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Weihenmayer to speak at Lehigh’s 139th commencement

Erik Weihenmayer will be the 2007 commencement speaker.

Erik Weihenmayer, author, educator, and the only blind person to have climbed the “Seven Summits,” the tallest peak on every continent, will address the more than 1,200 graduates of Lehigh University’s Class of 2007 at the university’s 139th commencement ceremony. The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m., Monday, May 21, in Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium.

Weihenmayer was invited to speak by Lehigh’s President Alice P. Gast, who noted the importance of bringing such an awe-inspiring figure to campus.

“Erik is one of the most courageous and inspiring individuals in the world. Despite losing his vision at 13, he has never let his blindness interfere with his passion for life,” said President Gast. “His example of not letting any obstacle stand in the way of his dreams should truly inspire graduates, parents, families, and friends. His work, books, and documentaries are inspiring to millions of individuals. Through his spirit and his generosity, he is a person who exemplifies all that we aspire to.”

On May 25, 2001, Weihenmayer became the only blind man in history to reach the summit of the world’s tallest peak—Mount Everest. And then on September 5, 2002, when he stood atop Mount Kosciusko in Australia, Weihenmayer completed his quest to climb the Seven Summits, the highest mountains in each of the seven continents, within a seven-year period.

His inspiring life garners awards

His achievements have earned him the Helen Keller Lifetime Achievement Award, the Freedom Foundation’s Free Spirit Award, an ESPY Award, recognition by Time Magazine for one of the greatest sporting achievements of 2001, and Nike’s Casey Martin Award. He has also carried the Olympic torch for both the Summer and Winter Games.

Weihenmayer, a former middle school teacher and wrestling coach, has written two books, produced a film, and is the subject of numerous articles, documentaries, and features. His first book, Touch the Top of the World, is published in 10 countries and six languages. According to Publisher’s Weekly, Weihenmayer’s memoir is “moving and adventure packed, Weihenmayer tells his extraordinary story with humor, honesty and vivid detail, and his fortitude and enthusiasm are deeply inspiring.” The book was made into a feature film that aired on A&E in June of 2006.

Weihenmayer’s second book,The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles Into Everyday Greatness, co-authored with business guru and best-selling author, Paul Stoltz, was released by Simon and Schuster in January, 2007. The book shares seven “summits” for harnessing the power of adversity and turning it into the never-ending fuel to growth and innovation.

Weihenmayer makes his ascent up Mount Everest back in 2001.

Weihenmayer’s Emmy-nominated film, “Farther Than the Eye Can See,” captures the emotion, humor and drama of his historic ascent of Mount Everest. Through screenings, the film has raised over $600,000 for charitable organizations. Another documentary, “Blindsight,” is the story of a 2004 expedition when Weihenmayer and his Mt. Everest team attempted to guide six blind Tibetan teenagers to the 23,000 foot Lhakpa Ri on the north side of Mount Everest.

Just last June, Weihenmayer led a team of blind and sighted teens on a week-long trek through the Peruvian Andes in conjunction with Global Explorers, an educational leadership organization.

To read more about Weihenmayer or to watch video clips of his incredible climbs, visit his Web site.

--Bill Doherty

Posted on Friday, February 23, 2007

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