2014 February

Bruce Larsen's Art of Life_Cover Image

Bruce Larsen’s Art of Life

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Bruce Larsen’s steel seahorse rises above a bluff in Fairhope overlooking the bay. A thin wasp nest hangs from a gear in the curve of the chest and pine needles stick out of the roller chain tail. As the metal pieces rust in the salt air, the seahorse that Larsen made with John Rezner was inspired by nature and becomes a part of it. Larsen’s larger-than-life sculptures of animals and athletes are coastal landmarks that give identities to parks, museums, restaurants, and festivals. There is a connection and life in each piece that comes from the sculptor’s imagination and his generous soul. It is the tilt of a head, the stretch of fingers, or the swish of a tail. Details observed by a man with an awareness that this day is the only day he has and there may not be another. 

Larsen moved from Atlanta to Fairhope because living close to the water gives him peace of mind to hear the voices in his head. “I had to be near water, and Fairhope draws in artists and people who appreciate the arts,” says Larsen. “It is also a good place to drop off the map and raise a family. I can make the art and do the movies and still be normal.”

His art is owned by Bill Clinton, Sting, Robert Plant, Philippe Cousteau, and the Crown Prince of Bahrain, but he will drop everything to help local students interested in art. He built animatronic movie horses for “The Patriot” and “Black Knight,” mangled bodies for Civil War battlefield scenes in “Lincoln,” and special effects for many commercials, movies, and television shows, but he helps friends construct sets for local plays and recitals. His sculptures are given as the prestigious “Big Fish” awards at the annual Riverkeepers gala in New York City, but he calls his three children his greatest creations.

He has airbrushed boats and surfboards for the mafia and motorcycles for the Commodores.  He built the gorilla suit for the movie “Dumb and Dumberer” and played the role of the gorilla.  His movie horses are so lifelike that the police were called when he threw the pieces away.

“Bruce gives energy and life to every day objects that everyone can recognize and relate to,” says the artist Nall, who divides his time between studios in France and Fairhope.  “He knows the anatomy and animation of animals and people. Bruce is one of the most important artists in Alabama as well as the US and he should be better known.”

Larsen’s studio is his garage below his home on Fish River. It is stacked from floor to ceiling with shelves of odds and ends and the tools to bring them together.  White plastic buckets are filled with doorknobs, driftwood, finials, twisted spindles, curved iron balusters, bald doll heads and a chestnut on a branch.  Red Coca-Cola crates hold rusted wrenches, hooks, bells, tubing, and scraps of steel. Tables are covered with heads, torsos, and feet from the molds of his latest creature in the movie “Somnia.” A slimy green body cavity stands over bloodied fingers that stretch out from white plaster arms. Walls are lined with Craftsmen toolboxes. Extension cords and power tools hang from the ceiling.  In the yard, chickens peck around a garden surrounded by a cemetery fence.

“Bruce makes his art just to share it with the public,” says Mac Walcott, principal at WAV Architects who owns Windmill Market in Fairhope with his wife Gina. “I met him when he brought his ‘Nefertiti’ into our office and left it there. We now have his work all over the Windmill Market and it creates conversation, community, and interest. He tells me he has a piece that would be perfect and the next day he walks in with eight screws and it is up. He also has a booth there where people can buy his work. He is very clear about who he is and his art.”

Larsen calls himself a modern archeologist assembling pieces of the past. “It starts with a knowledge of history and looking for signs,” he says. “I find things wherever they call me. From sewing machines and farm implements to arrowheads and hubcaps, these are parts of people’s lives. I feel these stories and the ghosts of each piece and think about the people who used it.  I am aware of their pasts, but I also dance with them in the present.“

The spontaneous discovery of two pieces that fit together is the reward of his work. He connects each piece with hands that are scarred by cutting blades and splintered with steel shavings.  “When you look at Bruce’s art or his monsters, you see his life, the things he has learned, and what he is going through,” says Scott Lumpkin, a film director from Fairhope who hired Larsen to create monsters and effects for his movies ‘Oculus’ and ‘Somnia.’ “He puts so much of himself into his work that you look at it and see him. He takes chances and has a cool creative energy that makes you want to go home and create something. His perception and interpretation of the world is a gift that most of us don’t have.”

