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Pelotonia Saw a Clear Partner in Kenyon

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11


Courtesy of Pelatonia

Bikers on the former Columbus-to-Athens route during Pelotonia 2011.

Pelotonia is, after all, a charity event first and an athletic event second. "We're not appealing to the cycling community, we're appealing to the cancer community. Unfortunately, that is our advantage," Lennox said. Whenever he speaks at events, he said, he can find people who have been affected by cancer.

Kenyon representatives at the meeting liked the idea of partnering with the charity. Nugent, who travels frequently, recalled that the Columbus airport was covered with Pelotonia banners during the summer. "So the first time I talked to them, I said, ‘When I go into the airport, I want it to say Kenyon and Pelotonia,'" Nugent said. As Kenyon administrators saw it, this partnership was a way to raise money for vital research while raising Kenyon's profile.

Pelotonia organizers agreed. "A lot of people in Columbus don't realize what a treasure Kenyon is," Lennox said, "We hoped that we too could deliver value by communicating to our constituents what a great place Kenyon is."

At this lunch, the Kenyon administrators also broached the subject of partnering with OSU to offer summer internships to Kenyon students studying biology. Caliguiri immediately saw this proposal as a win-win situation for the two institutions. "What we want to do is to make sure that we provide great opportunity for Kenyon students and, selfishly, we want to see if we can attract them do our grad school," he said.

There was one concern voiced during the meeting: the dates Pelotonia was proposing for the ride would conflict with the arrival of students. This problem was not insignificant, since Pelotonia intends to use Kenyon dorms to house riders. Sending almost 5,000 riders into the path of incoming upperclass students seemed like a perfect storm. If those dates were set in stone, Nugent said, then Kenyon could not host the ride.

Pelotonia changed their dates. Nugent said she was shocked by their willingness to make the change and how quickly they were able to do it.

With this obstacle out of the way, Kenyon and Pelotonia worked to iron out the details, with Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman leading the College's negotiation with the charity.

Through phone calls and emails, they established how facilities would be used and who would pay for what during the event.

Then, in the first week of October, Provost Nayef Samhat, along with Kohlman, Kharl and Graduate School Advisor Maureen Tobin travelled to OSU to speak with administrators and faculty members there about the internship program.

Those discussions resulted in a program that will provide a stipend for six Kenyon students, selected by faculty members, to do reasearch at the Ohio State Medical Center that will, according to Dr. Caliguiri, likely be related to cancer but could also involve other biological research.

Later that month, both parties signed the final agreement.

On Nov. 17, Pelotonia's board met in one of the private dining rooms in Peirce, where Nugent joined them. For many board members who were Columbus natives but had never been to Kenyon, it proved an awakening experience. Abigail Wexner, the wife of Limited Brands founder and Easton developer Les Wexner, was, according to Nugent, "blown away" by her first visit to the campus.

Then, in early December, a Pelotonia video crew came to Gambier and interviewed Kohlman, Advisor to the President Robin Goodstein and Patrick Mershon '14 (who is the brother of Collegian Editor Erin Mershon '12).

Less than a month later, on Jan. 4, Pelotonia posted the resulting video to its YouTube channel with the title "Same Goal, New Destination." One minute and two seconds in, Lennox says six words that, if organizers and College administrators are correct, will forever represent the public beginning of a long-term partnership that will affect Kenyon students, central Ohio and Pelotonia's riders.

"This year, we're heading to Kenyon."

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