Brooke Ellison

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Brooke Ellison
Brooke Mackenzie Ellison

(1978-10-20)October 20, 1978
Long Island, New York, U.S.
DiedFebruary 4, 2024(2024-02-04) (aged 45)
EducationHarvard University (BS, MPP)
Stony Brook University (PhD)
Political partyDemocratic
WebsiteOfficial website

Brooke Mackenzie Ellison (October 20, 1978 – February 4, 2024) was an American academic, disability advocate, and the first quadriplegic to graduate from Harvard University.

Life and career

Ellison was born in

quadriplegic to graduate from Harvard.[5] In 2014, Rutgers University awarded Ellison an honorary doctorate in humane letters.[6] She completed her Ph.D. in 2012 from Stony Brook University.[7][8]

In 2002, Ellison's memoir Miracles Happen: One Mother, One Daughter, One Journey, which she co-wrote with her mother following her graduation from Harvard, was published.[9][10]

The Brooke Ellison Story

The Brooke Ellison Story premiered in 2004, based on Ellison's 2002 memoir Miracles Happen: One Mother, One Daughter, One Journey. The television film was directed by fellow quadriplegic Christopher Reeve, the star of Superman. Ellison was portrayed by Vanessa Marano as a child and Lacey Chabert as a teenager. It is also notable for being Reeve's final directing project. The film aired on the A&E network on October 25, 2004, just a few weeks after Reeve's death.[4][11]

Candidacy for State Senate

Ellison ran for New York State Senate as a Democrat in 2006[12] but was defeated by the Republican incumbent, John Flanagan.[4] One of Ellison's principal issues was her support for embryonic stem cell research.[4] She served on the advisory board of the Genetics Policy Institute.[13]

Later life

Ellison was a professor in the School of Health Technology and Management at Stony Brook University and a motivational speaker.[14]

In November 2015, Ellison teamed up with director James Siegel to create the award-winning documentary "Hope Deferred",[15] which aims to educate the general public about embryonic stem cell research.

Ellison was an advocate for accessible technology. She served as Vice President of Tech Access for United Spinal Association beginning in January 2023 following her 2022 appointment to their board.[16][17]

Two decades following the publication of Miracles Happen, Ellison wrote and published her second book, Look Both Ways in 2021.[18][19]

Ellison died at Stony Brook University Hospital on February 4, 2024, at age 45, of complications from quadriplegia.[20][17][21]


  • Ellison, Brooke; Ellison, Jean (January 9, 2002). Miracles Happen: One Mother, One Daughter, One Journey. New York: Hyperion Press. .
  • Ellison, Brooke (August 15, 2021). Look Both Ways. Adaptation Publishing. .


  1. ^ Roberts, Sam (February 9, 2024). "Brooke Ellison, Prominent Disability Rights Advocate, Is Dead at 45". The New York Times. Retrieved February 11, 2024.
  2. ^ Vizas, Cecily (February 6, 2024). "SBU Associate Professor Brooke Ellison Dies at 45". Retrieved February 8, 2024.
  3. ^ "In Memoriam: Brooke Ellison, Ph.D." Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Retrieved February 8, 2024.
  4. ^ a b c d "One Woman's Fight for Human Lives: An Interview with Brooke Ellison". Center for American Progress. Retrieved May 9, 2007.
  5. ^ Steinberg, Jacques (May 17, 2000). "QUADRIPLEGIC ABOUT TO BECOME GRAD OF HARVARD". Orlando Sentinel.
  6. ^ "Stony Brook University Bioethics Department". Archived from the original on July 21, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2014.
  7. ^ "Look Both Ways". Look Both Ways.
  8. ISSN 0362-4331
    . Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  9. ^ "Brooke Ellison Biography". Archived from the original on September 7, 2011. Retrieved October 7, 2012.
  10. . Retrieved February 11, 2024.
  11. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (October 25, 2004). "Getting to Harvard, With Mom and a Wheelchair". The New York Times. Retrieved October 25, 2004.
  12. ^ Lambert, Bruce (October 20, 2006). "Paralyzed, 28, and Aiming for the State Senate". The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2006.
  13. ^ "Genetics Policy Institute : Strategic Advisory Board". Regenerative Medicine Foundation. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  14. ^ Jones, Bart (August 19, 2018). "Pioneering quadriplegic encourages students to overcome obstacles". Newsday. Archived from the original ( on November 30, 2021. Retrieved February 11, 2024.
  15. ^ "Boston Film Festival Winners". Archived from the original on May 14, 2019. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  16. ^ "Our Leadership".
  17. ^ a b Quinn, Monica (February 5, 2024). "United Spinal Association Mourns the Loss of Brooke Ellison". United Spinal Association. Retrieved February 6, 2024.
  18. .
  19. ^ "#1765: Brooke Ellison on 'Look Both Ways'". 51%. WAMC.
  20. ^ Roberts, Sam (February 11, 2024). "Brooke Ellison, Disability Rights Advocate, Is Dead at 45". The New York Times. Retrieved February 11, 2024.
  21. ^ Spangler, Nicholas (February 5, 2024). "Brooke Ellison, Stony Brook University bioethicist, stem cell advocate, has died". Newsday. Retrieved February 5, 2024.

External links