Friday, August 1, 2014
Steve's Run originated 40 years ago
The 40th “Original Road and Trail Race,” aka Steve’s Run, starts a half-hour earlier at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 26, in downtown Dowagiac during Summer in the City festival weekend.
As many as 1,000 participants are expected to compete in the 10K run, 5K run, 5K walk or 1K fun run.
Race Director Kate Dorner, Southwestern Michigan College human resources director and wellness committee chair, said 818 runners were timed in 2013.
Last year’s 10K winner, with 34:08, was third-time competitor Miguel Luzano, 20, a Mishawaka High School graduate and IUPUI sophomore who survived testicular cancer diagnosed at 17. Leah Busse of Kent City won the women’s 10K title with 42:05.
Participants who pre-register before 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, are guaranteed a blue Steve’s Run core performance shirt.
SMC and $7,000 donor Fifth Third Bank are the premier sponsors for the 40th race.
It costs $1 for the fun run, $20 for the 5K run or walk and $25 for the 10K.
Those who wait until Friday night or Saturday morning pay $30 for late registration.
Packet pick-up and late registration take place at Dowagiac City Hall, 241 S. Front St., on July 25 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and on July 26 from 7 to 8 a.m.
Music became a major element of Steve’s Run thanks to the Boston Marathon.
Former SMC dean of sports education Ron Gunn was running in it when “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas floated out of a window 23 miles in to revive him.
Boom boxes once played cassette tapes along the course because music stirs the soul like a marching band at a football game.
Thanks to technological advances in such devices as iPods and MP3 players, personalized playlists power today’s runners with preferred tracks at their fingertips.
Recognized as one of the 10 best vacation runs in the country, it started in 1972.
This will be the 24th known as Steve’s Run after previous permutations as the Road and Trail Race, the Bud Lite Run and the Nike-Fair Store Run, plus a two-year hiatus.
Gunn, who coached Roadrunner cross country teams to five national titles, worked with Steve Briegel, whose father, David, was college president.
“Steve was my statistician and announcer,” Gunn said. “Steve fought a very courageous battle, but lost. I went to Dave wanting to do something to honor Steve. We had a run at Indian Lake in his honor.”
The next year the Road and Trail Race was resurrected as Steve’s Run, with Gunn reasoning, “A lot people did not know Steve, but everybody knows somebody touched by cancer who fought the same brave, determined battle.”
Steve’s Run is challenging in the “dog days of July,” offering an unusual assortment of highways, a golf course (golfers pause and applaud) and rugged trails with hay bales and log obstacles around the 240-acre campus.
Paul Mow, SMC theatre director and a former New York opera singer, will render the national anthem at the starting line at Beckwith Park.
The event concludes south of the Front Street central business district in Lions Park.
Stained glass awards, created each year by Al Potter, ended with his death Nov. 3, 2013, at 77.
“This year, the two overall winners of the 10K — the top female and the top male — get a $25 gift card to New Balance in Granger, a $15 gift card for Road ID and their pick from a polo, sweatshirt and jacket or fleece pullover,” Dorner said. “5K overall winners get $15 Road ID gift cards and their option of a shirt.”
Participants can honor a cancer survivor or victim and support cancer research by buying $5 fire-up signs placed in Riverside Cemetery, where the run passes Steve’s grave.
SMC’s Steven Briegel Scholarship Fund and the Mayo Clinic Cancer Research Fund divide proceeds.
To register or to purchase fire-up signs, go to stevesrun.swmich.edu.
Camille and David Briegel for 24 years have presented an annual Steven Briegel Memorial Scholarship at Union High School — this May to Jennifer Schaus.
Steve, who died March 1, 1990, after a 5 ½-year battle, graduated fifth in the DUHS Class of 1986 and from SMC in 1988.
He golfed and played basketball for the Chieftains.
A group of classmates runs in his memory.
Four principles for success
Four principles tested by 50 years guiding Southwestern Michigan College’s growth offer graduates building blocks for successful, rewarding lives, Chairman Dr. Fred L. Mathews told SMC’s 47th Commencement May 3 in the Charles O. Zollar gymnasium on the Dowagiac campus.
Never, ever give up in the face of adversity, which Mathews demonstrated in 1964 when a consultant concluded the dream of a Cass County community college was not feasible.
