Susan and Leonard Lodish

Susan and Leonard Lodish ride in tandem on the road less traveled

They called it fun: pedaling uphill on a tandem bicycle, battling 118-degree temperatures and 98-percent humidity, chased by tornadoes, drenched by rainstorms, pelted by hail. No matter. They pushed on. For forty days and 3,238 miles, despite five flat tires--one during a downhill run at 34 miles per hour--and a vertical climb of almost 90,000 feet, they pedaled round and round, up and down, over hill and dale, ever so joyfully. And why not? When you're fulfilling a lifelong dream, it's difficult not to be happy.

So say Susan and Leonard Lodish '65 of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. For Leonard, a consultant and the Samuel R. Harrell Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Susan, a freelance theatrical director and Len's wife of thirty-two years, the trip across fourteen states, from coast to coast, was the culmination of immeasurable desire and drive, of passion turned to purpose.

"For as long as I can remember," says Susan, "Leonard has been collecting bicycle maps and fantasizing about a cross-country journey." Her memory goes back a long time. High-school sweethearts, Leonard and Susan have been biking since they were thirteen when, Susan recalls, he used to ride her around on his handlebars. They have been riding tandem for the past twelve years.

Getting around to fulfilling long-held dreams sometimes requires some impetus. For the Lodishes, a sabbatical year and a diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease) in Len's first cousin, Jules Lodish, was the combination of circumstances they needed. Their concern for Jules meant that their dream could now have an equally important charitable purpose.

After investigating various options, the Lodishes signed on in 1996 with the League of American Bicyclists, which runs a long-distance cross-country tour called Pedal for Power. The organization made all the overnight and meal arrangements, provided mechanical and "sag" support vehicles, and transported luggage from place to place. Averaging eighty-five miles per day and spending seven hours a day on eight-inch tandem-bicycle seats, Leonard and Susan were certain they would be grateful for a hot shower and a bed at the end of each day.

A component of the Pedal for Power tour was fundraising, which, they say, fit right into their plan of "helping others fulfill their dreams as we fulfilled ours." The Lodishes asked friends and associates to "ride vicariously" by pledging a certain amount per mile that they rode, with the money going to honor Jules's battle through a donation to ALS research. A substantial donation was also made to the Jewish Theological Seminary in support of Jewish education and its role in preserving Jewish tradition.

A highlight of the trip for the Lodishes, they say, was getting to know the other cyclists in the group. The oldest biker rode 111 miles on his seventy-third birthday. The youngest, a twenty-one-year-old woman, chose the trip over attending her college graduation. A retired airline pilot, a high-school history teacher, and a nurse practitioner who had survived two kidney transplants were among the other participants. Also impressive to the Lodishes was the kindness and generosity of the people who live and work in America's small towns.

As a consultant, an entrepreneur, and a teacher, Leonard Lodish is accustomed to the role of "expert." His primary research and consulting areas are strategic and tactical marketing, with special emphasis on marketing-decision support systems, sales-force deployment, advertising, and promotion planning. He has developed models and decision-support systems that have been syndicated for worldwide use. In his capacity as an entrepreneur, Lodish cofounded Management Decision Systems (MDS) in 1967. In 1985, MDS merged with Information Resources to become a premier international decision-support and marketing-data supplier. Although no longer a principal in MDS, Lodish holds several corporate directorships.

As Kenyon kicked off its "Claiming Our Place" campaign, Lodish agreed to share his years of expertise by serving on the Foundation and Corporate Advisory Committee. This committee, charged with the vital task of helping to raise foundation and corporate support for the campaign, will take Lodish down yet another road.

Although friends joked that the Lodishes would be divorced by the time they reached the Continental Divide, Leonard and Susan discovered they were up to the challenge of total cooperation. "We learned that you can accomplish anything if you do it in small steps and set small goals," he says. This confidence has led them to expand their dream and infuse it with new meaning. Riding from Maine to Florida became a new goal.

"As an outgrowth of becoming acquainted with the Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] ALS Association, Susan and I have become active members and directors of the group," explains Len. "In 1997, we decided to raise funds by completing half of the trip from Maine to Florida. This year, the group is going during the Jewish High Holidays, so we won't be accompanying them. But we hope to complete the north to south ride next year."

Spending long hours with one's life partner engaged in a true marriage of effort can inspire a person to wax philosophical. In his journal Leonard wrote, "The wind is psychologically much worse than hills. With hills, no matter how long the ascent is, there is a descent on the other side to look forward to. With a headwind, it can go on indefinitely with no letup. I hope our life is more hilly than full of headwinds."

Susan and Leonard Lodish, it would seem, are on the right road.


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