Nov. 19, 2007
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The NCAA Honors Committee has chosen James MacLaren '85 as the 2008 Inspiration Award winner. The award is presented to a current or former coach, administrator or varsity letter-winner who, when confronted with a life-altering situation used perseverance and determination to overcome the event and now serves as a role model to give hope to others in similar situations.
Two years ago, MacLaren established a philanthropic organization with a mission of impacting those in need through inspiration, compassion and accessibility, and providing children, adults and families with the tools to help them engage life at every level. He named it Choose Living. Weeks after graduating from Yale, MacLaren, a football and lacrosse standout and a theatre studies major, was leaving a rehearsal in New York when his motorcycle was broadsided by a bus.
Initially diagnosed as dead on arrival at the hospital, MacLaren was comatose, but stabilized, after 18 hours of surgery. Doctors also amputated his left leg below the knee.
MacLaren awakened from the coma determined to rehabilitate his body. Eventually, he resumed his athletics pursuits as a tri-athlete. MacLaren went on to become the amputee world record holder in the Boston, Los Angeles and Hamburg Marathons and in the Ironman competition in Hawaii.
However, MacLaren's life took another turn on June 6, 1993, when he collided with a van in the bike leg of a triathlon in California. The impact hurled him into a signpost and he broke his neck. The accident left him paralyzed from the neck down and in a wheelchair.
The road to recovery was far tougher this time. But MacLaren has once again battled back to reclaim some motor function of his limbs even though doctors said he would not regain movement below his neck.
MacLaren currently is a motivational speaker and has started a doctorate in mythology and depth psychology. His foundation supports multiple organizations including the Challenged Athletes Foundation; Camp Good Days and Special Times, the nation's largest cancer camp for children; and efforts to assists disabled people in Ghana and around the world. MacLaren said he's honored by being named as an NCAA Inspiration Award winner, but he doesn't feel special.
"I feel like I'm a 44-year-old work in progress," he said. "Now I get to take all those years of being a competitive athlete and not only be honored with this award, but this award honors me because it stands for more than being an athlete."