By Martha Nodar
CNN founder and philanthropist Ted Turner took center stage at Oglethorpe University as it launched the series of events planned throughout the year to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Brookhaven school’s founding.
Known for his humanitarian efforts and business acumen, Turner shared the podium with Oglethorpe University President Lawrence Schall on Feb.10 for a question-and-answer session at the Conant Performing Arts Center. Their conversation, part of the university’s “Oglethorpe Day” celebration, ranged from serious subjects such as land mines to Turner’s interest in philanthropy and politics.
“Mr. Turner is a wonderful example of a global citizen,” Schall said. “He and his family, especially his daughter Laura, a proud Oglethorpe graduate, have been friends of the university for a long time.”
Oglethorpe Day is an annual event that takes place on the second Wednesday of February to pay tribute to Georgia’s founder Gov. James Edward Oglethorpe (1696-1785), and the university’s namesake.
Legend has it that when caught in a thunderstorm on his sea voyage from England to America, Oglethorpe noticed a petrel was the only sea bird able to fly undisturbed in the midst of the storm. For the past 20 plus years, Oglethorpe Day has begun right before noon with a “Petrels of Fire” footrace, in which students attempt to complete the 270-yard distance around the loop in the academic quadrangle in less than 30.92 seconds–the time it takes for the Lupton Hall’s bells to complete tolling noon. The bells toll every quarter hour and on the hour.
Oglethorpe’s track coach Bob Unger said the “Petrels of Fire” race is patterned after a similar race at Cambridge University made famous by the 1981 film “Chariots of Fire.“
“I began this annual race at Oglethorpe when I was first hired for the simple reason that we were re-introducing track and field as a varsity sport,” Unger said. “I used the race as a revival of track.”
This year, Oglethorpe freshmen Max Duwat and Tony Golden and sophomores Isaac Barron and Sean Lovett tested their endurance by taking part in the annual run.
“I didn’t feel the cold or hear the bells ringing while I was running,” Duwat said. “But, once it was over, I was freezing.”
“Isaac finished in front,” Unger said, “but was about 20 meters short of beating the bells.”
Many have come close through the years, but no one at Oglethorpe has won the race as of yet. Still, students keep trying.
“The fellows at Cambridge have been attempting to beat the bells for over 400 years,” Unger said. “To my knowledge, they have managed it only once. … We expect Oglethorpe to do much better than that.”