The afternoon of Wednesday, April 11, packed an impressive “one-two punch” of experiences for Episcopal students, as they heard from Writer In Residence Jennifer Pharr Davis followed by the concluding Leadership & Ethics program of the year, broken into groups by grade.
Davis is a hiker, author, and speaker who held the record for the fastest trek — male or female — of the Appalachian Trail from 2011 until 2015. Her sixth book, “The Pursuit of Endurance,” was released on the day of her talk in Pendleton. She, her husband Brew, and their two children spent the latter part of the week on the Hill. She visited over 15 English classes, and Brew — a singer and songwriter — offered a campfire concert for faculty and staff members and their families on Thursday night.
In her introductory talk on Wednesday, Davis offered anecdotes from her experiences on “the AT,” as well as reflections on breaking the record and how her life has changed for the better through her hiking experiences.
“I have never in my life felt more beautiful than I did on the trail,” she told the student audience in Pendleton. She explained that, without mirrors and in a time before selfies, the only reflection of herself came from her interactions with others on the trail. “I saw how people responded to me, and that was my reflection.”
She also shared examples of ways her hiking experiences have helped her find her voice — it involves in part an attempt to hide from a tagalong hiker by running ahead and hiding under a tree — as well as how time alone on the trail has taught her how to see solitude and boredom in an entirely different light.
On breaking the record, she was interested in how others sought to understand her experience by obsessing over the numbers — how many days, how many miles per day, how many pounds lost and injuries suffered — instead of focusing on the unforgettable adventure of it. The true value of a journey can never be expressed in numbers, she said. The value is in “your own transformation, the memories created, the connections made, the insights gained.”
Amy Fannon Cupic ’94
, one of the “First 48” at EHS and a member of the Athletics Hall of Fame
, is a program coordinator for Arlington Montessori House who offered insights from her own experiences as an educator and discussed “bringing out the best in others” with the junior class.
Finally, speechwriter, filmmaker, and political podcaster Mary Kate Cary
shared insights and lessons learned from working on staff with President George H.W. Bush and on creating the documentary “41 on 41,”
interviewing 41 different people on their interactions with and impressions of the 41st President of the United States.