“If a project is worth taking on, it’s worth fighting for,” Mathews said. “This applies to personal, financial or any other challenges. Equally important, surround yourself with people who share this principle.”
Second, aim higher than merely making money.
“It’s admirable to be ambitious and to become financially stable, but prioritize so you spend a portion of your income and time on non-paid community service,” Mathews said. “For instance, trustees serve without pay. I believe each and every trustee, as well as 16 others who served over the past 50 years, look back, as I have, on their lives and the legacy of this college with great satisfaction and pride no amount of money could match. The world’s wealthiest people, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, will tell you their greatest satisfaction was not making money, but using it for public service projects. The greatest goal in life, in my opinion, is leaving your community better than you found it. Don’t worry about changing the whole world. Be concerned about making your little corner better.”
Third, “Always be truthful, honest and honorable,” Mathews said. “No project is worth sacrificing your integrity. As you look back at your life, be able to have pride in how you accomplished your goals.”
Finally, believe in yourself.
“Don’t ever let anyone say you cannot succeed,” said Mathews, who received a standing ovation. “A high-school dropout from northern Michigan became chairman of the board of this college for 50 years. You can do anything.”
“It’s hard to believe it’s been half a century,” Mathews reflected. “I was 34 years old. Our seventh and current president, Dr. David Mathews, was 4. Anyone under 55 does not remember when this campus was a cornfield.”
“In the early 1950s, many job opportunities required no more than an eighth-grade education. By the late ’50s a shift was taking place. A high school diploma was beginning to be a requirement for many jobs. By the early 1960s, the post-World War II technology revolution was gaining momentum. It was becoming apparent a high school diploma would not be adequate for better jobs. Hence, the rise of the community college movement,” Mathews said.
“In Cass County, 41 percent of the adult population had an eighth-grade education or less. Cass County struggled economically and educationally. To some of us, this presented a great opportunity to take a giant leap forward. Because of our county’s small population, tax base and other demographic challenges, it was obvious a community college would not be an easy task — but what in life worthwhile is easy?”
Mathews has written a soon-to-be-published book chronicling SMC’s history.
All proceeds go to the college foundation to help students.
A citizens committee of educators, school board members, business professionals and lay people studied the feasibility starting in January 1964.
A Western Michigan University professor was engaged as a consultant.
“We soon realized there were factions, mostly outside Cass County, who did not wish us well. Never in my wildest imagination would I have guessed where opposition would come. Our consultant dropped a bombshell in the winter of 1964. He did an interim report on his own. Fortunately, he sent an advance copy to Father O’Leary, who brought the devastating report to my office. He concluded this college would be hard-pressed to attract an enrollment of 300 students in five years. Needless to say, I was furious. I wrote a blistering rebuttal. It was one of the strongest cases I ever made, but I was very apprehensive. Why would the study committee follow the advice of a 34-year-old optometrist over the advice of a highly respected consultant and university professor?”
But the panel voted unanimously to forge ahead.
“What our consultant lacked was a grasp of our never-give-up attitude,” Mathews said. “Our committee had a dream. He failed to understand we were not going to let a consultant turn that dream into a nightmare without a fight.”
On Aug. 12, 1964, Mathews and two others drove to Lansing for a signing ceremony.
“The hard work of the campaign to get voter approval” on Nov. 3 “was about to begin,” he said. “The citizens of Cass County voted by a nearly 2-1 margin to establish a community college with millage for financial support. I was one of six elected to the founding board from 11 candidates. Two weeks later, the new Board of Trustees met and elected me chairman and Barbara Wood Cook secretary. Barb and I are the sole surviving founders.
“We proved them wrong. The first-year class, 1966-67, we had a fulltime equivalent enrollment of 430 students, with a head count of 948. This college has had a positive influence on the educational, economic and social fabric of this whole area. I shudder to imagine what it would be like if Southwestern Michigan College had not been founded. That 41 percent of adults with an eighth-grade education is 2.4 percent today. Few outside this community look down their noses at Cass County as many did in 1964. Instead, they look in admiration at the transformation.”
Four students — Hannah Davis of Coloma, Theresa Lingle of South Bend, Ind., Mary Kate Stewart of Dowagiac and building trades instructor Larry Wilson of Niles — graduated with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages.
Two former presidents attended, Russell “M” Owen and David C. Briegel.