14 Feb Telluride’s Olympians: Meredith “Flash” Gourdine CB50 and Bonnie St. John SP81
By Matthew Trail SP81 CB82 TA84
Telluride has had at least two Olympians among its ranks, and both were medalists: Meredith Gourdine in the 1952 Summer Olympics and Bonnie St. John in the 1984 Winter Paralympics. Both went on from their Telluridean and Olympic careers to significant professional accomplishments. Are there other Telluridean Olympians out there?
Meredith Gourdine graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and studied at Cornell University, where he competed in the sprints, hurdles and long jump, and was selected for membership in the Quill and Dagger society. One of the first African Americans at CBTA, Meredith also helped recruit minority applicants for the TASPs. At the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki he won a silver medal for the long jump, one and a half inch short of Jerome Biffle’s gold medal jump.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in engineering in 1953, Gourdine became an officer in the United States Navy. In 1960 he earned a doctorate in engineering from the California Institute of Technology working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 1958-60. He founded a research laboratory, Gourdine Laboratories, in Livingston, New Jersey and a company, Energy Innovation, in Houston. The companies developed engineering techniques to aid removing smoke from buildings and disperse fog from airport runways, and converting low-grade coal into inexpensive, transportable and high-voltage electrical energy. He was inducted to the Dayton, Ohio, Engineering and Science Hall of Fame in 1994. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1991 and also served as a Trustee of Cornell University.
Bonnie St. John attended the 1981 Cornell TASP. In 1984, Bonnie became the first African-American ever to win medals in Winter Olympic competition, taking home a silver and two bronze medals in slalom skiing at the 1984 Winter Paralympics in Innsbruck, Austria. After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1986, St. John won a Rhodes Scholarship to Trinity College, Oxford, where she earned her M.Litt. degree in economics in 1990. She worked in the White House during the Clinton administration as a Director for the National Economic Council, and is currently CEO of Courageous Spirit, Inc. She is a leadership consultant, author, and speaker.
Information compiled from Telluride’s archives and Wikipedia. For more information on “Flash” Gourdine, see his obituary in the Spring 1999 Telluride Newsletter here as well as numerous biographical entries online.
For more information about Bonnie St. John, visit www.bonniestjohn.com.