ESPN host and Paralympian Victoria Arlen to deliver Larry Adair Lecture at Northeastern State University

ESPN host and Paralympian gold medalist Victoria Arlen will deliver the 2022 Larry Adair Lecture at Northeastern State University on Feb. 23.

The annual lectureship will take place in the NSU Webb Auditorium at 2 p.m. The lecture is free and open to the public. Seating will be limited and in-person guests are strongly encouraged to wear masks.

Arlen will share how she found hope and inspiration despite battling two rare conditions that left her “locked” inside her own body. She will also discuss the perspective individuals give to obstacles in their lives and how to overcome those roadblocks.

A book signing of Arlen’s book “Locked in: The Will to Survive and the Resolve to Live” in the RiverHawk Shoppe will follow the event.

Executive Director of the NSU Foundation Peggy Glenn said Arlen was an excellent candidate to invite to speak as part of the lectureship series. She said this year the institution is placing an extra emphasis on celebrating individuals with physical, mental, developmental or health conditions.

In May, the university will celebrate the graduation of the inaugural cohort of the RiverHawks Scholar Program, the first program of its kind in Oklahoma to provide a college-style living and learning environment for individuals with mild/moderate intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. In addition, this upcoming year’s freshmen read is "Sitting Pretty," by Rebekah Taussig, who uses a wheelchair.

“Those with such conditions have an amazing capacity for grit and are experts at overcoming obstacles to succeed, and everyone can learn so much from those experiences,” Glenn said. “I know audience members will be moved and inspired by Victoria's personal story of awaking from a long-term coma and having to learn to walk again, winning gold medals at Paralympic competitions, then appearing on "Dancing with the Stars" relatively soon after taking those first steps.”

In 2006, an 11-year-old Arlen lost the ability to speak, eat and move after she suddenly developed Transverse Myelitis and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis that left her in a vegetative state for four years.

Defying the odds, in 2010 Arlen regained the ability to speak, eat and move again and today shares her powerful life story to uplift and encourage audiences through her message “Face It, Embrace It, Defy It, Conquer It.”

In addition to public speaking, Arlen went on to become a competitive swimmer earning medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games and setting multiple American, Pan American and world records. She would transition from being a professional athlete to her current role as an ESPN host in 2015.

Arlen also is the founder and co-chair of Victoria’s Victory Foundation, a nonprofit that assists individuals living with disabilities achieve their own person victory.

About the Larry Adair Lectureship

Friends and family of former Oklahoma Speaker of the House, the Honorable Larry Adair, and the NSU Foundation established the Larry Adair Lectureship Series in 2004 to create an annual forum to engage students in politics, government and public policy.

For more information about the 2021 Larry Adair Lectureship, contact the NSU Foundation at 918-444-4200 or visit

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