Montana State University is hoping the reading selection for this year's freshman convocation and the third-annual One Book One Bozeman will inspire new students to "think big," whether their dreams are to study abroad in Europe or write a bestselling novel.
And who better to deliver that message than Kevin Connolly, a 2008 MSU graduate whose acclaimed memoir, "Double Take," chronicles his experience growing up in Helena as a child born without legs and his subsequent world travels.
While a student majoring in film and photography, Connolly, who is also a two-time X Game monoskiing medalist, participated in a student exchange program in New Zealand, the first of his many trips abroad.
He decided to document the reactions of people when they first saw him, eventually snapping more than 30,000 photos from his skateboard, which he uses to get around.
Those photos were later collected into "The Rolling Exhibition," which has been shown at the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center.
"Kevin decided he wanted to see the world, and he didn't let his having no legs hamper him at all," said Greg Young, MSU vice provost. "It's a nice message to send to our students when they're coming in: Think big."
MSU's approximately 2,400-student freshman class was assigned to read "Double Take" for the university's summer reading program.
The book was also selected as this year's One Book One Bozeman read, an annual community event to promote literacy organized by the Bozeman Public Library Foundation.
The book's themes - overcoming adversity, setting ambitious goals, creating unique solutions to problems and challenging perceptions - will speak to readers of all ages, Paula Beswick, director for the Bozeman Public Library Foundation and coordinator of One Book activities, has said.
In September, One Book and MSU have organized a series of free community events, including book discussions, children's activities and a display of Connolly's photo exhibit at Bozeman High School's DeWeese Gallery.
Connolly will speak at the freshmen convocation on Wednesday, Sept. 8, at 7:30 at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. and parking is free.
He will also sign copies of his book that day, from 12 p.m. to 1: 30 p.m. at the MSU Bookstore.
Young said Connolly helped create some of the events, including Sept. 21's "Skate to Starky's," in which people can join him in skateboarding from MSU's campus to Starky's Authentic Americana Deli on North Tracy Avenue. He will set off at 6 p.m., and people can skate along or join him at Starky's at 7 p.m. for free appetizers.
There is also a longboard-deck art contest (a longboard is a type of skateboard). The winner will receive a free longboard featuring his or her design, courtesy of Grizzly Longboards and SCS Unlimited.
Last year, One Book One Bozeman chose Los Angeles Times writer Steve Lopez's book, "The Soloist," a true story chronicling Lopez's friendship with homeless musician and former Juilliard prodigy Nathaniel Ayers.
In conjunction with One Book, the Bozeman Schools Foundation is once again sponsoring its Links to Literacy Program, which gives a copy of the selected reading to every first-grader in the school district. These younger students will read "Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman," the biography of an American runner who overcame polio-caused paralysis to become a three-time Olympic gold medalist.
Mary Jo O'Donnell, executive director of the Bozeman Schools Foundation, said the book is intended to reinforce Connolly's message of personal perseverance for a younger audience.
"We were trying to find a book that kind of goes with that theme," O'Donnell said. "First grade is the first year you're really reading on your own, and we thought this would be a good celebration of reading and (a way to) encourage reading at all levels."
First-graders will receive the book on Friday, Sept. 3. On Sept. 10, they have been invited to participate in an X Games/Olympic Games-inspired athletic competition with MSU athletes at the library.
Two other companion books to "Double Take" were also chosen: "The Thing about Georgie," an early reader by Lisa Graff, and "You Shall Know Our Velocity," a novel by Dave Eggers.
Schedule of One Book One Bozeman events
Wednesday, Sept.1: Library Book Club, 7:30 p.m., Bozeman Public Library
Friday, Sept. 3: Link to Literature book give-away, 1 p.m., All Bozeman elementary schools
Wednesday, Sept.8: Book Signing, 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., MSU Bookstore
MSU Freshman Convocation with Kevin Connolly, 7:30 p.m.; doors open at 6:45 p.m., Brick Breeden Fieldhouse
Friday, Sept. 10: Kids Olympics & X-Games rolled into one, 2:30 p.m., Bozeman Public Library
Monday, Sept. 13: Bozeman School Board resolution, 4 p.m., Willson School
Wednesday, Sept. 15: Senior discussion at Aspen Pointe, 2 p.m., Aspen Pointe, Highland Boulevard
Thursday, Sept. 16: Bozeman High Art Reception with Kevin Connolly, 4:30 p.m., Bozeman High School Lobby; Connolly will discuss his photo display in the DeWeese Gallery in conjunction with official opening of the newly renovated BHS.
Tuesday, Sept. 21: Campus to Starky's Skate with Kevin, 6 p.m., MSU to Starky's Authentic Deli, 24 N. Tracy Ave.
Thursday, Sept. 23: Kids' Book Group, 4 p.m., Children's Room, Bozeman Public Library
Friday, Sept. 24: Public book discussion at Sola Café, 6 p.m., Sola Café, corner of Willson and Kagy
Monday, Sept. 27: Senior Center book discussion, 10:30 a.m., Bozeman Senior Center
Thursday, Sept. 30: Longboard Deck Art Contest reception, 7 p.m., Bozeman Public Library
Lauren Russell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2635.