Ben GauntlettPrinter Friendly Version
Hauser scholar Ben Gauntlett rarely cracked open a textbook in high school. The six-foot-tall Aussie was a jock all the way, playing cricket, rugby and athletics—the down-under equivalent to track and field. In 1995, his sporting days came to an abrupt end when he suffered a broken neck during a rugby match in his hometown of Perth, leaving him a quadriplegic with limited movement in his arms, hands and upper body. Recovering in the hospital, Gauntlett set aside darker thoughts: “You think you’re badly off, then you see someone on a ventilator, or a guy who gets just one visitor a year,” he recalls. “You realize how lucky you truly are.”
But determination, not luck, drove Gauntlett’s future successes. Turning to academics, he finished two years of school in one. He entered the University of Western Australia initially to study medicine, but switched to law because “law is more dependent on intellect than physicality,” he says. Traveling with his prize-winning moot court team gave him the confidence to undertake arduous trips abroad. Graduating in 2002 with dual bachelor’s—law and commerce—he went to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, then on to NYU for his LL.M. in trade regulation.
He lives alone, cooks for himself and pushes his nonmotorized wheelchair. He’s assigned a notetaker, and friends help him navigate the streets in a pinch, although he was homebound after snowstorms: “It’s too bad your mates don’t have a spare bulldozer on them to help you out in the snow.”
Gauntlett is helping write a brochure for NYU law students with disabilities. “It’s one of those evolving things where people with disabilities stand on the shoulders of others,” he says. “The next person will have it easier.” He will return to Oxford to finish his doctorate in competition law, with an eye toward practicing law back in his native Australia.