Victoria Murden McClure (born March 6, 1963[2]) is an explorer who was the first woman and the first American to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, which she did in 1999.[3] (She claims she is an explorer, but not an "adventurer."[4]) She was also the first woman and first American to ski to the geographic South Pole. She is the president of Spalding University.[5] She is Chair of the Board of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

Early life and education

McClure was born in Brooksville, Florida[2][6] and as a child moved to Connecticut and then to Pennsylvania. At the age of fifteen, she moved in with her grandmother in Louisville, Kentucky to attend the Louisville Collegiate School from which she graduated in 1981. She went on to Smith College, earning a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1985. She followed that with a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School in 1989, a J.D. from the University of Louisville School of Law in 1995,[2] and a Master of Fine Arts in writing from Spalding University.[7]

Solo row across the Atlantic

Thirty-six years old at the time,[8] she rowed for eighty-one days, traveling 4,767 kilometres (2,962 mi), starting from the Canary Islands and finishing at Guadeloupe on December 3, 1999. Her boat, The Pearl, was twenty-three feet long, four feet high, and six feet wide; it weighed about 1800 pounds.[9] It was her second trip across the ocean, her first one cut short due to the hurricane season in 1998.

She wrote a memoir about her experiences, A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean, published by HarperCollins in 2009. She is also noted for her 700-mile ski across the South Pole (the first woman to ski to the South Pole), and she was the first woman to climb Lewis Nunatak in the Antarctic.


McClure has served as a chaplain at Boston City Hospital, the executive director of a shelter for homeless women, a public policy analyst for the Mayor of Louisville, and she worked for the boxer and humanitarian Muhammad Ali. On June 1, 2010, she became the president of Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky.[5] She is the Chair of the Board of the National Outdoor Leadership School.[10]

Honors and awards

1988 First woman and first American to reach the summit of Lewis Nunatak in the Antarctic
1989 First woman and first American to ski to the geographic South Pole
1989 Named a Hopkin's Scholar at Harvard University
1999 First woman and first American to row across the Atlantic
1999 Receives Kentucky Derby Festival's Silver Horse Shoe Award for courage, determination, and community service
2000 Receives special Victor Award, given annually to outstanding athletes
2000 Receives the 'Peter Bird Trophy' for Tenacity and Perseverance from the Ocean Rowing Society International[11]
2000 Honored by European Academy of Sport