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Vol 37  No 15
June 9, 2005


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Oration honouring Dr. Gudrun Doll-Tepper

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.

T.A. Loeffler
University orator

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