James E. MacLaren, 1981

Motivational Speaker
Jim MacLaren came to Vermont Academy as a freshman and considered Vermont Academy his home away from home. He graduated Cum Laude, Valedictorian, Academic All-American, and Barrett Prize recipient. From here he entered Yale where he was an All-American football and lacrosse player. He graduated from the Yale School of Drama and acted on stage and on television where he landed a role on the soap opera, “Another World.”

While returning home from a job interview in New York City, Jim was hit by a bus that ran a red light. The accident resulted in amputation of his left leg below the knee. Over the years to follow, Jim made an effort to become the best one-legged athlete he could. He swam, rode a bike and learned to run with a special prosthetic. He became a top competitor racing against and often beating able-bodied competition and holds the record of fastest amputee runner and triathlete in the world. He ran the New York Marathon, Boston Marathon and Ironman Triathlons. He holds the Hawaii Ironman record for an amputee athlete with a time of 10 hours, 42 minutes and finished in the top third of able-bodied athletes. During this time, Jim became a motivational speaker inspiring others with disabilities, especially young people.

In 1993 during the Ironman in Southern California, while on the cycling portion of the competition, Jim was hit by a van. The accident left him a quadriplegic. After months of therapy, Jim learned a lot about himself and his will to succeed returned. Within six months of the accident, he was living on his own. Jim continues his motivational speaking, writes articles and poetry and pursues charitable work with his own foundation, Choose Living. He also works with the Challenged Athletes Foundation and Camp Good Days and Special Times, a camp for youth with cancer which has most recently added a program for families afflicted with AIDS.

In 2004 filmmakers began working on a documentary, Emmanuel’s Gift. It is a story of a disabled boy from Ghana who single-handedly changed the perception of the disabled in his country by riding a bicycle across the country. The bicycle was provided by Challenged Athletes Foundation, which was founded for Jim MacLaren after his second accident. Jim MacLaren is featured in the film with Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah.

In August at the 2005 ESPY Awards Jim MacLaren and Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah were presented the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which is presented annually to individuals whose contributions transcend sports, because they embodying the toughness of spirit and never-give-up attitude that are hallmarks of the award. Awarded September 30, 2006.

Education for Life - One Student at a Time

Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.