Jan. 5, 2017 — Frank Shorter, who won the 1972 Olympic marathon and sparked a running boom across the United States, will be the 2017 commencement speaker at Northfield Mount Hermon.
“It will be a thrill and honor to give the commencement address at NMH on May 21,” Shorter said. “I will finally be able to thank, in my own words, the school's faculty, teachers, students, and coaches who nurtured me in a way that was so right for me at the time. NMH truly provided the foundation on which I was able to build a lifetime career that evolved into a blend of academics, athletics, business, and social contribution. That community culture of my youth still exists on “the hill.” I hope my words can come close to expressing the breadth of my gratitude.”
Peter Fayroian, NMH’s head of school, said, “Frank embodies so many of our distinguished alums who carried our mission of acting with humanity and purpose as they achieved tremendous success and recognition in the world. It's one thing to be perhaps one of the greatest long-distance runners in history, it's another to do that and to be an influential leader in his field and a humanitarian.”
Shorter is a 1965 NMH graduate. As the cross-country team captain his senior year, Shorter was a star even in high school. The 1965 yearbook printed this: “Frank Shorter was truly fantastic; he won every race of the season (including the Pie Race), and established a new course record on every course he ran.”
After NMH came a BA from Yale followed by a JD from the University of Florida College of Law. Wherever he was, he ran.
Shorter ran his gold-medal marathon just days after a terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Four years later, he took the silver medal in the marathon at the Montreal Olympics. These and his 24 national championship victories inspired many ordinary Americans to take up running and made Shorter a household name. He was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the USA National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1989.
Later, he helped establish and then chaired the United States Anti-Doping Agency, and has spoken out against the use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes.
But it was not until recently that the world learned that while Shorter was running toward all those finish lines, he was also running from something. In his 2016 memoir My Marathon: Reflections on a Gold Medal Life, Shorter describes the physical and emotional abuse he endured as a child at his father’s hands, and how running helped young Frank cope with the trauma. Shorter now shares this painful part of his life as part of his advocacy to end child abuse.
“We are equally proud to call him our own because of his accomplishments as an athlete and because of his role in the anti-doping movement in international athletics and his advocacy for abused children,” said Fayroian. “I was pleased to announce him to this year's graduates as their speaker.”