First symposium on "Inspiration and Perspiration" Oct. 30

October 17, 2003

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.--Middlebury College will host the first symposium on "Inspiration and Perspiration" Thursday, Oct. 30, when a varied group of athletes, scholars and artists offer their perspectives on the theme of endurance. 

The program, which will begin at 7 p.m. in Dana Auditorium and is free and open to the public, will feature the American record holder in the 100-mile run; a biographer of some of the nation's most enduring authors; and the College's Dance Company of Middlebury. The event is part of an effort to knit together Middlebury's high-caliber athletics and world-class academic program more fully, said Bill McKibben, scholar in residence in environmental studies and organizer of the evening program. "Kids are spending hours a day in the classroom and hours a day on the playing fields, and they need to know that those are very much parts of the same whole," said McKibben, who also serves as faculty adviser to the college's Nordic ski team.

The program will include a talk by Jay Parini, professor of English, on "Endurance and the Writing Life." An award-winning novelist and poet, Parini is also known for his biographies of some of America's most loved authors, including Robert Frost, John Steinbeck and?in a forthcoming book? William Faulkner. According to Parini, their careers raise fascinating questions about endurance-how writers pace themselves through a lifetime of work, for example. And Parini is no stranger to the field house himself-a longtime regular at lunchtime basketball games, he's also the author of an essay titled "No Tenure in the Gym at Noon."

Bernd Heinrich, University of Vermont professor of biology, will also make remarks.  Heinrich is the author of a number of prize-winning books on natural history, including "Mind of the Raven" and "Bumblebee Economics." But he has another life as well, as one of the most successful ultra-distance runners America has ever produced. He combined his two fascinations in his book "Racing the Antelope," which describes how humans came to be running animals, and how he came to hold the American records at 100 kilometers, 100 miles, and 24 hours.

Between with these talks, Andrea Olsen will lead the College dance troupe in five-minute performances that reflect the symposium's theme of endurance. The author of "Body and Earth: An Experiential Guide," Olsen has often commented in her work on the connection between individual bodies and the physical world around them.

Gary Margolis, Middlebury College associate professor of English, will read one of his poems. Margolis' work has been collected in "American Sports Poems," and his ode to Michael Jordan was lauded by the former Bulls star himself.

The symposium will also include a showing of the film "Endurance," a dramatization of the life of Haile Gebrselassie, the Ethiopian runner who won a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and holds world records at a variety of distances.

Dana Auditorium is in Sunderland Language Center on College Street (Route 125). For more information, contact Bill McKibben at 802-443-3489, or

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