 As Larsen gives his creativity to the coast, the coast gives opportunities to him.  The Academy unveils a new sculpture by Larsen at almost every annual board meeting. The campus is filled with his football players, a baseball player, weightlifter, basketball player, and gymnast. It will soon add a cyclist.  His art is also featured each year at The Hangout Music Festival and this year he is working with the Flaming Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne to create a large sculpture for the festival.

“Bruce is a genius, and his work brings attention and visitors to the coast,” says Dr. Thomas Rosandich, President and CEO of the United States Sports Academy in Daphne. “People come to the Academy to photograph his sculptures and they take the pictures back to their homes all over the country. He has a work ethic like no one else in the world, but he is also giving with his time and art. He donated the Sprinter sculpture to us, voluntarily makes birds out of driftwood as gifts for VIPs that visit the Academy, and gives tours whenever I ask him.”

Bruce Larsen's Art of Life_Body Image

“I am the monster guy and the junk art guy,” says Larsen. “I have been putting things together since I was a kid and glued rocks together for my mother’s Christmas presents. When I was in college I saw the movie ‘Alien’ and I knew I wanted to make monsters. I have fun making things that interest or scare me. It makes me feel alive.”

Larsen’s need to feel alive has led to close calls with death. He has soared the jet streams on the wings of a glider, raced motorcycles, and parachuted out of planes. He gave those up to be around for his family and now channels that adrenaline into his art. “I know what it feels like to fall and to fly,” says Larsen. “I am constantly beating myself up, but that is a part of paying the piper. If you are going to live a big life you are going to have to pay emotionally and physically. I have always felt like I was living on borrowed time. I make angels because I feel like they are watching over me.”

Knowing that life is short pushes Larsen to work in two different worlds, creating art that will outlive him. “Movies are a different form of creating because it is storytelling in the here and now,” he says. “‘Somnia’ was shot quickly and making a monster out of silicone was new to me. I averaged two hours of sleep each night over the two months of the shoot but everything you do at four in the morning had better work. It was stress with a gun to your head. It was one of the hardest things I have done in my life, but I have to chase the movies. Monsters and special effects can be fine art and I want to merge the two together. I don’t know what is out there or how far I can go, but I have to try.”

To Larsen, beauty is a passion for life. “I had to wait 13 billion years to live this life and I am going to make the most of it,” says Larsen. “I know I am a bit of a gypsy blowing in the wind, but it is my personality to make order out of chaos. I question reality all of the time but while I am here I am going to push and have as much fun and as many experiences as I can. Making art for movies or making art out of junk, I am lucky that I get to do what I want to do and support my family doing it. “

 “One of my effects was pulling the nail off of a finger in the movie ‘Oculus’,” says Larsen. “During that scene the director came out of his tent cringing. Just watching him get the horror out of his spine was great. I knew I got it right. “

This story originally appeared in “The Southern Rambler” magazine January 20, 2014 by Lynn Oldshue.

Black History Beyond Sport: Julius Caesar Hope

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by Brandon Spradley

The Academy highlights Reverend Julius Caesar Hope, a graduate of Mobile County Training School (Plateau, Alabama) in 1950.

Hope graduated from Alabama State University, where he was a quarterback on the football team and a catcher on the baseball team. He served in the United States Air Force for four years and was a member of the Alaskan softball team that won the Worldwide Championship in 1953.

