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Dr. Gudrun Doll-Tepper

Biographical information

Dr. Gudrun Doll-Tepper is a professor at the Freie Universität Berlin in Germany. She received her doctorate from the University of Berlin and her habilitation from the University of Frankfurt. She has authored and co-authored over 300 publications in sport science, sport pedagogy, and adapted physical activity and sport for persons with a disability.

Dr. Doll-Tepper is president of the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education, an organization with more than 250 national and international members. She is also the former president of the International Federation of Adapted Physical Activity, former chairperson of the International Paralympic Sport Science Committee, invited fellow of the European College of Sport Science, and member of the National Olympic Committee for Germany.

She has been recognized with several awards and honours for her contributions to sport and sport science. She received the William G. Anderson Commemorative Award for her contribution to the Paralympic Movement (1998) , the Alice-Profé-Award for her contribution to women in sport; the Distinguished Service Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany (1999) for her outstanding contribution to disability sport, physical education and sport science; the Distinguished International Scholar Award from the International Relations Council of American Association for Active Lifestyles and Fitness/ American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (2000); the "Gold Cross Award" of the Fédération Internationale d'Education Physique (2001); and the Paralympic Order of the International Paralympic Cocmmittee (2002).

Oration honouring Dr. Gudrun Doll-Tepper
Given by T.A. Loeffler, University orator

One of the most famous messengers in history was Phidippides, who hurried to Athens, bringing news of victory over the Persians at Marathon in 490 BC. The modern Olympic sporting event, the 26-mile marathon, recalls the dedication of this messenger who died at the end of his run. I am happy to report that a similar fate has not befallen Dr. Gudrun Doll-Tepper. Yet, she too is a tireless messenger who has published over 300 papers, books and films related to physical education, exercise science, and sport for persons with a disability. Born, raised, and educated in West Berlin, Dr. Doll-Tepper grew up at the epicentre of the Cold War, in a country surrounded by the vestiges of the Allied Occupation. This was a time and location that might have ignited an inward looking nationalism, but in Gudrun, sparked a passion for breaking down international barriers and for leading us towards a common vision of inclusion, advocacy and international development through sport and physical education. Dr. Doll-Tepper is at the forefront of inquiry related to youth obesity, doping in sport, women in sport, the Paralympic movement, and the emphasis of physical education as a building block for healthy living.

Dr. Doll-Tepper began her career as a physical educator. There, work and play focus on the use of "the ball." In some parts of the world, this ball is made of the most advanced materials to maximize performance on the golf green or basketball court. In other parts of the world, this ball is made from plastic grocery bags, bags used until they can hold no more, bags which are then tied tightly around each other, bags recycled from being implements of work to objects of play, uniting refugees on a field only recently cleared of land mines. In one world, physical performance is measured in one one-thousandths of a second and in the other, physical survival is measured by the procurement of basic necessities. To many, it seems impossible to bridge these divergent worlds but Mr. Vice-Chancellor, the candidate who stands before you has done just that, not once, not twice, but hundreds of times throughout her highly-decorated academic career. Having witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall in her homeland, Dr. Doll-Tepper, the president of the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education, took down walls of inequity and intolerance between countries in the North and South, between academics of the third and first worlds, and between athletes with and without disabilities. She has ensured that no one has been left behind in the realm of sport and physical education.

To accomplish all of this, our marathon messenger must never sleep. As the "Big Sister" she reassures herself that all is well with her family by phoning her mother and sister every Sunday morning from wherever in the world she finds herself; frequently having put in several hours of work before those calls. Parents in the audience, you can only imagine how diligently your sons and daughters must have been working on their university assignments on those Sundays when you didn't get your phone calls. A reliable source once described the candidate as "addicted to meetings." She is an inexhaustible leader who puts sleep at the bottom of her to-do list. She holds meetings with executives of NGOs, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and then with struggling teachers in ill-equipped classrooms in desolate areas of Africa or Asia. It is rumoured, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, that she once chaired an international conference planning meeting at 2 a.m. in a subterranean, transvestite karaoke bar in Beijing.

