Homecoming to go the distance; Blackhurst plans for a ‘wonderful week’

By Marie Veillette and Thor Thompson

For many, homecoming at MSUM is the most exciting week of the fall semester. This year, with the induction of a new president, this event-packed time is about to get a little busier.

Two major events have been added to the traditional homecoming festivities to honor Anne Blackhurst’s appointment as president of the university.

The first, Laps for the Long Run, will take place at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24 at the Nemzek track.

The Laps for the Long Run event is a fundraiser for the university. Blackhurst will run 50 laps around the track – a total of 12.5 miles. She has pledged $1,000 per lap, totaling $50,000. Scheels All Sports has recently made a huge contribution, pledging $1 million total.

While Blackhurst’s donation will go to support scholarships for high achieving high school students, the money from Scheels will go to the renovation of Nemzek field, which will be renamed Scheels field.

Blackhurst said many donations have been received and will continue to be accepted until the day of the event.

“We’ve received quite a few gifts in the five to ten thousand dollar range at this point,” she said.

Even students are pledging small amounts per lap, and many faculty have asked to run during the event in an effort to get involved with this unique fundraiser.

Donors are allowed to specify where they would like to see their money spent and any undesignated money will go to the scholarship fund Blackhurst is supporting. The current goal for this event is set at $1.2 million, and 90 percent of that goal has already been met. “I’m running for at least a million dollars,” Blackhurst said.

“Celebrity runners” will accompany every lap of the 50 Blackhurst will run.

“Every lap I run will have somebody designated to run with me,” she said.

The final lap, the victory lap, will be open for anyone in attendance to join the president as she runs to earn the donations. Those who run a lap will also receive an “I ran with Anne” t-shirt.

Laps for the Long Run will be much more than just watching the president run in circles. There will be food and prizes, music from Blackhurst’s personal running playlist, as well as a screen tallying her accumulation of donation money per lap. The event is free for students to attend. Laps for the Long Run will take place right before the Glow in the Dark Run.

The added events don’t end there. Blackhurst’s presidential inauguration will be held homecoming week.

The inauguration will begin at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26 in Hansen Theatre. There will be a special viewing party for students held on the campus mall. A big-screen TV will be set up for students to watch the event marking university history. The processional will also travel through the mall prior to the start of the ceremony.

The theme of the inauguration sounds familiar: “Leading for the Long Run.” But it was the theme of the inauguration that contributed to the creation of Laps for the Long Run, not the other way around.

“It’s partly a play on my passion for long distance running, but also this idea that it’s about the future,” Blackhurst said. “It’s also intended to convey that I intend to be a fairly long lasting president: that I’m here for the long run.”

In the past, inaugurations of new presidents took place the April following their appointment.

“It felt odd to have me continue as president, and then sometime next April have my ceremony,” Blackhurst said.

There is a great deal of planning that goes into an inaugural event, and waiting until April would have allowed eight months to organize the ceremony. Instead, Blackhurst’s inaugural planning committee had only two and half months.

“There’s a reason these things happen in April; they take that long to plan,” Blackhurst said. “The fact that people pulled that off in two and a half months is kind of astonishing, actually.”

Blackhurst said she thought homecoming was the perfect time to have her inaugural ceremony.

“It’s a week when there’s more excitement on campus, more celebration, already,” she said. “We tried to capitalize on what was already planned for homecoming.”

When asked if she ever saw herself becoming president of MSUM, Blackhurst admitted it wasn’t in her career aspirations. Before becoming Provost of the university, she was a staff member at the University of Minnesota – Mankato for 17 years.

It was not until recently Blackhurst even considered applying for the presidency.

“It really was not until she [President Szymanski] announced her retirement, and the application process started, that I started to seriously think about it.”

Even after being chosen as the 11th president of MSUM, Blackhurst’s commitment to the university is still of greater importance than her career aspirations.

“I feel so strongly about this place and its potential,” she said.

According to Blackhurst, homecoming 2014 is sure to be one of the best in the school’s history.

“I’m just convinced it’s going to be a wonderful week,” Blackhurst said.

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