Haley Scott DeMaria, a former collegiate swimmer who overcame severe injuries suffered in a tragic bus accident and ultimately swam again, will deliver the St. Ambrose University spring commencement address. DeMaria will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
DeMaria is a former University of Notre Dame swimmer who told her story of overcoming possible paralysis from a broken spine in the 2008 autobiography, What Though The Odds. A film version of that story, Two Miles from Home, is in pre-production and soon is expected to join Rudy and Knute Rockne: All-American as one of three movies allowed to be filmed on the Notre Dame campus.
In January of 1992, DeMaria was gravely injured when a bus carrying the Notre Dame swim team careened off an ice-covered interstate. Two of her friends and teammates were killed in the accident.
Although doctors initially feared paralysis, and despite five subsequent surgeries, DeMaria returned to Notre Dame. She swam again for the Fighting Irish in October 1993, winning her 50 freestyle heat with a career-best time.
DeMaria was a recipient of the 1993 Spirit of Notre Dame Award, the 1994 Honda Award for Inspiration and the 1994 Gene Autry Courage in Sport Award. She was named the 1994 Woman of the Year at the National Women's Leadership Conference and was made a fellow at the Institute for International Sport in Rhode Island in 1995.
She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from Notre Dame in 1995 and earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Southern California in 2010. She is married to Jamie DeMaria. They have two sons and reside in Annapolis, Md.
Although she has spoken to numerous organizations and conferences, the May 9 ceremony will be only third commencement address DeMaria has delivered. She previously addressed the University of Notre Dame Class of 2012 and the Class of 2013 from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa.
"Haley Scott DeMaria is a truly inspiring woman and she will be a terrific model for our Class of 2015, as well as for the entire St. Ambrose community," said Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, university president. "We are delighted and privileged to have her as our commencement speaker."