Alumni Magazine

SPR-SUM 2017

The alumni magazine for Franklin Pierce University.

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Page 53 of 91

52 PIERCE / SPRING 2017 BEGINNINGS The idea for the pass/fail course originated with Taylor Morris, then an English professor at the University who passed away in March at the ages of 94 {see page 53]. Reflecting on how his daily, 15-mile walk to campus offered time for contemplation and the formation of new ideas, he proposed creating a months-long trek as an academic course on self-discovery. "The Walk Program as originally conceived by Professor Morris was unlike anything I've ever heard of offered through an academic or travel-related institution," said Bill Faller '78, who went on his first walk in 1977 and then joined a Walk from Barcelona, Spain, to Dubrovnik, Croatia, in 1979. In 1989, Faller joined what he thought would be the last Walk, as Professor Morris was nearing retirement. But two years later, a reunion of Walk alumni from 1969 through 1989 was so successful that Morris convinced the college to allow Faller to lead another Walk. This led Faller to co-lead several more Walks with the professor's son, Taylor Morris Jr. "We relied, by intent, largely on the kindness of strangers to make the Walks work," he said of the early years. "We had no set walking route, no planned camping sites. Our large tent was typically erected on a farmer's field or an out-of-the way municipal spot and would serve as home for one night." Jillian Garrity '13 signed up for the Walk in 2011. Her older sister had taken the Walk in 2005, and her sister's experience led to Garrity's decision to attend Franklin Pierce and do a Walk herself. "When her group was in Ireland, my parents and I went there to meet family members, and to see her as well," Garrity said. "She was un-showered, her clothes were dirty, she didn't have much, but she was so happy. I had never seen her as content and glowing as she was then." Students in the early years trekked without much more than faith in each other. "We had to trust that we would be provided for," says Faller. "Remarkably, we were. Over and over again we were the happy beneficiaries of the good will of the country we were meandering through. I remember feeling, when I returned home, that the world had opened up and that I could do anything." GROWING PAINS The Walk aged, and by the 21 st century, many began to question if it should be continued. "The Walk is a product of the '60s, so it wasn't as structured as some wanted it to be," said Challenger. "The goals have always been self-exploration and discovery, but the school was looking for something more academic for those participating." Challenger led a Walk in 2006; in 2007, he headed alone to the French Pyrenees where he hiked the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage trail. It would change the Walk. Called the Way of St. James in English, the Camino de Santiago goes back to the ninth century when it was claimed that the tomb of St. James, the evangelical apostle of the Iberian Peninsula, had been discovered. Over the centuries, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims came from across Europe to visit the site, following routes that went back to Celtic and ancient Roman times. The trail was recently the subject of a 2011 film called The Way, starring Martin Sheen. Challenger was convinced that with its rich history, this 2000-year-old trail might be the answer to academic concerns while still offering the opportunities of the original Walk. His idea was accepted, and he has since led several 500-mile Walks along the southern French and northern Spanish portions of the trail, the last in 2015. "This new Walk has some additional positive benefits for the people taking it. Students meet more people, many who are taking the same pilgrimage, from all over the world. In the old way, lots of people walked along in their own little community, all as a group, and I think it was too insulated." WALKING WITH THE ECHOES OF THE PAST Garrity admits she was at first disappointed that her Walk would not be like her sister's, but after researching the history of the Camino, she signed on. "Everything on the Camino was so simple, especially compared to life at home. Our main goal for the day — sometimes our only goal — was to walk from one town to another. We had all day to do that. Along the way we could choose to stop and check out towns, cafes, talk with new friends, or keep walking through." Thousands of people from around the world make the Camino walk every year. The well-marked trail takes them through open plains below distant mountains, through vineyards ready for harvest, across farms and along valley roads. Interspersed along the way are ancient villages, monasteries, stony ruins and historic sites going back to the trail's beginning. And while not for the faint of heart, the challenge of the Walk is more distance and time than it is geography. For the most part, the trail is fairly flat and the climbs are more rolling hills than steep ascents. " I remember feeling, when I returned home, that the world had opened up and that I could do anything." — BILL FALLER '78 Facing page, top to bottom: Bridge at Orbigo, Spain; group at Santiago Cathedral; looking at the Pyrenees

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