August 2, 2010
10-126

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

Professor Honors Neighbor with Race

 

VALDOSTA -- Accounting Professor Leisa Marshall greeted her 50th year with a pledge to exercise. For inspiration during the spring of 2010, Marshall kept up with the 5K activity of former VSU student Steven Brogdon Jr. and had planned to join him in an upcoming race. She heard from her ambitious mentee in February but not about running; his father, Steven Brogdon Sr., had been diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. He was 51.

“I was a bit shocked, so it took me five days to respond. Given Steven’s age (I was guessing about 25 years old), I was saddened that a person would possibly lose their parent at such a young age,” Marshall said. “I suppose in my desire to help or maybe lack of what to say, I suggested that we organize a 5K for his dad’s benefit. He spoke with his dad, who gave the approval, then I decided that we could do this every year -- pick a family that received a similar diagnosis, and I just went to work, figuring out what I needed to do.”

More than 133 runners and walkers participated in the Honor Our Neighbor 5K/1 mile fun run/walk in June. The race began McKey Park and headed south on Patterson Street to Brookwood Drive, then circled back to the park along Oak Street. Proceeds from race registration and sponsorships raised more than $9,000, which included 77 non-runner, company and individual donations. Marshall said she hopes the race continues to serve as an opportunity for residents to focus on health as they help their neighbors.

“I believe that the event name, ‘Honor Our Neighbor,’ serves as a reminder that we are all in this together and maybe a constant reminder of what we are supposed to be doing and how we are supposed to treat each other,” Marshall said. “Although I can’t claim to be a Bible expert or even one that has read much of it, I have learned the importance of the verse ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:31). It is printed on the fronts of the race T-shirts.

Marshall -- who has been recognized for outstanding teaching, research and service -- met Brodgon Jr. after a yearlong sabbatical, which she spent with her dad who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He approached her after class to express his sympathy. His grandfather, also dealing with Alzheimer’s, had been living with his parents since his grandmother died.

“He shared many stories about his grandfather that have helped me and my siblings as we work with my dad. As Steven (Jr.) relayed stories, I knew this was a really good person,” said Marshall, who taught Brogdon Jr. in three business courses. “He is a nice, young man who spent many of his Friday evenings during college “hanging out” with his Grandfather.”

Throughout the race-planning process, Marshall became even closer with her former student and his family. Steven and Donna invited Marshall to their home and church. Brogdon Jr., who works for local CPA firm Brandon, Rackley, & Dukes, introduced his former professor to his wife, Christian, and brother, Clayton.

The race transformed these neighbors into the dearest of friends.

Contact Marshall at lmarshal@valdosta.edu for more information about the Honor Your Neighbor race.