Julius Hope has played an integral part in organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He served as the President of the Georgia State Conference of NAACP Branches for 18 years. His efforts and leadership caught the eye of then Governor Jimmy Carter who appointed him the Human Relations Council for the state of Georgia. In addition, Hope was the recipient of The Medgar Evers Award, one of the NAACP’s most prestigious awards. This award recognized Hope’s outstanding service to the NAACP and devotion to the cause of civil rights. The NAACP has also established two awards in Hope’s honor, “The Reverend Julius C. Hope Hall of Fame Award” and “The Julius C. Hope Champion of Social Justice Award.”
Reverand Julius Caesar Hope

Reverand Julius Caesar Hope

Hope was the first person interviewed for the Black Sports History Project developed by the United States Sports Academy and the Mobile County Training School Alumni Association. This project captures the historical significance of the memories and feelings of African Americans athletes who competed in sports during the time of segregation. Former athletes such as Reverend Hope recall their experiences in sport through the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.

Black Sports History Link: http://ussa.edu/black-sports-history-project/


Joan Cronan Joins Academy’s Board of Trustees

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The United States Sports Academy is pleased to welcome to the Board of Trustees Joan Cronan, the senior advisor to the chancellor and the women’s director of athletics emerita for the University of Tennessee.

Under Cronan’s supervision for nearly 30 years, she is credited with leading the program to its most successful stretch under the management of one director. Cronan helped direct the Lady Vols to 10 National Championships and 29 Southeastern Conference titles during her reign as the Women’s Director of Athletics from 1983 through 2012. While holding this position, she added four women’s sports to the university, while also increasing the program budget to nearly $30 million.

Among other roles, Cronan was named the interim vice chancellor and director in 2011, making her the first in the state’s history to hold this title, which helped her earn the Academy’s Carl Maddox Sports Management Award that year. Cronan’s major role in this position was to administer the consolidation of the men’s and women’s athletic departments. She is also the first female in the SEC to manage a full athletics department.

In addition to her roles at the University, Cronan is the former president of both the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and also the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators, an organization in which she was named the 2005 Athletic Director of the Year. She has also served many roles within the National Collegiate Athletic Association Organization, such as a member of the Division I Leadership Council, Management Council, Executive Committee and the Championship Cabinet.

In 2008, Cronan was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. She was furthermore honored in the Louisiana State University’s Alumni Hall of Distinction in 1995 and the College of Charleston Hall of Fame in 1990.

Cronan, a graduate of Louisiana State University, earned her bachelor’s in 1966 and her master’s in 1968, both in physical education. After graduation, Cronan became the women’s head basketball coach and a professor of physical education at the University of Tennessee in 1968. She held these titles until she left to become the Director of Women’s Athletics at the College of Charleston, where she remained for 10 years before returning to the University of Tennessee in 1983.


Sculpture by Chair of Academy’s Art Committee Unveiled

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“Original,” the first oyster sculpture in a series that will compose the Oyster Trail along the Eastern Shore, was unveiled at the Original Oyster House in Mobile, Ala., on Wednesday, 12 February 2014. “Original” was painted by Nancy Raia, the Chair of the Academy’s Art Committee and the Community Outreach Director for the Eastern Shore Art Center. Joe Roszkowski and David Dekle, co-owners of the Original Oyster House, sponsored the Oyster Trail Sculpture, which helps sustain oyster reefs. Pictured from left are Joe Roszkowski, Nancy Raia, David Dekle, and co-coordinators of the Oyster Trail P.J Waters and Marie Dyson.


Jones County Junior College Delegation Visits Academy

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A delegation of coaches from Jones County Junior College (JCJC) in Ellisville, Miss., visited the Academy on Friday, 14 February 2014.  This delegation, which was led by Dr. Jim Walley, JCJC’s Vice President of External Affairs (far right), visited to discuss the Academy’s academic degree programs and ways the two organizations may be able to collaborate in the future.


Academy Vice President Meets with Abbot of the Shaolin Temple

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Dr. T.J. Rosandich, Academy Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (left), recently met with His Holiness Abbot Shi Yongxin in Dengfeng, China, about promoting the Academy’s online Shaolin course to 400 million Chan Buddhist followers and others across the globe.

For the past few years, the Academy has been working with the Shaolin Temple to develop a course that introduces Shaolin philosophy and history to people online throughout the world.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the unique and respected practices and philosophy of this ancient Chinese system can take “The Philosophy of Shaolin Kung Fu” (CEB 205), an online, continuing education course offered by the Academy.

