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Bob Bartling inspires SDSU international students with life lessons and wit

Bob Bartling visiting virtually with English 039 class
Briggs Library volunteer Bob Bartling was invited to be a virtual guest speaker in English 039 so international students could learn more about Brookings.

When Briggs Library volunteer Bob Bartling visited a writing class at South Dakota State University recently, students learned that one of the most valuable resources in the library and Brookings is its people. Bartling was invited to be a guest speaker in English 039 so international students could learn more about Brookings. As a bonus, students learned some valuable life lessons from a long-time resident and local legend, and his presentation was a perfect model for how to support opinions with specific evidence—something that all writers struggle with, but that many multilingual writers find especially challenging at first.

Bartling began by talking about his family, studies, and career, as well as his love for Brookings, running, and sports, especially SDSU athletics. Bartling then responded to students' questions with his usual quick wit and funny stories to explain what he likes best about living in Brookings, why he chose to start running in his forties, and what some of his favorite places and activities are around town. Students found Bartling's smile and positive nature uplifting.

English 039 class visiting virtually with Bob Bartling

When Jose Hernandez, an agricultural science major, asked, "Why did you stay so long in Brookings when there are so many big cities to live in?" Bartling said that after serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces in different states during WWII and attending college and working out of state for a few years, he returned to Brookings to work in the family business and because Brookings County has more open spaces than cities like St. Louis or Minneapolis.

Bartling's response to interior design major Tegra Ilunga's question about what motivated him to run the Jack 15 road race 38 times was straightforward—he started and kept running to beat his times, and even when he stopped getting faster after 20 to 25 races, he kept putting his sneakers on because he didn't have anything better to do.

Bartling went on to explain that even though he fell four times in his final Jack 15 race at age 89, he picked himself up four times and finished. Mayumi Matsuyama, a data science major, was impressed by Bartling's jovial nature and commented after the presentation, "I admire his passion and that he got up even though he fell." Shishir Roka, a biotechnology major from Nepal, said that the key takeaways he learned from Bartling's virtual visit were not to give up, and that you're never too old to set new goals in life.

One of the funniest moments of the visit came when Pratik Soni, who's studying hospitality, tourism & event management, asked Bartling how many times he won the Jack 15 race. Bartling responded with a loud laugh before telling Soni, "You just made a friend for life! Placing me among some of the top runners in the world even for just a moment makes my day. The answer! Z-E-R-O!"

There were more smiles and a few sighs of relief from the international students who are far from home when Bartling shared his final thought, "You picked a great place to study in terms of university, facilities, city, and people. Most of all, it's the people who make Brookings such a great place to live!"

Bob Bartling is the most active volunteer at Briggs Library, where he indexes the Prairie Striders Running Club Library and Jim Koch Amateur Wrestling Collection. Bartling co-founded the Prairie Striders Running Club in 1969 to promote running, fellowship, and health, and he created the Prairie Striders Running Club Library, which includes thousands of books, periodicals, race results, and an expansive index and database of running subjects, events, and people.

English 039 is a collaboration between SDSU's Office of International Affairs (OIA) and the School of English and Interdisciplinary Studies (SEIS). The course supports multilingual writers with academic English communication and composition skills.