University of Pennsylvania
Masters in City Planning with Urban Design, Spring 2012
Jeff Harris looks at the basket of more than 20 pairs of track spikes, curling shoes, ski boots, flippers, golf shoes and soccer cleats that up until the age of 24 had represented the sports that had been the most defining aspect of his life. On July 4, 2007, Jeff was playing soccer on the beach at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was hot and he ran into the water to cool off. He was hit by a wave that flipped him over hitting his head on a sandbar. He nearly drowned and was left a C-6 Quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. After 5 months at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, he literally rolled out the front door, crossed the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and joined his class at the Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial for a site visit, in his last semester at Temple University. His Landscape Architecture professor that semester was Stuart Appel, of Wells Appel (a world-renowned landscape architecture and land planning firm) and as they traveled down the sidewalk towards the Washington Monument he stated, “I’ve never been with someone in a wheelchair as I went through a site.” This became a defining moment in Jeff’s life as he determined the direction of his professional and academic endeavors. Jeff sees himself as extremely fortunate, not only to be alive and have a profession that can affect the lives of others but to have experienced so many sports and learned so much about himself from them. Today he plays wheelchair rugby with the Magee Eagles and is starting the first ever Philadelphia Wheelchair Curling program in conjunction with the United States Curling Association and Magee Hospital. He began a Masters Program at the University of Pennsylvania for City Planning/Urban Design as it relates to ADA design standards. Jeff has learned that the shoes from his past may sit dormant in his closet, but the “shoes” in his future may be even more diverse.