Law Student Meets President Bush After Earning Silver Medal

Jamie Dean is a fourth-year JD/MBA student at Wake Forest’s Law School and Babcock Graduate School of Management.

But while his classmates were in the Worrell Professional Center listening to their professors’ lectures last week, Dean was in Washington, D.C., with more than 500 Olympic athletes and medal winners attending a reception and meeting President Bush.

“I was one of about a half-dozen Olympiads who got to shake President Bush’s hand,” Dean said with a wide grin Wednesday after returning to campus. “I also got to meet Nastia Liukin (Olympic gold medalist gymnast). It doesn’t get better than that.”

Well maybe just a little better. Like realizing his own Olympic dreams and earning the silver medal in the legs, trunk and arms mixed four with coxswain rowing event at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Dean’s team, which was considered the underdog, finished with a time of 3:37.61. The win was made even sweeter by the fact that the U.S. team earned it on Sept. 11. Dean’s first paralympic team included Simona Chin, Jesse Karmazin, Tracey Tackett and Emma Preuschi. Italy captured the gold medal with a time of 3:33.13.

“I think we had excellent coaching and great determination,” Dean explained.

This is the first year that adaptive rowing was part of the Paralympic Games. Dean, who is legally blind, began rowing at Wake Forest in 2001 and quickly began competing at an international level. He finished fifth in the legs-trunk-arms four with coxswain at the 2007 FISA World Championships and took fifth in the same event in 2006. Dean is a two-time member of the U.S. Rowing National Championship legs-trunk-arms four with coxswain team.

Dean has retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited and degenerative eye disease that allows him to perceive some light, but he cannot make out objects. A native of Pickerington, Ohio, Dean received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Wake Forest in 2005.

Dean, who is 26, had a busy summer. He married Lauren Brown Dean, a student at Wake Forest’s divinity school, in June, the same month he found out he made the Paralympics team. In addition to working at the law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, he spent an average of two hours most weekdays training on Salem Lake with his rowing partner or working out on a rowing machine in his apartment. On the weekends he often traveled to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and even Oklahoma City to train with his Paralympic teammates.

Lauren Dean and Dean’s parents were in Beijing to cheer him on while he was with his team Sept. 1-11. After the competition, they traveled around China.

“I was impressed with China from top to bottom,” Dean said. “I was amazed by the extent of the development. Shanghai is like a Western city. And I was treated like a rock star everywhere we went.”

Dean says he wants to participate in the next Paralympics if possible, perhaps the 2009 world championships in August and even the Winter Olympics.

“I’m not done rowing, I have big plans,” he said. “In Paralympics, everyone has a story and other countries get that. In the U.S. we’re the invisible athletes and I’d like to change that.”

What’s not hard to miss is Dean’s new shiny silver medal, which is emblazoned in Braille, of which Dean says: “I don’t leave home without it.”