MIDDLEBURY ― Nationally recognized Paralympic skier and social activist Chris Waddell, a member of the Middlebury Class of 1991, will deliver the 2011 Middlebury College commencement address on Sunday, May 22.
Waddell is also the founder of the nonprofit organization One Revolution, whose mission is to educate people worldwide about the range of human capability. He will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Padma Desai, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Dorothy Bigelow Neuberger, Edward M. Rubin and Maxine Atkins Smith will receive honorary degrees as well.
"Chris Waddell has lived his life in an inspiring and thought-provoking way," said Middlebury College President Ron Liebowitz. "He has demonstrated that practically anything is possible as long as one remains determined and open-minded. It is an honor to have him speak at commencement and we are proud that he is a Middlebury alumnus."
Waddell was a promising young skier at Middlebury in 1988 when a skiing accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. A year later, he was back on the slopes, and two years later was a member of the United States Disabled Ski Team.
Waddell is the most decorated male skier in Paralympic history, having won 12 medals over four games and spending a total of 11 years on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. He is one of a select few who has medaled in both summer and winter games. In the fall of 2009, he became the first paraplegic to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro unassisted, and in 2010 he was inducted into both the Paralympic Hall of Fame and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
In addition to his work with the International Paralympic Committee, Waddell has found success as a motivational speaker. He speaks about the resilience of the human condition, with topics ranging from leadership to adversity to quality of life. He has inspired children and adults alike with his overall message that "It's not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you."