Syracuse UniversityChicago


SU alum teachs kids to overcome obstacles

Danny Heumann

Students at Chicago’s Francis W. Parker School are accustomed to approaching their education and personal lives differently than many of their peers. Since the school was founded in 1901, its mission has focused on educating students to connect reflection with action, wisdom with innovation, deeds with consequences, and character with citizenship. With the great word being “responsibility,” Parker students thrive on active participation generated by reflective critical thinking, creative problem solving and courageous, clear action.

But what happens when life throws a curve ball, and something outside your control turns your whole world upside down? How do you find the inner strength and determination to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles? Few people have mastered the skill like Danny Heumann ’91, and at a recent visit, he shared his message of inspiration, opportunity, and triumph with Parker students.

Heumann is no stranger to life-changing experiences, both good and bad. Just two weeks before he was to start college at Syracuse University, a devastating car accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. Years of therapy and rehab asked everything of him physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but along the way Heumann discovered the person he was meant to be. He earned a degree in Television Radio Film Management from SU’s Newhouse School of Public Communications and even walked across the stage at graduation. He went on to receive a J.D. degree in 1998 from the Washington College of Law at American University in Washington, D.C.

Today, as president of Heumannly Capable, Inc., Heumann enjoys bringing a powerful message to audiences of all ages—reminding them that their own emotional paralysis can prevent them from living life to the max. His outlook hasn’t just changed his life; it’s touched thousands of others who’ve heard him speak.

Heumann’s day-long visit to Parker on October 21 included a mix of small- and large-group settings, centered around open, honest, impactful conversation.

“Danny’s warm, humorous, and thoughtful way of telling his own story created a meaningful connection to the students, teachers, and parents. Students were able to ask him many questions in an uninhibited and respectful way, and Danny welcomed the opportunity to talk with them in ways that allowed us all to appreciate the need to be courageous and determined to overcome life’s obstacles,” said Daniel B. Frank, Ph.D., Principal at the Parker School. “Teachers and parents also found Danny’s way of telling his story supported their own continued efforts to talk with students about matters of character and perseverance. Danny’s generosity of spirit as he talked with the Parker community left us all with a deeper appreciation for the inner strength it takes to persist and succeed against such forceful odds.”

Heumann lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife, Lynn, and their 10-year-old daughter, Katie. He serves on the board of directors for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which funds spinal cord research at universities around the country.

A firm believer that people with disabilities should be encouraged to participate in athletics, Heumann is a wheelchair tennis player and competes in USTA tennis leagues against able-bodied players and wheelchair tennis tournaments throughout the country. He also enjoys hand-cycling, water skiing and snow skiing, sailing, and even skydiving!

To learn more about Danny Heumann, visit his website at