Gordon in the News: last updated 12/12/2011

Recreation Ignites the Life of the Mind

By Natalie Ferjulian

For Gordon College faculty who also teach a physical education (P.E.) class, the value of recreation goes beyond cardiovascular health.

“After exercise, my brain is more smooth and alert, like a well oiled machine,” says Ming Zheng (top right), chair of the biology department, who teaches a badminton class.

Each semester over 500 Gordon students are enrolled in P.E. courses that are as varied as running, fly fishing, geocaching, dance or golf—many of which are taught by Gordon faculty and staff members from across the campus. In addition to Zheng teaching badminton, Daniel Johnson (second photo down), professor of sociology, can be found riding the roads of the North Shore with his cycling class, while Bryan Auday (pictured on slide), chair of the psychology department, teaches kayaking on the Ipswich River.

 “P.E. classes introduce students to sports and activities that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in,” says Zheng, who played competitive badminton in China as an undergraduate. “Exercise is important not only because it improves heart function but it also increases mental vitality.”

Auday and Johnson have found a similar effect of activity on their work as scholars. “When I’m cycling I have to put just enough focus into staying next to the white line that I can’t think about other things,” says Johnson. “Not thinking actively is important to the work I do, which is so abstract and theoretical. In some instances, progress is made on a subconscious level when I’m out on the road.”

For Auday, spending time in his ocean kayak, thinking about tides and the technical aspects of kayaking, is important to his wellbeing. “As soon as I get on the water there’s a transformative effect on my disposition,” says Auday. “I’m keenly aware of my boat, my body, and the stunning views around me.” Auday spends at least one day a week in his kayak and finds that the calming effect of being on the water carries into other areas of his life and work.

The healing and restorative effects of physical activity are part of the reason why Peggy Hothem (third down), professor of recreation and leisure studies, has spent over three decades teaching in the department. “Life is hard, sin is a reality, but in our play we can enjoy God and delight in his creation,” says Hothem. “The enjoyment piece that comes from physical activity has too often been neglected in many faith communities.”

At Gordon, though, many faculty and staff members make time for recreation in creative ways. Donna Loy (fourth down, pictured on vacation in Arizona), applications coordinator in the admissions department, spends her early mornings walking, hiking, or cross country skiing through the Gordon woods. Stephen Smith (fifth down), professor of economics and business, can be found in the Bennett Center pool most days. Elsje Zwart (sixth down), major gifts officer, has been practicing yoga three days a week for 15 years. Jon Williams, software architect and strategist, has hiked most of the 4,000 footers in the White Mountains. Jo Kadlecek, senior writer, rides her bike to work from Beverly four seasons of the year. Justin Ellis, admissions counselor, wouldn’t miss a season of church softball. And Patty Hanlon, director of publications, has been spotted floating in her wetsuit in the Essex River in December.

“We’re creatures with minds and bodies. Part of being whole involves exercising all of who we are,” says Johnson. “It’s my hope that each of our students will learn the skill of an activity that becomes a lifelong practice.”


Ming Zheng
Daniel Johnson
Peggy Hothem
Donna Loy
Stephen Smith
Elsje Zwart