NIU alumnus reaches new heights

By Amy Vanerheyden

An NIU alumnus who has climbed some of the largest mountains in the world will be speaking about his adventures.

Mario Bilodeau has a list of accomplishments which includes climbing the 24,590-foot Communist Peak in the former Soviet Union in 1989. The following year he climbed the highest peak in North America, Mount McKinley.

Bilodeau will be speaking at 10:30 a.m. today in Gabel Hall Learning Center, Classroom 1. He will talk about his expeditions in addition to giving a slide show presentation

Bilodeau sees the outdoors as a way for man to reflect upon his inner self. The expeditions have led to a soul searching that has built the foundation for many of his values.

Both mountain climber and humanitarian, Bilodeau organized the “Climb for Hope.” In 1991, he set out on an expedition with his 15-man team to climb Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. Bilodeau’s goal was not just to reach the peak, but to raise awareness of the neurological disease that affects young women, Rett Syndrome.

The climb heightened awareness of the disease, but the ascent to the top of the mountain had to be postponed to a later date due to inclement weather.

“A mountain can’t be conquered, it decides. There are no victories, no defeats,” Bilodeau said. “At this moment the mountain wouldn’t let us through.”

Bilodeau said he had mixed emotions on not having carried out the entire mission.

“Of course I’m disappointed not to have reached the summit; it’s every climber’s dream to find himself at the top of the world at least once in his lifetime. But the most important thing to me was the personal progression involved in such an adventure,” said Bilodeau.

Bilodeau’s journeys have led him to educating people and sharing his experiences.

Bilodeau has used his educational background to enrich people’s concept of nature. He has taken disabled people, students and juvenile delinquents on outings. Some of the activities have included ice hockey, tobogganing, dog sleigh rides and winter camping.

Bilodeau, a native of St. Marie, Quebec, earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Laval University in Quebec City. From there, he received his master’s in outdoor education from NIU.

The peak of his education occurred when he received his doctoral degree from the University of Northern Colorado. Bilodeau celebrated his accomplishments by climbing 22,834-foot Mount Aconcagua in Argentina.

Bilodeau will be presented with the Outstanding Alumni Award for 1993 by the department of outdoor teacher education.

Morris Weiner, professor in outdoor teacher education, described Bilodeau’s career philosophies as a model for all people.