Wally and Heather Dunn

By Creighton Segars, Class of 2015

Heather Dunn, Ph.D., is on the faculty in the animal and veterinary Sciences department in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, and her husband, Wally Dunn, is a grants coordinator for the College of Engineering and Science and a leisure skills instructor in marathon training.

On April 21, they will be running in the 118th Boston Marathon, the most prestigious marathon for distance runners. Combined, this couple has over 60 marathon races under their belt. This will be Dunn’s seventh Boston Marathon and Wally’s 20th Boston Marathon.

But this is not just another marathon. Heather will be running with the Dana-Farber Marathon Team in honor of Clemson faculty member, Ashby “Budd” Bodine, Ph.D. and 2012 Alumni Master Teacher, who is currently fighting a battle with cancer. His young grandson, Coleman, is his source of inspiration.

Bodine was Dunn’s mentor during her years as a graduate student at Clemson and he was a faculty member on her dissertation committee.

“I am blessed with the physical ability to run this race, raise money for cancer research, and do so in honor of my mentor, colleague and dear friend Dr. Budd Bodine, said Dunn. I can’t think of any better reason to run 26.2 miles.”

Ashby “Budd” Bodine

Ashby “Budd” Bodine and his grandson, Coleman

“He is a driving force in who I want to be,” said Dunn. Dr. Bodine’s situation led to her decision to run with the Dana-Farber Team. Dana-Farber is the oldest and most represented charity organization at the Boston Marathon. They are unique in that 100 percent of their received donations are put straight into cutting edge cancer research for experimental treatments.

Heather had the opportunity to work for Dana-Farber for a few years and gained first-hand insight into the organization’s research.

“This is an organization that is near and dear to my heart,” she said.

While Heather and Wally do not train side-by-side, they do train at the same time giving each other encouragement. “It’s nice to be on the same schedule, committed to the same thing,” said Wally. The couple works out each morning during the training season at Clemson’s Fike Recreation Center before they head off to their offices.

A close call

Heather and Wally both raced in the Boston Marathon last year when the tragic bombings caused the city to come to a state of chaos and dysfunction.

Wally injured himself during that race causing him to walk the last portion of the marathon. Heather slowed down to walk beside him for a few minutes before continuing on with the race towards the finish line. And then chaos ensued. Had Heather not slowed her pace to walk beside her husband, she would have been at the finish line when the bombs exploded. She even had the presence of mind to return to the course to find Wally, preventing hours of searching the crowds in the aftermath.

“Even with last year’s events, we never had any hesitation about participating in the marathon this year,” Heather said.

Her admiration for Dr. Bodine, combined with the events of last year makes this Boston Marathon a unique experience from her previous races. We, the Clemson family, wish her and Wally the best of luck in their endeavors.

Help Heather Dunn reach her donation pledge to the Dana-Farber Team, by visiting her personal page on the Dana-Farber website.