Ivy Tech instructors Kathi Weiss and Cathie Rowand are on a mission to inspire students and the Fort Wayne community to find a cause and take meaningful action. For them, it’s biking and Fort Wayne Trails, and they just raised nearly eight thousand dollars on a charity bicycle ride to Washington D.C., called Kathies’ Big Adventure.
With a lifetime of biking, hiking, and adventures between them, both Weiss (age 73) and Rowand (age 64) decided to embark on Kathies’ Big Adventure (a clever combination of their two first names) when the Greater Allegheny Passage was connected to the C&O Towpath, making it possible to bike from Pittsburg to Washington, D.C. entirely on bike trails. They trained more than two years to complete the 757 miles in just 16 days, and although they may have worn out their bike brakes after a particularly arduous 7 mile stretch in southern OH, they never wavered in their efforts.
“We hit one hill that was a 6.9% grade, and when we got to the top, there was a cemetery, which was fitting,” jokes Rowand. “No hills in Fort Wayne can prepare you. If we weren’t so naïve, we probably couldn’t have done it.”
In two weeks, the pair packed in more adventures than they could count including reuniting lost chihuahuas and misplaced wallets with their owners, a chance encounter with New York Times Bestseller Jennifer Weiner, and a less-than-stellar hotel experience that Weiss says reminded her of The Cecil Hotel. But in the end, they were left with a renewed faith in people that they hope to share with others.
“Remember that the best part of exploring is meeting new people along the way. People are basically good if we just slow down, put aside our preconceived ideas, and listen to each other,” says Weiss.
The two instructors see their time in Ivy Tech’s classrooms as a similar experience of challenges and successes. Weiss has been both a full-time and adjunct instructor in psychology and human services classes, while Rowand is an adjunct in art appreciation classes. Despite the pandemic and adjusting to virtual instruction, both say a love of teaching and helping students grow keeps them coming back semester after semester.
“Teaching at Ivy Tech is just fun. Where else can you get paid to do what you like and also watch students go on to great careers?” says Weiss. “I’ve been out shopping for shoes in town and had students come up to thank me for my class. It means a lot to hear them tell me how I make an impact.”
And the pair aren’t putting on the brakes anytime soon. They know there’s no shortage of worthy causes, but for now, they’re focused on raising $10,000 for Fort Wayne Trails to wrap up Kathies’ Big Adventure before they move on to the next endeavor.
Ready to get started biking? The Kathies’ say the best spot in town is the Maumee Pathway where bikers/walkers can enjoy 15 miles of shaded trail between Fort Wayne and New Haven.
Interested in teaching at Ivy Tech? Check out our faculty openings at IvyTech.edu/jobs.