Jean Driscoll, a motivational speaker, author, award-winning athlete, and advocate worldwide for persons with disabilities, will deliver the NC State Jenkins Graduate School’s Hooding Ceremony address on Thursday, May 9, at the Meymandi Concert Hall, 2 E. South Street in downtown Raleigh, N.C. The ceremony begins at 3:30 p.m. View additional details about commencement events.
Driscoll, who has also worked as a television sports commentator, is currently the executive director of development at the NC State University College of Design.
She earned a bachelor of arts in speech communication, with honors, in 1991 and a master of science in rehabilitation administration in 1993, both from the University of Illinois. In 1997, Driscoll was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Rhode Island; in 2002, she received an honorary law degree from the Massachusetts School of Law. In April 2012, she received the Lincoln Academy’s “Order of Lincoln”, the highest honor given by the State of Illinois. Past recipients include Ronald Reagan and Jack Benny.
Driscoll won the Boston Marathon eight times during her athletic career, the first person in history to achieve this feat. Only one other athlete, Ernst Van Dyk, has reached this milestone. She held the world’s best time in the women’s wheelchair division at Boston for 21 years and established new world records five times. Her fastest time of one hour, 34 minutes and 22 seconds was broken by 16 seconds in 2011. Driscoll also won two Olympic and 12 Paralympic medals as a member of Team USA, and still holds the world record in the 10,000 meter track event. Sports Illustrated for Women magazine recognized her as one of the top 25 female athletes of the twentieth century; in July 2012, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
Driscoll has served as a corporate spokesperson for Ocean Spray, United Airlines, Lighthouse Foods and the California Date Commission. She has also been featured on Good Morning America, the Today Show, ABC Nightline, Lifetime TV, ESPN, CNN, and The Late, Late Show.
An active global advocate for people with disabilities, Driscoll has traveled to Ghana, West Africa in 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2010 to teach athletes and coaches about the sport of wheelchair track. In 2003, she teamed up with Joni and Friends, Inc. and five Rotary Clubs to bring eight wheelchair athletes and two coaches from Ghana to the US. The athletes were fitted with their first-ever wheelchairs and racing chairs.
Largely due to her efforts, Ghana sent its first two athletes in history to the Paralympic Games in 2004. After their inaugural appearance in Athens, the Ghana National Paralympic Committee sent athletes with disabilities to the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, the 2012 Games in London, and the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.