Inspiration. Innovation. Integrity. These concepts embody the faculty and students, as well as the work and mission, of the School of Education and Professional Studies (SEPS) at Eastern Connecticut State University. Recently, SEPS staff had the opportunity to talk to a distinguished alum of the Communication and English programs at Eastern, Dr. Bonnie Edmondson, about the relevance of these concepts.
Dr. Edmondson currently serves as an education consultant and program manager at the Connecticut State Department of Education. A highly accomplished athlete and coach, Dr. Edmondson is a member of the Eastern Connecticut State University Athletic Hall of Fame. She also had the great honor of serving as a U.S. Olympic Team coach for Women’s Track and Field in Rio this past summer. Ironically, her hammer throw performance was strong enough to send her to the Olympics in 1992; however, she was denied this significant opportunity because the event was not yet recognized for women.
As someone who has faced numerous challenges, yet experienced tremendous success throughout her career, we asked Dr. Edmondson to shed light on how inspiration, innovation, and integrity have played a role in her life and her career.
“Inspiration, innovation, and integrity are inextricably connected, with integrity serving as the foundational component; the other areas build on integrity,” she suggested. “If you stay true to your core values and beliefs with the integrity that you establish with other people, they’re more likely to follow and support you as a leader. Once you have that foundation, you can build with innovation and inspiration. Without integrity, how can you move on?”
Dr. Edmondson emphasized the fundamental role of integrity when it comes to achieving true success in sports and athletics. “Building character and having goals are what you need to get in place to accomplish the integrity of fair play, teamwork. It’s not just about you, it’s about cultivating opportunities,” she said.
Asked about how she dealt with the failure to recognize women’s throwing that prevented her from participating in the Olympics, she explained, “I had two choices—be bitter or cultivate the situation and decide how to make it right to move forward. I chose to see the much larger picture, the greater good.”
In fact, Dr. Edmondson worked hard to have women’s hammer throw recognized in the Olympics, and it was, as of 2000. This well-earned victory was further enhanced by her recent opportunity to serve as an Olympic coach.
“As an Olympic coach in Rio, I personally experienced that the ‘Olympic spirit’ is far greater than any one person or one team. All these people are coming together for a common cause, building character, to make the world a more symbiotic, more synchronistic place.”
As the conversation came to a close, Dr. Edmondson reflected on the time she spent earning her bachelor’s degree at SEPS and Eastern. She explained, “One of the things I remember most [about Eastern] is the nurturing environment. Folks were there to help people succeed. They were always going the extra mile. I remember the ‘warm home feeling’ of the campus, which is a huge benefit for people. The environment is intimate; people truly care and are interested in you as a person. These qualities influence you; you’re surrounded by people who model integrity, and it becomes contagious.”
There can be little doubt that Dr. Edmondson models the very same integrity that once influenced her on the campus of Eastern.