Bionic model. Inspirational speaker. Humanitarian.

Bionic model. Inspirational speaker. Humanitarian.

Rebekah Marine ’10 named Rowan’s 2019 Distinguished Young Alumna
Rebekah Marine '10 (center) accepts the 2019 Distinguished Young Alumna Award from (from left) Rowan President Ali A. Houshmand and Alumni Board of Directors President Anthony Marino '02 M'03.

Rebekah Marine ’10 was told repeatedly that she wasn’t model material.

So much for that.

Born without her right forearm, Marine has defied all odds in the fashion industry, modeling multiple times at New York Fashion Week and for companies like Nordstrom’s and Tommy Hilfiger, among others.

In the process, she has broken down barriers in the fashion industry and become one of the most recognizable models in the amputee community.

On Sept. 1, she achieved another honor when she accepted the 2019 Distinguished Young Alumna Award from Rowan University during the annual President’s Welcome & Picnic on the University Green.

The award honors and recognizes alumni who have graduated within the past decade and who have distinguished themselves by providing either outstanding service to Rowan University or to their profession or community. Each year, the award is presented at the President's Welcome & Picnic, an event that officially welcomes the freshman class to Rowan.

“Without question, she fits all of those criteria…and then some,” Anthony Marino ’02 ’03, president of the Rowan University Alumni Board of Directors, said before an audience of some 2,800 members of the University’s Class of 2023.

“She travels the country sharing her story and encouraging others to overcome their insecurities to live a life without the fear of rejection or failure. Through her work and advocacy, Rebekah works every day to make us Rowan PROUD.”

From ‘disability’ to something extraordinary

In accepting the honor, Marine, an advertising alumna, shared memories from her undergraduate years at Rowan. She struggled at first, she said. But that changed when she discovered advertising in the College of Communication & Creative Arts

“It was my seventh and final major that changed everything for me,” she said. “ I changed my major seven times.”

Known as the “Bionic Model,” Marine uses a myoelectric prosthesis called the i-limb quantum. When she was being fitted for the prosthesis in 2011, a friend suggested she model the new “accessory.”

That’s when she realized she could turn her “disability” into something extraordinary.

“I remember writing my first real press release…a skill I learned through one of my classes here,” Marine said. “The subject line read, ‘Model with Bionic Arm to Walk in New York Fashion Week.’”

Over the next few weeks, she said, “I was wrapping up an interview with People Magazine, a documentary with TIME Magazine, and even an exclusive radio appearance on WMMR’s ‘Preston and Steve Show.’”

TIME wrote of Marine: “She decided that missing an arm wasn’t a crutch, but a beautiful way to help other people with disabilities embrace their beauty and embrace their aspirations.”

Marine walked in New York Fashion Week a few more times and also appeared in global advertising campaigns, including for Nordstrom’s and Tommy Hilfiger. She also spoke to thousands of people around the country about her life as a model with a limb difference.

Lucky Fin Project

Today, she’s an ambassador for the Lucky Fin Project, a non-profit organization that raises awareness and celebrates those born with upper limb differences.

Marine travels the nation giving motivational speeches that focus on self-love, overcoming insecurities, embracing differences, and living life without the fear of rejection and failure.

She urged new Profs to be steadfast in pursuing their educational goals.

“I want you to take a moment and think about this: If you had to write a press release about yourself today, what qualities would you highlight? What would the headline read?” she said.

“If you don’t have an answer, that’s OK. In fact, I recommend the only quality you must have today is determination.

“Whether you know the exact path you want to take through your journey at Rowan University or feel unsure about it like I did, remember there is no right or wrong way here,” she continued. “It was my determination to use the knowledge and tools I received through my education here to pursue my dream of giving back and making a difference.”

She added: “Be determined. Be flexible in your journey. But, most importantly, be courageous.”