By Jamie Vulakh ’24
Charlie Bell ’71 was Mercersburg Academy’s featured speaker for the fourth annual Joseph Hilliard Beauregard ’18 Memorial Generosity of Spirit School Meeting Friday, February 17. Bell surprised our students with his impressive journey running around the continental United States. When talking about the hundreds of strangers he met, he disclosed humorous, frightening, and somber memories, leaving our students in laughter and, with some, tears.
Bell explained that he never distinguished himself in sports while at various schools around the east coast. He was known to be a bookish kid. After a gap year at school in England, he attended Princeton. Following graduation, he went to work for IBM in New York; however, during his mid 20s, Bell decided to leave his job as a big-city computer salesman and begin long-distance running. Within a year of his first short road race, Bell qualified for and completed the Boston and New York marathons.
With dreams growing bigger and, literally, longer, Bell’s marathon glory led him to the thought of running an unsupported lap around the perimeter of the United States. He followed the seasons for 10,000 miles. One morning in August of 1979, he started this journey straight from his parent’s house in Mercersburg, PA.
Bell encapsulated the culture of the spirit school meeting when he talked about his moments of insight and wonder, surprise, and joy during his solo journey through the United States. He shared various memories of the trip and explained their connections to the spirit of Beauregard.
Bell has been a featured presenter at the Connecticut Storytelling Festival and the International Platform Association’s annual showcase. He also received praise for his storytelling in The New York Times, and published short articles about his trip in Sports Illustrated and Reader’s Digest.
After the school meeting, Bell allowed extra time for faculty, staff, and students to approach him and ask more questions about his incredible journey. Later on, Bell shared more aspects of his experience and the ethics behind it, including some advice to future teachers, coaches, and solo travelers, for a Mercersburg podcast. Bell’s presentation at the school meeting can be accessed at this link.
The Beauregard Memorial Generosity of Spirit School Meeting series honors the memory of Beauregard, who attended Mercersburg for three years and graduated with the Class of 2018. He passed away in October 2018 during his freshman year at Savannah College of Art and Design; the speaker series has been established in his memory and with an eye toward furthering an ongoing and powerful message of recognition, respect, and caring that were a part of Joe’s life.