Alex Watters
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Alex Watters

Allendale, Michigan, United States

Allendale, Michigan, United States
Band Comedy


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The best kept secret in music


"Testimonial #2"

On April 25, 2013, Alex Waters spoke at the annual joint conference of College & University Business Officers and Human Resource Officers in Ames Iowa. There were approximately 120 people in attendance for Alex’s presentation during the noon meal. Large universities such as University of Iowa and Iowa State University were in attendance as well as smaller, private 4 year colleges and community colleges.

Alex was given general guidance that he was to speak on the issue of diversity on a college campus.

Alex opened the presentation by describing the series of events that led to his injury, and his subsequent rehabilitative process. Alex then went on to discuss how his injury has impacted his views on how colleges can better approach and strategically engage potential employees with disabilities as well as students with disabilities.

Alex’s presentation was amazingly received. Alex used a well balanced mix of humor, candor, and honesty in discussing issues that an individual with a physical disability must face. He also utilized current data to underscore key points. As a Board Member for the conference, I received many compliments for securing Alex as a speaker, and I witnessed many of the attendees approach Alex after his presentation to offer thanks, and to obtain his business card for the express purpose of recommending him as a speaker back at their own college. I would confidently recommend Alex as a guest speaker to anyone who is responsible for the creation of a memorable conference.

Mark Brown, CPA
Vice President of Operations and Finance
Northwest Iowa Community College
- Mark Brown

"Testimonial #1"

To Whom It May Concern:
Information Technology Services
291 Durham Center
Ames, Iowa 50011-2251
515 294-4000
FAX 515 294-1000
I am writing to you in regards to Alex Watters. We recently had Alex speak at our joint annual event for college and
university human resource professionals and business officers (IACUBO/CUPA-HR) in Ames, IA on April 25th.
We had him give a half hour presentation during lunch to over 125 attendees and vendors.
I have been on the planning committee for IACUBO/CUPA-HR several years now, and I am always on the lookout
for new speakers at our event. I had not heard of Alex before and I'll be honest that I was a little hesitant in having
him speak. However, within 2 minutes oflistening to him talk I realized he is everything you look for in a speaker.
He is young, funny, articulate, and passionate. He's able to keep the attention of the audience, which is not
something you can always do during a lunch presentation. I believe our only regret in having him speak is that we
did not schedule his presentation for longer than half an hour.
In looking over our evaluation forms from the conference, Alex received a rating of above average to excellent on
everyone's form. He received as high of marks as two of our presenters that travel the country who speak for a
living. Not only that, but he received a standing ovation at the end of his presentation, which I believe speak
volumes to the caliber of him as a speaker and his topic.
Alex's message has truly resonated with me. I underestimated him once, but will not do that again. I was recently
asked to join another planning committee for business officers and have already reached out to Alex about speaking
at this event. I highly recommend Alex as a speaker. If you have any additional questions or would like more
information about Alex's presentation to us, feel free to contact me at the number or email address listed below.
Brent Swanson
Senior Accountant, Information Technology Services
Iowa State University
2911 Durham Center
Ames, IA 50011
Ph: (515) 294-8510
Email: - Brent Swanson

"Campus as an Obstacle Course"

THE specially equipped Dodge Sprinter pulled into the Morningside College parking lot, transporting my campus guide and his Quickie 646 SE motorized wheelchair. Alex Watters was returning to this small liberal arts college in Sioux City, Iowa, for a wheelchair tour of the campus he had navigated as an undergraduate. Our mission was to understand some of the challenges faced by students with a physical disability for a book I was writing on the first-year college experience.
Slide Show

Slide Show
Life on Wheels
Go to Education Life »

ABC’s of Accommodations (November 4, 2012)

Brian Lehmann for The New York Times
A caregiver, Jennifer Mozak-Wubbena, helps Alex Watters prepare for the day. Mr. Watters can’t use his hands. More Photos »
I stuck my hand out. Alex could raise his arm but had no mobility in his hands, so I shook his outstretched fist. Freshman year, he had damaged his spinal cord in a diving accident and lost the use of his legs and hands. “Ready to go?” he asked as I grabbed my manually operated wheelchair, on loan from the nursing department.