The course is considered to be of value to any coach in any sport looking for an advantage by applying this successful mind, body, and spirit philosophy developed over the past 1,500 years by the Shaolin.

The core text for the course derives from the translated English version of “Shaolin Kung Fu Secrets,” which comes from a 1,500-year-old manuscript that Abbot Shi Yongxin gave to the Academy during his visit in November 2006 to receive an Honorary Doctorate. By using the five books of ancient Chan teachings provided so graciously by his Holiness, the spiritual leader of the Chan Buddhists, the Academy has developed an online format to present these important teachings on key tenets of Shaolin philosophy.

The course, which costs $200.00, offers students who finish it a Certificate of Completion signed by His Holiness and Academy President and CEO Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich. The course covers:

  • Qigong – the practice of learning to focus and control internal energy, or qi (chi).
  • Meditation – learning to calm and order the mind.
  • Physical Training – the martial art practice and strengthening exercises.
  • Chinese Medicine – acupuncture, acupressure, and nutrition for a healthy body.
  • Spiritual Foundations – the many facets of the religious history and development of the Shaolin Temple.
  • Political Impact and Shaolin Today – the effect the political situation in China has had on the development of the Shaolin Temple and its philosophy, and where the Temple fits into today’s global society.

After completing this course, students should have a greater understanding of the history, development, and elements that comprise the Shaolin philosophy. Also, they should be able to apply principles from the teachings to their personal and professional life.

To learn more about “The Philosophy of Shaolin Kung Fu” (CEB 205) course, please call the Academy at 251-626-3303 or email continuinged@ussa.edu.

Agreement Signed with Shanghai Sports Administration

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Dr. T.J. Rosandich, the Academy’s Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, recently negotiated an agreement with the Shanghai Administration of Sports.  Under this agreement, the Academy’s International Diploma in Sports Coaching (IDSC) Program will be delivered to 100 students in Shanghai commencing in May 2014.

Shanghai Sport Admin (1)

Pictured on the left (front to back) are Dr. T.J. Rosandich and Marlin Lee, an Academy alumnus in Shanghai.  Pictured on the right (front to back) are Guo Jialui, International Affairs Department; Dr. Guo Bei, Vice President of the Shanghai Administration of Sports; Zhao Rongshan, Director of the Sports Education Department; and Pan Mingliang, Director of Personnel.

SAS Signing3_Cropped

The formal signing of this agreement was later staged by these officials, with future students of the program in attendance.  Presiding over the signing was Li Yuyi, the Director General of the Shanghai Administration of Sports (back row, third from left).

Michael Wardian and Abebech Bekele Voted January’s Athletes of the Month

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United States marathoner Michael Wardian and Ethiopian marathoner Abebech Bekele were chosen as the United States Sports Academy’s January 2014 Athletes of the Month.


Michael Wardian. Photo Credit: Amy Sangermano. Copyright, 2014 Gameday Photos/Walt Disney World.

In the Men’s Division, the 39-year-old Wardian has established himself as one of best marathoners and ultra-marathoners in the world, having run in numerous marathons over the past decade. In 2006 he won four of the five races in which he participated during a 45-day period. In 2008, 2009 and 2010 he won the US 50 km Championships and in 2008 the US National 100 km Championship. Aside from these accomplishments Wardian won the National Marathon from 2006-2008 and 2010-2012. He is an eight-time USA Track and Field Ultra Runner of the Year. He also won the first ever “Dopey Challenge” at Walt Disney World in January.

Abebech Bekele. Photo Credit: Cody Duty. Copyright 2014, Houston Chronicle.

Abebech Bekele. Photo Credit: Cody Duty. Copyright 2014, Houston Chronicle.

In the Women’s Division, Bekele won her first ever marathon this month with a time of 2 hours, 25 minutes and 52 seconds in the Women’s Chevron Houston Marathon. Her win extended Ethiopia’s women’s streak to eight consecutive.

