Notes from Ransom Hall: A Higher Ed Blog

Lessons and observations from atop a bike

Sean Decatur
August 13, 2013

The crowds are gone, and the tent is empty, but the spirit of Pelotonia ’13 is still very much in the air on the Kenyon campus.  Over 6,700 riders from around the US and around the world hit the roads of central Ohio soon after dawn on Saturday morning.  Volunteers provided roadside assistance, food and water at rest stations, and even free massages to the riders.  The destination?  For most of the riders, the finish line was right here in Gambier, in front of the Kenyon Athletic Center.  The goal?  Raise funds to support cancer research; over $11 million have been raised so far this year (with more dollars still coming in), bringing the total raised by Pelotonia in the past five years to over $50 million, all of it going to support research at the James Cancer Center at The Ohio State University.

Among the 6,700 were members of the Kenyon peloton: staff, faculty, and alumni committed to raising funds for the cause.  Many of us have cancer survivors among our family or close friends; some of us have lost loved ones to the struggle.  Over the years, I have known many researchers who have dedicated their careers (and spent many long hours in lab) developing an understanding of cancer and searching for answers to end the disease (and, this summer, six Kenyon students worked in labs at the James Cancer Center contributing to this effort).  We all feel a compelling urgency to press ahead in the work to find a cure for cancer, and Pelotonia shines as an example of the collective power we all have to make a difference in the world.

I rode the 75 mile route from Pickerington to Gambier.  As the group gathered before dawn, the atmosphere buzzed with excitement (and, our Kenyon jerseys attracted attention from Kenyon alums riding with other teams – as usual, the Kenyon family was omnipresent).  I was moved once again by the beauty of the central Ohio farmland; but, I was moved even more by the large numbers of folks who lined the road – holding signs, ringing cowbells, playing music, cheering us on.

For me, the day served as a reminder of our educational mission.   An education is more than the content of courses, more than the skills acquired, more than preparation for career.  An outstanding education prepares us for lives as citizens, for taking on positions of leadership and responsibility within our communities, and for living lives of empathy and generosity to those around us.  Some of this we learn from reading great works of literature, philosophy, and religion, and some we learn from being challenged by our professors and our peers.  But, powerful lessons sometimes arise from simple acts such as getting on a bike and riding farther than you thought you could do; volunteering with hundreds of others to support an important cause; or talking with a man standing on the road with a sign that says “Thank you for saving my wife.”

Thanks to all of those in the Kenyon community who volunteered with Pelotonia, who worked through the weekend making our guests feel welcome on campus, and who supported the Kenyon peloton and its riders with donations to the cause.


(and, thanks to Darryl Uy for the photos!).