'Passion' guides Spanish professor to wins on the ice and in the classroom
March 21, 2007
By Melissa Evans
As a young girl, Carole Cloutier didn't expect to grow up to have a doctorate in applied linguistics. She didn't envision herself as the program director for basic Spanish at Ohio University. But she dreamed of feeling the wind in her face as she glided across the ice as a competitive figure skater -- and that vision has come true.
Last winter, Cloutier took home the gold at the 2006 Midwestern Adult Sectional Championships in Cleveland, and in February, she traveled to Russia and claimed the silver medal and the Moscow Cup at the Adult Figure Skating Competition. Earlier this month, she won gold at the Ohio University Skate Invitational and nabbed gold again March 17-18 at Skate Cincinnati 2007.
"I had worked hard during the last three years and all I had was one minute and 40 seconds to show the judges what I had," she said, remembering her pounding heart as she waited for her musical cue.
The road to Russia started during her childhood in Canada, but, unlike her performance in competitions, it wasn't a smooth glide.
Cloutier grew up ice skating on frozen ponds and at the local rink, "Like all Canadians." She had five brothers and sisters, and the family didn't have enough money for each child to have his or her own ice skates. Instead, she and her sisters shared their mom's old broken down recreational skates, layering their childish feet with pairs of socks to make them fit.
It wasn't until she graduated from the College Marie-Victorin in Montreal and got her first job as a preschool teacher that she bought her very own skates. Cloutier practiced nonstop and was able to learn a great deal by taking weekly lessons and joining a local figure skating club at the late age of 21.
"It wasn't because of skill; it was total passion," she said of her immediate success. "I just really put my heart into it."
Her excitement was put to the test when she started graduate school at Georgetown University in 1994. Her rigorous academic schedule as she pursued master's and doctoral degrees in Spanish linguistics forced her to hang up her skates.
"It's all or nothing," she said, explaining that her need to succeed in the classroom edged out her desire to skate.
Cloutier came to Ohio University in 2002 after spending five years teaching at Tulane University in New Orleans -- where there are no ice rinks, she points out -- and arrived eager to lace up her skates and glide back onto the ice.
"I remember walking into Bird Arena during my campus interview and thinking how wonderful it would be to go back to skating," she said. "That clean sheet of ice was calling to me."
Now, four years after her return to figure skating, Cloutier continues to practice five times a week -- in Athens with fellow professors Bill Schneider from visual communication and Charlotte Elster from physics, and in Columbus every Sunday with her coach of two years, Chrissy Massey.
She competes about four times per year and performs each September in Skate for Hope, a breast cancer research fundraiser.
In the classroom, Cloutier has enjoyed great success as well. Last fall she was awarded the Jeanette G. Grasselli Brown Faculty Teaching Award, in recognition of her contributions to the College of Arts and Sciences.
Cloutier is looking forward to gliding into her upcoming competition -- the 2007 U.S. Adult Championships in Chicago in mid-April.
Melissa Evans is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing