BEYOND LIMITS is an organization built on the idea that all people have the potential to achieve their goals and become their truest selves. The mantra is to go beyond individuals’ perceived limits to prove that they can achieve anything, even if they do it in unique ways. This concept is etched in BEYOND LIMITS’ mission and everything it represents.  The organization uses these ideas to help others reach their goals, whether through action or information. Here is what BEYOND LIMITS means to those around Dr. J.

Deb Roark- Former Executive Director of University Advancement & External Affairs

Beyond Limits means a determination and a willingness to step outside of one’s comfort zone to break free from self-imposed limitations or those that are inherent in one’s physical abilities. Oftentimes these barriers are invisible, such as a fear of failure—or a fear of heights. Other times, it is recognized, such as a mobility challenge. 

In the case of Dr. J and her non-profit, I first learned of Dr. J when I saw a Facebook post of her completing her trek up Mount Katahdin before ever arriving in Maine from Texas, and knew I just needed to meet her once I arrived at UMPI. Since that time in 2015, I have supported Dr. J in her adventures related to not only her drive across country, but also to Alaska with her trusty companions and service dogs Saint and Dusty. She reflects determination and resilience in the face of adversity, such as when the hotel isn’t really accessible.  Dr. J has been an advocate of accessibility not only across North America through her travels and work on the DEI Committee of the International Association of Business Communicators, but also here at home at the University. She spearheaded the first  building accessible map in the University of Maine System of our campus. 

Pamela Easler– YourPace Professional Academic Advisor

Beyond Limits is a concept, non-profit organization, group of people, and a website that represents pushing yourself to do things you might not think you can do. The website provides inspiration and insight into the accomplishments of Jacqui Lowman and her service dogs. The main idea is to go beyond what your perceived limits are.  You may not think you can do something and you may not do it the way everyone else does, but there is always a way to make it work for you if you want it.  It may involve a team of people as it did for some of Jacqui’s adventures.  Beyond Limits wants you to reach your goals, whatever they might be.  Do not accept limitations put on by yourself or anyone else. If you want it, make it happen.  On the site, you can obtain inspiration, humor, and ideas on the types of things you could try.  It will take stepping out of your status quo and taking a risk.  No risk, no gain as they say.

 The blog by Saint and Dusty, the two service dogs owned by Jacqui Lowman has provided humor and shows what a service dog can do. It also has some life lessons in there if you read between the lines.  Dogs can help us see ourselves and what we can accomplish.  You never see a dog who is not willing to try something.  Their attitude is “let’s go for it”.  They do not care if they seem silly or what others think.  They plunge in trying to please us and provide unconditional love and support.

We should all take our inspiration from Jacqui and her loyal companions and live life like no one is watching and do the things that fulfill and inspire us to be our best selves.

Betsy Sawhill Espe- Chief Business Officer

Over the years, I have adopted a standard for living and for my planning for the future that dovetails with the philosophy of BEYOND LIMITS.  We all tend to plan our lives and the possibilities of what we could do based on our prior experiences.  In some ways that is a
strangle-hold on our future planning, which forces us to break out of our historic patterns.   That pattern is typically questioning planning choices with “Why should I do this?” And with that comment, the choice for the future is based on a negative standard.  The flip side is “Why not do this?” That then defines a pattern that is based on a positive outlook. sIt broadens the scope of opportunity.  Whether talking about my job or my personal life, I have learned that there is no reason to define choices to be limited.  Defining opportunities more broadly and identifying how they could fit into your life or my life or anyone’s life seems a far more open and optimistic way to live.  This is the basic philosophy of BEYOND LIMITS. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about physical limitations or a limitation to access money or transportation or mentors. To begin with the notion that all things are possible and then find a way to build the pathway to access that outcome is the

Sharon Lowman- Dr. J’s sister

I am Jacqui’s older sister, so I’ve known her for her entire life. I knew her when she took her first step and when she took ballet lessons and when she went ice skating and when she marched in the Color Guard at high school football games.

And I knew her when, over time, those physical abilities were all lost due to a medical condition that was present from birth but not diagnosed until much later in life.

And, of course, I knew her when she refused to give up quietly, when she fought against every loss in physical ability and sought ways to work around and compensate for them. Ultimately, she was forced to use a wheelchair full-time, to rely on the help of remarkable service dogs, to remodel her home to make it accessible. Such remodeling was a huge undertaking, much more than installing ramps at entries, because she intended to live independently, to access multiple floors in the home, to use the kitchen and the bathrooms fully. The list goes on and on. And to be completely independent, especially in a place like rural Maine, she needed to be able to drive, which necessitated owning an adapted van with a wheelchair ramp and hand controls for accelerating and braking.

Along the way she realized that many, perhaps most, others were undoubtedly also feeling limitations, physical or emotional or some combination of both. She created BEYOND LIMITS to inspire and give hope to others dealing with physical and/or emotional limits in their lives. And who isn’t burdened to at least some degree with those?

Dylan Thomas was talking about dying when he wrote: Do not go gentle into that good night. But I think his words also capture the attitude underlying BEYOND LIMITS. Jacqui certainly cedes no ground without a fight, doesn’t give up without trying every available solution (often arrived at by thinking ‘outside the box’), because she wants to lead the most fulfilling life she can. And she wants everyone to be equally fulfilled, to be his or her best and happiest self, always reaching for the next goal, overcoming obstacles and achieving more than was thought to be possible. If her organization and website help even a single person move on the path to greater independence and fulfillment, then she will have made a positive difference for others and achieved something amazing.