The one that got away

27 Jul

My only regret from our visit to Alaska is that we were unable to connect with alumnus Bob Chlupach (’71 fisheries and wildlife biology). Bob has been competing in the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race since the 1970s. Jim and I were eagerly anticipating meeting Bob and his dogs at his home in Willow, Alaska, but he was called out of town at the last minute – we were so disappointed!

Bob was born and raised in Mason City, Iowa. During the summers while he was attending Iowa State, he worked for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and then the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. After graduation, he worked for several seasons in southeastern Alaska before being hired on as a permanent fishery biologist.

By the mid-1970s Bob had a sled dog team. He entered and completed his first Iditarod in 1977, subsequently entering and completing 11 Iditarods over five decades – including the most recent one in March 2012 (shown above).

Bob is tentatively signed on to run the 2013 Iditarod – a brutal, 1,150-mile race — even though he has “a very young and totally unproven group of dogs.” He says, at his age, people tell him he’s an inspiration.

“The race is always tough mentally and physically, but I really enjoy being miserable,” he jokes.

In addition to training for the Iditarod, Bob has worked as a professional sport-fishing guide. In an email to me, he offered a guidebook’s worth of advice for anyone traveling to Anchorage, including: Bike paths, maintained ski trails, Chugach Mountains “right out the back door,” Matanuska and Susitna valleys 45 minutes away, and the Kenai Peninsula nearby.

“My brain feels really relaxed in Alaska,” he said.

Following our trip, Bob sent me this heart-felt email:

“I retired from the State of Alaska as a fishery biologist and was involved in several programs which were, at the time, the cutting edge of technology for fishery science and species management,” he wrote. “The ISU curriculum provided the background of tools to facilitate my intensive engagement into the field. Combining this with the fishery biologists I worked with during summers while in school and after graduation, not knowing at the time, proved immeasurable. The brain stimulation through the use of math, statistics, models, and personally being a key player and carrying programs to fruition was…..I have no words to describe the value.”

Thanks, Bob. I think you just did.

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