General Information Features: Syracuse University - Gold Medal

Category 14: Electronic Media: General Information Features
Syracuse University – Kathrine Switzer: 2006 Arents Award Tribute

Contact: Stu Lisson, executive director, electronic media communications, 215 University Place, Room 22, NCC One, Syracuse, NY 13244, Phone: (315) 443-3008, e-mail:

Project Description and Target Audience: As part of the university’s on-going development efforts to inspire alumni to stay connected to the university and “give back” in many different forms, Syracuse University bestows its most prestigious alumni award, called the George Arents Pioneer Medal, to three or four distinguished alumni each year whose accomplishments in life have been outstanding and world renowned.

As part of the award ceremony, a video is commissioned by the Office of Alumni Relations for the express purpose of showcasing each recipient’s considerable talents, accomplishments, personality and bonds to Syracuse University. The audience is 500 plus alumni who attend the black tie dinner finale of Reunion Weekend. The video is shown prior to the awarding of the medal in a very grand “Academy Award-style” manner by projection onto two 16x20 foot screens flanking the stage. The recipient then speaks for 5-7 minutes about his or her life experiences and reminisces about Syracuse University.

Previous Arents Award videos have highlighted alumni such as Lt. Col. Eileen Collins, first woman shuttle commander; NY Times columnist, William Safire; “60 Minutes” anchor, Steve Kroft; Academy Awards Producer, Gil Cates; entertainer, Vanessa Williams; world renowned folk artist, Warren Kimble; and sportscaster, Bob Costas; ABC News anchor, Ted Koppel; and Senator Joe Biden, to name a few to name a few.

Objectives: The objectives of this video were to showcase the professional running career and enormous impact that distance runner, TV commentator, promoter and organizer, Kathrine Switzer, was able to exert on the sport of distance running for millions of women the world over. In 1967, Switzer, as a junior at Syracuse University, was catapulted into running legend when she became the first woman to “officially” run the Boston Marathon and break the gender barrier in distance running for women. During the race, an enraged official realized she was a woman and tried to rip off her “official” numbers and throw her bodily out of the race. Her boyfriend running next to her body-blocked him out of the way.

Captured in photographs sent round the world, this historic event became a defining moment that would direct the course of Switzer’s life. Her driving vision became to open up the sport of running for women of all nationalities around the world. Switzer’s efforts were the single motivating factor in securing a “yes” vote from the Olympic Committee to include the women’s marathon event in the Olympics Games starting in 1984.

Production and Use of resources: The total cost for the “Kathrine Switzer” Arents presentation was $5500.

This video is a combination of original footage shot by our own EMC team and VHS footage taken from Switzer’s huge video library of women’s races that she either organized and/or did commentary for all over the world. It seemed important to include certain historic race footage from Manilla, San Paulo, etc., despite the quality, so the video could drive home the fact that tens of thousands of women showed up for races in countries where officials declared to Switzer that “their” women were not interested in running, and furthermore, couldn’t do it! She totally believed otherwise; and the women themselves proved it.

We spent two days with Switzer and her husband at their home in New Paltz, NY where we did interviews, shot b-roll of them separately and together running and working on books; and scanned many pictures and posters from all the different phases of her running career.

The staff of electronic media communications, which is an in-house production arm of Syracuse University’s institutional advancement division, researched, scripted, produced, shot, and edited the video, using the department’s DigiBeta equipment and AVID Adrenaline Media Composer.

Out-of-pocket expenses included travel to New Paltz, NY, video tape, professional narrator fees, dubbing costs, FedEx shipping fees, and associated office costs. Music was used from our own music library.

The EMC staff that produced this project included three people: one producer/writer/editor, one videographer, and one effects/graphics expert. No outside or volunteer help was used.

Results: Kathrine Switzer, although a seasoned television veteran herself, was obviously moved by this video that reviewed so many of the significant events in her life before hundreds of Syracuse University alumni. She has been using this video for her public presentations on her current book tours for her most recent book, 26.2…Marathon Stories.

Switzer’s Arents Award video added grandeur to the reunion dinner and was one of the highlights of the evening for the audience as well as the recipients. The audience felt it had an “up close and personal” glimpse into the life of a very influential woman who changed the world of running globally for women

No matter how accomplished or famous Arents recipients are, the award, the video, and the gala event together become one incredible memory that seems profoundly significant in their lives. Year after year, even the most renowned personalities who are accustomed to attention and “splash” express this sentiment. All the Syracuse University community and alumni look forward to Arents weekend. It’s become a much honored and entrenched tradition.

Showcasing outstanding alumni in video form also helps enhance the image of the university to both inside and outside audiences as these Arents videos are shown on the Web and to outside alumni associations around the country. It also fosters pride in the present university community; it inspires current students by showcasing an exemplary role model to emulate, and it encourages high school applicants to apply to Syracuse University to be “part of the glory.”