“Ready as ever,” I said, not altogether sure how to operate the thing. As I struggled to get over the tiny ribbon of tar between the parking lot and sidewalk, Alex zipped around the lot doing wheelies, as if to say, “You have no idea what you’re in for.”

Motoring backward while talking, like an admissions office tour guide, he was contagiously optimistic. “Sure, I have challenges now,” he said, “but I’m not going to let them take over my life.”

ALEX WATTERS comes from Okoboji, a small town in the northwest corner of Iowa, on the border with Minnesota. He had applied to the University of Iowa and Drake but chose Morningside because he was heavily recruited to play golf. He had been captain of his high school team junior and senior years. When he arrived on campus — it was fall 2004 — he was full of excitement and expectation.

The second week there, Danielle Westphal — a classmate with whom he had won a dance contest during orientation — invited him to a family get-together on Lake Okoboji. He and a friend drove up to the cabin, arriving at about 10 p.m. As the guests toasted marshmallows around a bonfire, Alex and his hostess’s younger brother decided to go for a swim. The weather was beginning to get cold. He figured this would be his last swim of the season.

The two of them changed into their trunks and walked 150 feet out onto the dock. A gust of wind blew, and Alex’s hat flew off, landing near a boat hoist. He took off his shirt and dived in after it. But there was a sandbar. The water was only 18 inches deep. He heard his neck snap.

“I remember laying face-first underwater,” Alex said, a crack in his voice. “At first I tried to start swimming, but of course I couldn’t move. I thought, this was it. I’m a pretty religious person, so I was thinking, ‘I’m O.K. with this if it happens.’ And then I blacked out.”

At first the young boy thought Alex was playing a joke on him. Then he sensed something was terribly wrong. He ran back to the cabin to get help. They came running, and Danielle jumped into the water feetfirst and knelt beside Alex. He had now been under water more than two minutes. She turned him over and gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. E.M.S. arrived, and from the local hospital he was quickly airlifted to Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City.

“Next thing I remember are Mom and Dad and our pastor standing by my bed and the surgeon telling them about the operation I would soon have,” he told me. His spinal cord wasn’t severed but pinched. “Your spinal cord is like a banana,” Alex said. “If you bend it severely enough it won’t necessarily break but it will be permanently damaged.”

After surgery to stabilize the vertebrae in his neck, Alex underwent therapy for six months at a rehabilitation hospital in Denver. I asked him what he was feeling at this point. He and his parents had become interested in stem cell research, and the possibility he would someday walk again. “But I really didn’t want to live my life hoping I would walk again when the chances were I might not,” he said. “Even at that point, I was pretty happy with who I was and even then I was thinking about the possibility of returning to college.”

He took courses at Iowa Lakes Community College that summer, and the next fall returned to Morningside to resume his first year.

WE maneuvered our wheelchairs to the path leading to Roadman Hall, where Alex had lived next door to his assistant when he returned to college following the accident. “Since I cannot use my hands,” he said, “I needed someone constantly to assist me,” including taking notes and typing papers as he dictated.

“Wheelchair students like me usually get two principal accommodations: a handicapped-accessible residence and classes arranged on the first floor of a classroom building or a classroom building with an elevator,” he explained. “Since I was the - New York Times





In September 2004 Alex Watters had an accident that fractured his C5 vertebrae leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. Since then, Alex has graduated summa cum laude from Morningside College where he studied political science and global history. He also received his Masters in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from Creighton University. Alex has interned at the U.S Dept. of Education in conjunction with the American Association of People with Disabilities, worked for the Presidential Administration during the last election cycle and currently works as a Coordinator for Campus Compact at Morningside College. As a motivational speaker he has shared his story to hundreds on topics ranging from self-confidence and bullying to diversity inclusion and networking.