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 the Assistant Dean of Advancement in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois.
She earned a B.A. in Speech Communication with honors in 1991 and went on to receive a M.S. in Rehabilitation Administration in 1993 from the U of I. 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 "Order of Lincoln", the highest honor given in the state of Illinois. Past recipients include Ronald Reagan and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. She will also be inducted into the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Hall of Fame in July 2012.
Jean has won the Boston Marathon eight times and was the first person in history to achieve this feat. (Only one other athlete, Ernst Van Dyk, has achieved this milestone) She held the world best time on its course for 17 years, until it was broken by 16 seconds in 2011. She won silver medals in the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympic Games and is also a world record holder in the 10,000 meter track event. She competed in four Paralympic Games and won five gold medals, three silver and four bronze during this time. Sports Illustrated for Women magazine recognized Jean as one of the top 25 female athletes of the twentieth century.
Jean has served as a corporate spokesperson for Ocean Spray, United Airlines, Lighthouse Foods and the California Date Commission. She has been featured on Good Morning America, the Today Show, ABC Nightline, Lifetime TV, Oxygen Sports, ESPN, CNN, and The Late, Late Show.
Jean is also very 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., several Champaign, IL area Rotary Clubs, Rotary International, and numerous donors and supporters to bring eight athletes and two coaches from Ghana to the US. The athletes were fitted with their first ever racing chairs and everyday 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 Paralympics in Beijing as well.
One of Jean’s greatest distinctions came in 2003 when she was named Godmother of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s newest ship at the time, Mariner of the Seas. (Being a Godmother is one of the highest honors in the cruising industry.) She joined other Olympians honored by Royal Caribbean as Godmothers such as Stefi Graf, Jackie Joyner–Kersee, and Katarina Witt.