OF ALL THE HONORS bestowed on Bonnie over her many years, there are only a few that she ever talked about. One of these was the honorary Master of Humanics granted to her in June 1958 by Springfield College.
If you have ever been privileged to attend a Bonnie Prudden workshop of any kind, you know that BARE FEET are essential. In Bonnie’s gym everyone went barefoot – else how can you develop the foot muscles.
“When jammed into a shoe, a foot becomes a hoof,” she said.
It was back in June of 1956 that Bonnie was first asked by Springfield College to teach summer classes. In Bonnie’s own words:
”When I taught summer classes at Springfield College – the birthplace of basketball and of YMCA personnel – I always got a bunch of ‘make-up artists’ in my classes.” She defined these ‘makeup artists’ or easy riders’ as those students who were required to make up work missed. As a woman, and not a very big one at that, they thought her class would be an easy ride.
“They misjudged me. I don’t know any easy rides, and if I did I wouldn’t use them. “
“When we started at nine there were one hundred and ninety barefoot participants and ten sneaker shod Springfield ‘easy riders.’ I took it easy the first morning and just before lunch break I announced that if any one felt the need to wear sneakers, I would know they were sexually inhibited, which is true. After lunch there were 200 barefoot participants.”
Faith Trotta has been a Bonnie student, friend, event coordinator and a CBPM for many years. But in 1956 Faith was a young student at Springfield College. In a recent phone conversation she told me that at that time the “old boys’ school” was just beginning to admit women, and had recently changed its name from International Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) College to Springfield College. Typical of the program were prescribed exercises with dumbbells and bouncing ball routines done to boring piano music. The use of current music with words was a no no.
Faith was on the Special Event Planning committee, and she was given the task of planning an afternoon tea for the visiting Bonnie Prudden, one of the first women to be invited from off campus. The event was on the lawn, and Faith remembers as if it were yesterday: Bonnie in a green suit, tight skirt above the knees and a jacket. She was wearing heels – which were constantly getting stuck in the grass – so she just took them off.
Over the two weeks that Bonnie was there Faith watched from afar, afraid to take part because she didn’t think she could keep up. But what she saw was an “eye-opener.” Exercises were done to popular music and the movements were everyday body movements, and it was fun and not boring. Finally Bonnie motioned for Faith to join the group… and that was the beginning of a very, very long and wonderful friendship.
But back to Humanics and Springfield College and why this particular honor meant so much to Bonnie.
The dictionary defines humanics as the study of human nature. As defined by Springfield College and their educational principles, Humanics is a holistic approach that focuses on the mind, body and spirit with emphasis on community service and leadership.
This particular word, humanics, really described Bonnie’s approach to life. Every book she wrote carried this message. This message was a part of every interview and lecture she ever gave and even though it may not have been expressed in actual words, the message was there. Probably the book which best illustrates this is Bonnie Prudden’s After Fifty Fitness Guide, which explicitly shows you how to take charge of your body, your mind and your spirit. It debunks the lies, sets forth the truth and shows you the way.
Back to Humanics and Springfield again.
The pivotal player to the humanics award was Dr. Glenn Olds. In 1958, Dr. Olds had just arrived as Springfield’s youngest President. And as its President, he used to watch Bonnie teach from his second story office window, which looked down on the exercise field. He told me once that he would watch Bonnie arrive in her white convertible, its red interior overflowing with colorful equipment.
“She never used the door,” he said, “she just vaulted over the side.”
Dr. Olds had been introduced to Bonnie through Paul Dudley White, Eisenhower’s doctor, who believed in exercise including the President, who had had a heart attack.
Glenn Olds was many things: professional boxer, ordained minister, philosopher, husband and father. And as president of four colleges, UN ambassador, advisor to Kennedy on the founding of the Peace Corp and as Professor at Arizona International College, Dr. Olds was not misled by scholarship.
Over the years, he and Bonnie became fast friends, and in a 1999 interview he shared some of his thoughts and observations about Bonnie with our staff:
“Bonnie is not a phony or empty handed.”
“She was never corrupted by the invitation of money.”
“She did not ask you do anything that she couldn’t do more of. If she asked you to do 10 push-ups she would do 20 to show you how easy it was.”
“Bonnie is not a hand wringer or a stick-your-finger-in-the-dike person. She is a build the damn person.”
“She combined the grace and grit of a dancer and mountain climber.”
“Her passion was exemplified by strength under control.”
“She was an innovator. She did not reconstruct the past or use pre-packaged short cuts.”
“I had the feeling that if Bonnie were to hit me, I would go down, but it wouldn’t hurt.” “Her strength was surrounded by a velvet glove.”
“She understood that until you got wings, you had to climb.”
“Bonnie was authentic, fearless, disciplined, courageous, self-sacrificing.”
“Bonnie gave the symbol [the triangle of the YMCA] substance. She embodied the qualities of excellence in mind, body and spirit.”
Bonnie went on to help turn the YMCAs into Family Ys by training women and introducing family exercise classes, as well as mom and baby swim and gym classes to Ys all over the country.
If any of YOU have a first person Bonnie story we would love to hear from you.
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help.
Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy