Alumni Profile: Katie Leimkuehler ’07

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Class of 2007 alumna penning screenplay to honor late grandfather

Written by Emily Stewart ’07, Assistant Director of Advancement Communications


View and vote for the “Ski Pioneer” trailer here; the winner will receive a $5,000 grand prize and a conference with a noted moviemaker. Voting ends May 31, 2012.

Paul E. Leimkuehler’s life was seemingly built around his legs.

He competed in the 1936 U.S. Olympic Cycling Trials, and the Northeast Ohio native was the Ohio State Cycling champion in 1938.

Leimkuehler also thrived on Cleveland-area winters, as the cold weather conditions afforded him the opportunity to speed skate—a sport he was born to do.  

And, like so many others of what has been called “The Greatest Generation,” Leimkuehler went overseas to fight for the Allies in WWII as a Second Lieutenant.

But fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, widely considered the greatest battle in U.S. military history, Leimkuehler lost his left leg in a combat injury, and his life changed forever.

What happens next is the basis for “Ski Pioneer,” an original screenplay about Leimkuehler’s determination to turn a war tragedy into his life’s triumph, written by his granddaughter and Miami alumna Katie Leimkuehler ’07.

Despite holding a B.A. in creative writing and journalism from Miami, as well as an MFA in fiction writing from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Katie concedes that she never thought she would write a screenplay. She knew she wanted to tell her grandfather’s story, but says she had to find the best way to tell it.

Thanks to the influential people in her life, including her Miami professors and friends, Katie realized the best way to tell this inspiring story was on the big screen.

“My time at Miami shaped the person I am today. My friends and professors became supporters of my creative work and helped me grow personally and professionally,” Katie said. “The biggest thing I learned at Miami was how to take an idea and enact it—forming the connection between having a great story to tell and finding the best way to tell it.”

Her grandfather, also a sought-after speaker, knew how to captivate an audience and leave a lasting impression on them, which is exactly what Katie set out to do in her screenplay.

“I’ve learned from my grandfather that you have to convey emotion through the stories you tell,” She said. “Connecting with the audience and engaging them on a deeper level is what I aim to do, and he taught me that just by the way he lived.”  

“Ski Pioneer,” whose movie trailer was recently submitted to the International Movie Trailer Festival’s 2012 Movie Trailer Contest, is a story about the strength of the human resolve in the face of life’s toughest challenges.

After losing his left leg, Paul became a pioneer for amputees. He created his own artificial leg and started his own business, the Leimkuehler Limb Company, in 1948. Paul later opened PEL Supply Company, a Cleveland-based prosthetics and orthotics supply company that is still owned by his four children.

And he didn’t let his amputation deter him from his love of sports, either. Paul taught himself to ski on one leg and even created an outrigger ski pole design for amputee skiers that is still used today. This work earned him a place in the National Ski Hall of Fame, the National Disabled Skier Hall of Fame and the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame—and to think he had never even skied prior to losing his leg.

What could have been a catastrophic situation Paul Leimkuehler turned into an opportunity to learn, to try new things and to open the world’s eyes to the power of persevering.  It’s those lessons Katie has taken with her throughout her own life, even after her grandfather’s death in 1993, and they’re the foundation for the central theme she hopes to convey through “Ski Pioneer.”

“The world isn’t always an easy place, and it’s our strength in our darkest hours that really defines us,” she said. “And that’s what I’m trying to show—that the right outlook and attitude can change the worst of situations into positive experiences.”

View and vote for the “Ski Pioneer” trailer here; the winner will receive a $5,000 grand prize and a conference with a noted moviemaker. Voting ends May 31, 2012.