The valiant efforts of a group of men and their sled-dog teams to help stave off a deadly epidemic while battling extreme weather conditions will be the focus of a presentation Tuesday, Feb. 1, at Tusculum College.
“An Iditarod Hero - 500 Lives, 600 Miles, 50 Below” will be presented by Frank Mengel, technical director and stage manager for Tusculum College’s Arts Outreach program and an adjunct professor of theater. The lecture will begin at 7 p.m. in the Behan Arena Theatre on the lower level of the Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Building (side entrance).
Mengel, who lived in the nation’s largest state for 25 years, will provide an Alaskan perspective to what is popularly known as the “Serum Run of 1925.” His
presentation will explore how NASCAR, statues in New York City’s Central Park and diphtheria are all connected by this story of uncommon heroism, an inspiration for the famous Iditarod sled-dog race of today.
Diphtheria had struck during 1925 in the isolated community of Nome, Alaska, and 500 lives were endangered by the very contagious and deadly disease. An antitoxin cures diphtheria, but the community’s doctor had very little of the serum, not enough to treat all the cases that had occurred or prevent an epidemic from spreading through the town.
The needed medicine was available more than 1,000 miles away in Anchorage, but there were no roads, the ocean was frozen, the train traveled just 400 miles and the only available airplane’s engine would not start. And temperatures were dipping to 50 below zero. A group of about 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs rose to the challenge of the dire situation to deliver the antitoxin to Nome by relay through the Alaskan wilderness.
Coming to Tusculum by way of Anchorage and Wichita, Mengel has served the Arts Outreach program for 11 years and is well known for providing his technical expertise to other groups including local school systems and area theater groups. He also volunteers for many community organizations.
He has 20 years of teaching experience, serving as an instructor for the
University of Alaska - Anchorage, Alaska Theatre of Youth, Wichita State University and Tusculum. Mengel has 25 years of theater experience working with the University of Alaska - Anchorage, Out North Theatre, Alaska Theatre of Youth, Wichita State, Theatre-at-Tusculum, Kingsport Ballet and Central Ballet Theatre. He has provided stage design, lighting and sound for more than 100 productions.
He holds bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and in secondary education from the University of Alaska, and a master’s degree in communication and theatre from Wichita State.
Admission to the lecture is $6 per person. For more information about the program, please contact Arts Outreach at 423.798.1620 or visit http://arts.tusculum.edu online.
The program is part of Tusculum Arts Outreach’s Acts, Arts, Academia 2010-11 performance and lecture series, which is supported by the late Dr. Sam Miller in the memory of Agnes Ault Miller, Arts Outreach, the Society of Cicero, Hearts for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.