spring commencement at The University of Texas at Austin
will be celebrated May 22 by more than 7,000 graduating students,
families and friends, and members of the university community.
The graduates in the following profiles have set high standards
others, both in the classroom and out.
World-class triathlete goes the distance in training and in
who couldn’t swim five years ago, hopes to qualify
for the Olympics as a triathlete.
Shae Rainer never got the hang of playing with Barbies when she
was a little girl, preferring to keep up with the boys instead.
Now that she’s 23, she finds the boys are having trouble
keeping up with her.
Rainer, a senior in the College of Education’s Department
of Kinesiology, has lived something of a Cinderella story while
working on her degree in kinesiology, advancing—in only five
years—from a girl who did not own a mountain bike or know
how to swim to a world-class triathlete who has her eye on the
Her photo now graces magazine covers, she wins duathlons alongside
Lance Armstrong, has her picture taken as she chats with Gov. Rick
Perry at races and hears her name announced by ABC sportscasters.
“My family isn’t particularly athletic, and no one
was pushing me to participate in races,” said Rainer. “I
just find that I absolutely thrive on competition, and I have to
have a challenge. I hate not being physically active.
“Until 1999, I knew enough about swimming to maybe save
myself if I was drowning, but that was it. In 2000 when I competed
in my first ever triathlon, though, I finished in fourth place
in my age group and then finished in first place in my age group
in the Trilogy Triathlon that same year. My dream is to participate
in the Olympics, and I just feel like it’s going to happen.
I know I can do it.”
While taking up to 18 hours a semester of business and kinesiology
courses, Rainer has trained for and participated in 40 races all
over the nation and won first place or been in the top three in
every race. In an almost manic display of energy and drive, Rainer
on one weekend may participate in and win a triathlon on a Saturday,
then travel to a different locale on Sunday, participate in a mountain
bike race and win that competition as well.
Read more about Shae
Mother triumphs over blindness to live life of vision and advocacy
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way—developing macular
degeneration at age 7. But Niki Robinson has done more than just
deal with it.
enjoys the support of her family: Jake, her 5-year-old son;
Joey, her 3-year-old service dog; and Jessie, her 7-year-old
Legally blind since she was a child, 34-year-old Robinson (formerly
Mercer) decided to return to school and become a social worker
so she could, in turn, help children with disabilities. She will
graduate in May.
“I have been presented with a lifetime of hurdles, but these
challenges have made me the person I am today,” said Robinson,
a single mother of two small children.
degeneration is an incurable eye disease and a leading cause
of blindness for those aged 55 and older in the United States.
Robinson realizes she is an anomaly.
“Ever since I made the decision to accept my disability,
I have had a positive attitude and do the best I can,” she
said. “I believe my unwillingness to give up forces people
to look at their own circumstances from a new perspective.”
Robinson’s life is a juggling act, although sometimes she
feels she is juggling bowling balls. Four “J’s” are
foremost in her mind: Jessie, her 7-year-old daughter, Jake, her
5-year-old son, Joey, her 3-year-old service dog and Jaws, the
screen reader on her computer that speaks to her.
“Jessie and Jake are my fuel to keep me pursuing my dreams,” she
Joey will walk across the stage with Robinson when she receives
Robinson paid only $1 for “the most incredible dog in the
world,” trained by Guide Dogs of Texas in San Antonio. She
recently spoke to a conference of 400 Texas nursing students about
the guide dog school, and Joey received a standing ovation.
Read more about Niki