Finishing second in the Men’s Division was Kevin Durant, the all-star forward for the National Basketball Association’s Oklahoma City Thunder who recorded 12-straight 30-point games in January. The 25-year-old Washington, D.C., native helped lead the Thunder to a 10-game win streak during that span.

The runner-up to Bekele in the Women’s Division was Gracie Gold, the U.S. figure skater, who finished first at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships with a short program that scored 72.12 points. It was the highest ladies’ score at the U.S. Championships under the current judging system. She also won the free skate program with a record score of 139.57.

Third place winners for January were Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in the Men’s Division and X Games Medalist American Kelly Clark in the Women’s Division.

Wardian and Bekele are now eligible for the Academy’s male and female 2014 Athlete of the Year Award. For the 30th consecutive year, the Academy will oversee the worldwide online voting that will take place in December. This prestigious award is currently done in conjunction with NBC Sports.

The public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month nomination and ballot voting processes. Visit the Academy website at www.ussa.edu to submit your nominations each month, and then return to the website during the first two weeks of each month to vote for the male and female Athletes of the Month. The votes along with an Academy committee choose the winners who become candidates for the Athlete of the Year. The monthly and yearly winners are announced on the Academy’s website and in the sports university’s online edition of The Sport Update.

The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call 251-626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.

Gus Malzahn presser on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013 in Auburn, Ala.Todd Van Emst

Auburn’s Gus Malzahn Honored With 2014 Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award

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Photo Credit: Todd Van Emst. Copyright 2014, AuburnTigers.com

Football on the plains of Auburn University will never be the same again! The Auburn Tigers’ exciting 2013 season which tied the NCAA record for a one-year turnaround was engineered under the impressive leadership of first-year Head Coach Gus Malzahn.

The astonishing season, which featured Auburn playing in the final Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship Game, has earned Malzahn the United States Sports Academy’s 2014 Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award. In that BCS game, Auburn was a scant 13 seconds away from victory, as late, breath-taking victories became a hallmark of Auburn Tiger football under Malzahn.

Malzahn, the Tigers’ former offensive coordinator came back to the Plains last season leading Auburn out of the doldrums of a 0-8 record in Southeastern Conference (SEC) play in 2012 to an SEC Championship in 2013. The turnaround matches the greatest such feat in college football history.

The Amos Alonzo Stagg Award is presented annually to a men’s coach who has experienced outstanding achievement and has exhibited a high standard of propriety, imagination, and innovation as a character-builder in the tradition of great teacher-coaches. Amos Alonzo Stagg was one of the winningest college football coaches in history with 314 wins and his imagination and innovation established many sports traditions, strategies, and character-building lessons still used today.

Malzahn’s coaching leadership flourished this year upon his return to Auburn, where he previously directed the offense and coached quarterback Cam Newton during the Tigers’ 2010 BCS title run. His up-tempo style of offense wore down vaunted SEC defenses and helped lead the Tigers to 12 wins this year. The Tigers’ 12-2 record during the 2013 season was clearly better than their 3-9 record the previous year.

His offense put up gaudy numbers in big victories against Georgia, Missouri, and Alabama in the Iron Bowl, which was the Academy’s selection for the 2013 College Football Game of the Year. Auburn averaged 328 yards per game on the ground in 2013 and 173 yards through the air.

After a stint as head coach of Arkansas State, Malzahn was hired on Dec. 4, 2012, to take over for his former boss Gene Chizik. In his first season as head coach, Malzahn led the Tigers back to national prominence. The Tigers fell just short of their second title in four years, but it doesn’t diminish the great coaching prowess Malzahn exhibited throughout the year.

Malzahn has received numerous honors for this outstanding season, including the Paul “Bear” Bryant College Coach of the Year Award. Malzahn beat out Baylor’s Art Briles, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, and Rice’s David Baliff for that honor. In 2013, Malzahn was inducted into the Arkansas High School Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame highlighting phenomenal success as a high school coach in Arkansas.

After leaving high school coaching, Malzahn began his college career as Offensive Coordinator at the University of Arkansas in 2006. In 2012, he became the Head Coach at Arkansas State, where he posted a 9-3 record. Malzahn is 21-5 in two seasons as a college head coach.

