Most who know Dr. Mark Langenfeld, professor of health, human performance, and recreation
and biology, know him as “that guy who rides his bike to campus everyday, rain or
Mark hopped into a different set of wheels this summer though, as he and his 16- year-old daughter, Julie, embarked on a journey that would take them across all 48 continental United State in 27 days in a 1968 Mercedes-Benz 250 SE. Of course, Mark did take his bicycle along as well.
Mark said Julie had the idea to make this trip seven years ago, and has wanted to do it ever since. Now that she had her driver’s license, driving duties could be shared between them as they would drive approximately 370 miles per day on this 9,979 total miles adventure.
“My father bought the Benz in 1969. I drove this car when I was 16, and I’ve been the title holder since 1984.” Mark says. “You really get to know a car when you grow up with it and own and work on it for decades! Our Benz was built in September 1967, purchased in Dayton, Ohio in November 1967, and has been in the Langenfeld family since 1969. The Benz is an emotional link to Julie's grandfather, who she never met, and her grandmother who died when Julie was 5.”
The father-daughter team and the Benz gained much attention through the media. They even made brochures they handed out to many people they met along the way that included their contact information and explained their trip
“The symbolic value of the car was a thought that even made traveling without a working air conditioner in the hot month of July bearable,” Mark said. "Even though we didn't have a lot of leisure time, I don't regret anything about the trip.”
After visiting all 48 continental states, as well as Europe, Australia and Vietnam, this Columbus, Ohio, native says he is eager to visit South America, Alaska, and Iceland, and wherever else he can get.
Mark received his bachelor’s degree in 1976 in zoology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and completed his master’s degree at Southeast in 1978. He then received his doctorate in exercise physiology from Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, in 1980.
Mark began his career at Southeast in 1987. His area of academic interest is exercise physiology and how exercise influences health. He said he chose to pursue this academic area because he was so interested in physiology and physical activity. By becoming a professor, he was able to combine those interests as well as accept the challenges and rewards of teaching about these topics while also doing research about them.
When describing his style in the classroom, Mark said, “I have a relaxed style, not strictly lecture. My philosophy is to encourage students to be interested in the material and to want to learn about the material with a level of understanding rather than memorization of facts just for the exam. I constantly strive to point out things that they already know that can help them understand new material, especially by seeing analogies between what they know and what they are learning.”
It is no surprise that in his free time Mark enjoys participating in endurance activities. These include running, cross country skiing, and bicycling.
“Bicycling is my favorite,” Mark said. “I've raced, toured, ridden with family, taught bicycling courses at three universities, and commute by bicycle. I've bicycled in Vietnam, Australia, Canada, and many European countries as well as numerous states in the U.S. In 2006 I rode some of the major Alpine passes famous in the Tour de France, including l'Alpe d'Huez on a tandem bicycle with my wife, Kathy.”
“I believe strongly that physical activity is a key health enhancing tool that is much undervalued and underutilized.” Mark said. “I'm involved with advocacy efforts to enhance levels of physical activity. That includes being on a Bicycle Planning Working Group here in Cape Girardeau to address bicycling as a valuable means of transportation as well as recreation. Helping to assure facilities that make bicycling and walking more attractive is an important part of people choosing to walk or bicycle rather than drive everywhere.”
“I initiated a Walk to School Day at Alma Schrader School in 2005 and that helped prompt the addition of sidewalks in that neighborhood.” Langenfeld said of the event he organizes each year. "This event is a great way to emphasize the healthy aspects of walking to school and highlight ways to help make walking more attractive as a way to get to school," he said. "We truly have something to celebrate this year with the new sidewalks in the Alma Schrader neighborhood as the culmination of the city's response to the need for safe routes to school in the neighborhood. Promoting walking to school is one worthy strategy to help increase the levels of physical activity among our children.
"Now, each time we walk, we celebrate the new sidewalks that provide safe routes to school for the children of Alma Schrader Elementary School as well as enhance the ability to walk the entire neighborhood. Recently we've started up a Walking School Bus program at that school,” Mark said.
The initiatives he has been a part of have been a key component of the growing success of the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation.
“I started at Southeast when the major in health management was brand new and had no majors. Thus, in my time here I have been part of a new College of Health and Human Services, a new Department of Health and Leisure, now the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation, and beginning a new program that now has over 250 majors,” Mark said as he described some of his favorite moments from his time at Southeast.
“Being the director of bicycling events when the U.S. Association for Blind Athletes national championships were here was a great experience. Year after year, helping students learn new material is a favorite part of being a professor. Being selected the University Educator of the Year in 2006 by the Cape Area Chamber of Commerce was special because that award is an affirmation that my teaching makes a valuable contribution. There are a lot of great people here at Southeast, and I've always enjoyed interacting with colleagues from across campus and across diverse fields.”
Mark offers the following advice to students: “Don't shy away from learning things that don’t come easily to you. Be prepared to study hard to master material that allows you to proceed with your goals. Learning takes effort.”