Presidential Lecture Series

Amy Purdy

Recognition Year: 
2015-16

Model, actress, dancer, Paralympic bronze medalist

February 12, 2016

7 p.m. Lecture
Apollo Room, Student Union

5:30 p.m. Public Reception
Endeavor Room, Student Union

Co-sponsored with Adventure Summit and Office of Disability Services

At 19, after experiencing flu-like symptoms, Amy Purdy was rushed to the hospital in a state of septic shock. En route, she experienced respiratory and multiple organ failure that caused her to lose circulation to her extremities. When she entered the hospital, Purdy was put on life support, placed into a coma, and given less than a 2-percent chance of survival, After multiple blood transfusions and the removal of her ruptured spleen, doctors diagnosed Amy with meningococcal meningitis, a vaccine-preventable bacterial infection. Due to the lack of circulation she had suffered, doctors amputated her legs below the knee. Purdy later received a donated kidney from her father a week before her 21st birthday.

Just three months after her kidney transplant, Purdy entered the USASA National Snowboarding Championship, where she won medals in three events. Today she is one of the top-ranked adaptive snowboarders in the world and was the 2014 Paralympic bronze medalist. Purdy is the only double leg amputee competing at the world-class level.

She was featured in a Madonna music video, won a lead actress role in an award-winning independent film, and has participated in multiple creative modeling projects. One was a photo shoot with musician and artist Nikki Sixx where Purdy’s legs were custom made from steel to look like ice picks.

Purdy has become a powerful inspirational and motivational speaker whose story and images have been featured in numerous national and international publications. In 2012, she and longtime boyfriend (now husband) Daniel Gale raced around the world on The Amazing Race. In the spring of 2014, Purdy inspired millions of fans with her stunning performances on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, eventually becoming the show’s runnerup. She followed that by sharing her remarkable story on a national tour alongside Oprah Winfrey as part of Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour.

Next up was the release of her memoir, On My Own Two Feet, which quickly became a New York Times Best Seller and has since been published in numerous languages around the world.

Purdy was featured in a critically acclaimed 2015 Super Bowl commercial with Muhammad Ali on behalf of Toyota and, later that year, drove the pace car at the Daytona 500. She is now in the process of launching her own clothing line, the Amy Purdy Collection, due out this spring in partnership with Element Eden.

She is most proud of co-founding Adaptive Action Sports, a nonprofit organization that helps those with permanent disabilities get involved in action sports.