Jean Driscoll is a motivational speaker, author, award-winning athlete, and advocate worldwide for persons with disabilities. She has also done work as a television sports commentator and currently serves as a Senior Director of Development in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Illinois.
She earned a B.A. in Speech Communication with honors in 1991 and an M.S. in Rehabilitation Administration in 1993, both from the University of Illinois. In 1997, Jean was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the University of Rhode Island and 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 in the state of Illinois. Past recipients include Ronald Reagan and Jack Benny.
Jean won the Boston Marathon eight times during her athletic career and was 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 1 hour, 34 minutes and 22 seconds was broken by 16 seconds in 2011. Jean also won 2 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 Jean as one of the top 25 female athletes of the twentieth century and in July 2012, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
Jean 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.
Jean has been active as a global advocate for people with disabilities. She traveled to Ghana, West Africa in 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2010 to teach athletes and coaches about the sport of wheelchair track. In 2003 Jean teamed up with Joni and Friends, Inc. and five Rotary Clubs to bring eight 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, Ghana sent athletes to the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing and 2012 Games in London.