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Rob Chalmers [Class of] '72: A Little Magic, A Lot of Ability

St. Paul entrepreneur with cerebral palsy wins Courage Center Award

Rob Chalmers '72 of St. Paul received the 1997 Judd Jacobson Memorial Award last fall from the Courage Center in Golden Valley, Minn.

The award recognizes a successful, self-employed entrepreneur who is also handicapped. Chalmers, who has cerebral palsy, founded and runs People Magic, a training and consulting business which incorporates magic and illusion into educational programming about diversity, communication and environmental concerns.

The award is named after a man who was paralyzed in a diving accident when he was 16. Jacobson went on to become a successful businessman and raio personality and ran his own travel agency. He died in 1991.

Maureen Henderson, a niece of Jacobson, is a physical therapist and a member of the award committee. Asked why the committee chose Chalmers, she said it was his ability, not his disability, that stood out.

Two Macalester graduates who have known Chalmers for 25 years can testify to his longtime abilities.

Mark Sherman '72 of St. Paul, who heads his on software company, Active Software/Comsys, recalled that Chalmers made a presentation recently to a group of software consultants and staff.

"There is something magical about someone who overcomes his own limitations to stand in front of a group of strangers and do tricks...," Sherman said. "It isn't the tricks that he performs, or the message that they convey. It is the fact that he is performing 'outside' of the stereotype that makes you realize that as broad-minded as we like to think we are, we really assume that he can't pull this off. At the same time he dlivers his moral, it dawns on you that he already shattered your own stereotype.

"He did a great job," Sherman said.

Janice Allen '74, chief attorney in the family law and mental health division of the Anoka County Attorney's Office, knew Chalmers when both were students at Macalester. She had seen Chalmers only once in the years since graduation until she attended the Courage Center awards dinner.

"Robbie was a resident adviser in Doty Hall when I entered Macalester in the fall of 1970," she said in a letter to "Macalester Today". "He was a warm and friendly person, ready to greet and welcome anyone he encountered, and was very well like by his fellow students. I remember him for his positive, uplifting countenance. I always felt like he was there for us, and that he genuinely cared about us.

"Several months after I met Robbie, I was surprised, and then gratified, to see that he was the driver of the Mac Shuttle that would transport me and other students to some location off campus. Robbie's gait is characteristic of a person with cerebral palsy, and I remember being surprised that he could drive. Drive he could, and very well!....

"It was one of my first lessons in noticing the difference between perception and reality with respect to persons with disabilities," Allen said. "Now Rob devotes his career to getting that message across."

Chalmers himself says that "being an entrepreneur means taking chances and believing in your product or service. In my case, i am that product. I am honoered that I am being recognized for my work."

As the recipient of the award, Chalmers received $2,500, which he will use to promote his business nationally to target audiences.

Macalester Today
Date Unknown.

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