A UR graduate participated in the Olympic torch relay as the flame passed through Buffalo on New Year’s Eve on its way to Salt Lake City. Lois Watts, Class of 1951, was chosen as an official torchbearer.
In eight days, the Olympic cauldron in Salt Lake City’s Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium will be lit as part of the Olympic opening ceremony. When it reaches Salt Lake, the Olympic flame will have traveled through 46 states over the course of 65 days.
This year’s relay theme was inspiration. “Torchbearers will be individuals who have inspired others, who serve their community in an exemplary manner, who embody the Olympic spirit, and who have overcome adversity,” Coca-Cola said in a press release posted on the official Olympic web site.
Watts was nominated by her son, Andy, for being an example of courage by raising her three children and dealing with her husband’s illness.
Though Watts didn’t think she was doing anything extraordinary at the time, she realized that her actions had a larger effect.
“My husband and I put all our energies into building strong bonds in our family,” she said. Watts said she remembers the struggles of raising three children and dealing with the stresses of family life. “All through this, my son was watching and remembering.”
For Watts, it was an honor to be chosen to run in the relay, but the best part of her experience was having her sons there to cheer her on.
“Andy, along with my other son Steve, drove with me to Buffalo early on the day of my run,” she said. “The best part of my experience was being nominated by my children and then having them there to watch.”
Watts graduated from UR in 1951 with a B.S. in art education. She later returned to complete her master’s degree in education and went on to teach for 30 years.
Torchbearers were selected by the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee and Olympic sponsors Chevrolet and Coca-Cola.
There are 11,500 torchbearers participating in this year’s relay. Each torchbearer carries the flame for two-tenths of a mile, then passes the flame to the next runner. The actual torches are made of glass and shaped like icicles to embody the theme of “Land of Contrast ? Fire and Ice.” They are available for purchase by torchbearers after the relay.
The experience of carrying the torch is one that Watts said she will not soon forget.
“The pride and thrill of carrying the Olympic torch bound for our country’s games in Salt Lake City will be my cherished memory forever,” she wrote in a personal account.
“It is a feeling that is impossible to explain.”
Watts said she knows the importance of having a positive influence. “One thing I’ve realized is that whatever you do, somebody seems to be watching,” she said. “Your actions will make an impression even though you didn’t think you were doing anything special. It’s like a ripple in the world.”
Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.