Tori Murden McClure did not want to be known as the first woman who almost rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. That’s why — after an intense storm cut short her attempt in 1998 — she completed the harrowing journey a year later, becoming the first woman and the first American to navigate the nearly 3,000 miles in a solo rowboat. Not to mention that 10 years earlier she logged a 750-mile trek to take her place as the first woman and first American to ski to the geographic South Pole.  

Tori Murden McClure / photo courtesy of Spalding University

On May 21, McClure will be on campus to share the message of perseverance, tenacity, and preparation she gained during those and other extreme adventures as Mary Baldwin University’s 175th Commencement speaker.

In addition to being a world-renowned athlete, McClure is a consummate scholar who earned her bachelor’s degree from Smith College, her master of divinity from Harvard, and her juris doctor from the University of Louisville School of Law, passing the Kentucky Bar in 1995. She has served as president of Spalding University since 2010, where she also earned her master of fine arts in writing before publishing her memoir, A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean.

McClure’s exploits and education make her a sought-after speaker around the globe, and she has appeared on the “Today” Show, “the Oprah Winfrey Show,” The Discovery Channel, and CNN, among other national programs. Her international recognition includes the Peter Byrd Trophy, and the European Academy of Sport, the Victor Award, and she is the subject of an award-winning French documentary.

MBU’s Commencement ceremony begins at 10 a.m. May 21 on Page Terrace. In the event of rain, Commencement will be held at James Madison University Convocation Center in Harrisonburg at 10:30 a.m.