean Driscoll call Executive Speakers Bureau at 901-754-9404.
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“When Jean speaks to her audience, she speaks from her heart and gives you her soul. You definitely come away
Director, Lincoln Christian College Women’s Conference
“Inspirational, God-honoring, challenging and an articulate speaker — that’s Jean Driscoll. There’s no room for apathy
with Jean. Her refreshing outlook on life leaves little room for defeatism, and she has built a ministry demonstrating how
God shapes and leads even through the most difficult of circumstances. She turned my head when she said, ‘God did not
pick on me; He picked me out.’ We won’t forget these words and the compelling message that she has to back up her
claim. Our audience of nearly 2,000 was greatly blessed. This beautiful young woman has left a thumbprint in our
President / CEO, Easter Seals National
“I cannot thank you enough for kicking off our Nationwide Training Conference with such warmth, humor and inspiration.
Your willingness to openly share your life experiences served as a wonderful springboard for what was, I believe, the best
Training Conference that we’ve had to date.”
Senior Vice President, Bank of America
“What a delight it was to have Jean Driscoll as the keynote speaker for the Bank of America President’s Club recognition
events. Over 3,000 Bank of America associates and guests heard Jean’s message of determination and winning. The
response from our associates has been incredible. In my role as manager of recognition and awards, I have worked with
numerous sports celebrity and motivational speakers. After working with Jean, I place her among the top. Jean was very
proactive in identifying our objectives and she responded with a presentation that was dead on.”
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