World-renowned Kevin Saunders visits Dr. Biere’s Orientation Class


A group of the students from the orientation class pose with Kevin Saunders and Dr. Biere for a group picture.

Kevin Saunders, originally from Smith Center, Kan., presented to Dr. Arlo Biere’s orientation class, which is specifically for freshmen, on September 17. Saunders’ powerful message to the class came from years of dealing with challenges and adversity.

Saunders is a alumnus of Kansas State University where, in the late 1970s, Dr. Biere was his academic advisor. Shortly after his college graduation, Saunders found himself in a cush job with Federal Government, which he noted would have allowed him to eat lobster and steak on a daily basis. His life took an abrupt change of path in April of 1981, with the explosion of the grain elevator he was inspecting in Corpus Christi, Texas. He recalled that day to the class: how the head-splitting sound could not be put into words, and how he only had the time to see his supervisor fall to the floor before Saunders was thrown 300 feet, over a two-story building and to the concrete parking lot. With a severed spinal cord and his body nearly snapped in two at the chest, paramedics nearly left Saunders there on the ground due to a lack of ambulances. He was transported to the hospital in a station wagon with a blown off door as a gurney.

The recovery that Saunders made after the explosion was the focus of his presentation to the class. Immediately after, he had seen no prospect of living up to the life he had before, in which he had been very active in athletics. It was a few of his friends that finally helped him take a proactive step in his life by encouraging him to begin with lifting weights. In 1984, Saunders was encouraged to enter the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, a race that 50,000 participate in annually. He arrived in his hospital-issued wheelchair with racquetball gloves to protect his hands, was left in the dust by fellow wheelchair competitors and was never allowed to finish the race. Following that race, Saunders trained often and saw many successes in the Olympics, became a member of the President’s Board on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition; was named the World’s Greatest Wheelchair Athlete, and even recently won the USA Track and Field Half-Marathon in Houston. The list of challenges that Saunders overcame and the victories that ensued is very long and impressive.

Even with all of the world attention that he has gained, he still cares a great deal for his Alma Mater. Saunders visits the Wildcat football team often, as he is its Motivational Coach. He also makes sure to visit his college advisor, Dr. Biere, whenever he is in town. Biere hoped the class would take away encouragement to be the best that each of them can be from Saunders’ lecture to the class.

To read additional information about Kevin Saunders, check out his website or look at the feature article in the most recent edition of the Exchange


Saunders challenges the class to think about future dreams and visions, and provides encouragement.


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