Last year’s winner of the Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award was Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. Harbaugh earned the award after leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory in 2012, beating the San Francisco 49ers.

The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call 251-626-3303, or visit www.ussa.edu.

People, Places and Programs

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The Technical University of Madrid and the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency will hold an International Congress entitled, “Sport, Doping and Society” from 26 February until 1 March 2014, in Madrid, Spain.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Indoor Championships will be held from 7-9 March 2014, in Sopot, Poland.

The 2014 Laureus World Sports Awards will be held on Wednesday, 26 March 2014, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The 2014 American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) National Convention and Expo will be held from 1-5 April 2014, in St. Louis, Mo.

The 2014 SportAccord Convention will be held from 6-11 April 2014, at the Susesi Resort in Belek, Turkey.

The Singapore Sports Council will be hosting the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Income Run 350 on Sunday, 27 April 2014, at the F1 Pit Building in Singapore.

BCN Sports Film will be holding the 2014 SpotSport Competition from 7-10 May 2014, in Barcelona, Spain.

The International Working Group (IWG) on Women and Sport will be hosting the 6th World Conference on Women and Sport entitled, “Lead the Change Be the Change,” from 12-15 June 2014, in Helsinki, Finland.

The 19th Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science entitled, “Sport Science Around the Canals,” will be held from 2-5 July 2014, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The 2014 USA Gymnastics Alabama Compulsory Championships are scheduled to be held from 5-7 December 2014, at the Mobile Convention Center in Mobile, Ala. The USA Gymnastics Region 8 (Level 7 and 8) Championships are scheduled to be held from 24-26 April 2015, in Mobile as well.

The 28th South East Asian (SEA) Games will be held from 5-16 June 2015, in Singapore.


Academy Alumnus Coordinates Gulf Coast Interstate Relay

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Anthony D’Onofrio (left) meets with Dr. Stephen Butler, the Academy’s Dean of Academic Affairs, on campus to discuss the Academy’s role in the upcoming Gulf Coast Interstate Relay.

Academy alumnus Anthony D’Onofrio has taken over control of the Gulf Coast Interstate Relay in its second year, and once again his alma mater will play a pivotal role in the 263-mile race that takes place April 4-6.

Just like last year, the Academy will be one of six major transition points along the route from New Orleans, La. to Pensacola, Fla., meaning the building will open its doors to runners and cyclists participating in the relay.

“Runners and bikers will be allowed to hang out on campus, take a shower if they need to, or rest if they need to,” D’Onofrio said.

In addition, Academy staff will mark a portion of the course from the U.S.S. Alabama in Mobile, Ala. to just south of Foley, Ala.

D’Onofrio said he couldn’t be more pleased to work in conjunction with the Academy, where he received a master’s degree in sports management in 1997.

“The feedback I’ve heard about the Academy’s involvement from last year is great,” he said. “It’s a wonderful facility.”

In addition to opening as a transition point, the Academy will dedicate a new found-object sculpture by artist Bruce Larsen, the Academy’s 2009 Sport Artist of the Year, on April 3 to its Sports Sculpture Park. Fittingly, the piece will depict a cyclist.

A Boston native, D’Onofrio has coached ice hockey since the early 1990s. He said he came to the Academy for the networking opportunities, and having those contacts have paid dividends in his career and personal life.

“My experience at the Academy was awesome,” he said. “The majority of my friends are people I met while at the Academy. I do a lot of work with alumni.”

In addition to taking over the relay on Dec. 1, 2013, D’Onofrio also works for Every Brand Apparel, a golf-centered events and apparel company that works with more than 450 golf tournaments worldwide each year.

D’Onofrio said he’s still looking to expand the relay field, with registration running through the end of March. A portion of the race proceeds will support the Wounded Warriors program, which helps to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members.

The Academy is an IRS-designated 501(c)(3) charitable organization able to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. Your donation today is deeply appreciated. Donate Today
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