Mr. Vice-Chancellor, in this International Year of Sport and Physical Education, I present to you for the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa, the woman who, like Phidippides, is deeply committed to delivering her message, Dr. Gudrun Doll-Tepper.

Address to convocation

Distinguished representatives of Memorial University, dear graduates, ladies and gentlemen. When I received the message from President Meisen of Memorial University that I would be awarded with an honorary doctorate I was more than surprised. This message left me speechless! What a great honour and I wish to thank you for your appreciation of my contribution to international cooperation and understanding, in particular in my area of interest, which is sport, physical education and sport science. Although this honorary doctorate is given to me as an individual, it is clearly awarded to a team of players, of which I am one, and I am sharing this honour with all of the colleagues and students who have worked with me.

The year 2005 is for many of us a very special year: for you the graduates of Memorial University it marks the year of graduation and the start into a new phase of your professional life. You have already met many challenges to complete your studies and many more important decisions lie ahead for you. I want to encourage you to accept new challenges and to continue to follow your dreams and visions. As professionals we aim to pursue a successful career. However, it is also important from my perspective to make a contribution to society, at the local community level or at the national or international levels, as part of our social responsibility, which goes beyond our area of expertise.

There are graduates from a number of different degrees here today some from my discipline of physical education, recreation and sport/kinesiology, and others from the Faculty of Arts in fact, this may be the first time that you have sat in the same room with people from these other disciplines since first-year mathematics or psychology. I hope it is not the last time you sit together. Modern problems are complex, and require the skills and knowledge of many different disciplines to find real-world solutions. Currently we are facing many health-related problems, e.g. the dramatic increase of obesity. Solutions can only be found based on scientific research coming from different disciplines and the implementation of specifically tailored action plans taking social economical, environmental and cultural aspects into consideration. Good research needs the contributions of experts from different scientific backgrounds, such as sociology, political sciences, history to name but a few.

When I started my life at university as a student in physical education and sport science in Berlin, Germany, I volunteered to work with children with a disability. Some 30 years ago, this was quite unusual and many people were surprised that I would make such a choice. Over time my interest kept growing and growing and today I hear comments like "you made the right decision," but it was definitely not part of a strategic plan at that time. It is very difficult, if not impossible to plan one's career and I have learned that most successful careers come from a very solid education and from seizing the many, sometimes small opportunities that life presents. Being involved in professional and volunteer activities exposes you to those opportunities!

I was involved in a specialization area with a small knowledge base so it was inevitable that I needed to look out for developments in other parts of the world, to learn from colleagues worldwide and to link this specific area into a broader context. This has now led me to a most exciting opportunity to be both a professor at a university and president of the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE), my current volunteer position, an organisation of more than 250 different organizations and institutions world-wide dedicated to sharing knowledge, particularly between the developed and developing countries of the world. The International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education offers a global forum for the exchange of scientific knowledge coming from different disciplines and provides an opportunity to access information of examples of good practice from all regions of the world. An important part of the mission is to advocate for the benefits related to an active lifestyle and the ethical values inherent in physical education and sport. It is a unique global network and serves as an adviser to many international organisations, such as the IOC, UNESCO and WHO.

It is a very special honour to receive the honorary doctorate in 2005, the year that has been proclaimed by the United Nations to be the International Year of Sport and Physical Education. This year offers a unique opportunity to highlight the role of sport and physical education in four key areas: education, health, development and peace. It also emphasises the potential of physical education and sport to contribute to global development plans such as the Millennium Development Goals.

We all have a social responsibility, regardless of our professional training and position, to make a contribution to an improved quality of life for all people and to practise an inclusive approach that empowers and encourages everyone.

Thank you for an inspiring experience here at Memorial University of Newfoundland and I wish you all the best, both professionally and personally.