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Musselman, Pena Headline Women's Health Symposium

By Rebecca A. Blaeser

Two stories, two lives and two inspirational individuals.

In a special two-day symposium beginning on May 5, Jeff Musselman '85 and Ellen Hart Pena '80 will return to their alma mater each bringing tales of lives sidetracked by alcoholism and eating disorders.

Musselman, a standout pitcher for the Crimson, was the 157th selection overall in the 1985 draft. Within a year of signing, the lefty thrower was in the Show with a 12-5 record in 68 appearances.

Behind the paparazzi and glamour, however, there was an alcoholic whose life was slowly slipping away. Teammates and management were oblivious to the brewing problem as it remained hidden behind a veil of the big leagues. Kelly Gruber, the Blue Jays third baseman at that time, once told the Toronto Sun: "If he had a problem, he hid it well. We've been out and had some good times. I never saw it."

What Gruber couldn't see was a desperate man, trapped within a bottle. Finally, in April of 1989, Musselman finally reached his limit when he checked himself into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. Although he returned to the club one month later, Musselman's life would fortunately never be the same.

"Alcoholism is a disease that tells you that you don't have a disease," Musselman told the New York Times after his treatment. "And so it's important, obviously, that I remember that I do have it. But the feeling I have right now is a wonderful one of relief."

This will not be the first time that Musselman has returned to Harvard. In a similar 1993 symposium, the former Crimson pitcher addressed a group of students and coaches on his personal battle against alcohol as well as useful intervention skills. Rarely does Harvard have a former professional baseball player return--especially someone as outspoken and seasoned as Musselman.

Joining him will be former Crimson track and soccer star Pena. On the surface, Pena exuded perfection throughout her four years of college. Not only had she been a National Merit Scholar, but she was an All-American soccer player at Harvard who competed in the 1980 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

Coming from a loving family of seven kids, she seemingly had it all, but the one thing she lacked was self-confidence. Trapped within an abyss of bulimia and self-image problems, Pena felt as if she had nothing.

"She was caught in the web [when] they only see who they are on the scale," said Maura Costin Scalise, former coach of the Harvard women's swimming team and Pena's roommate at Harvard. "[She] was basing herself on a number and not on the wonderful person she was."

Although her friends recognized her eating disorder during her senior year, it wasn't until after graduation that Pena herself sought help.

"It was Ellen stepping out," said Costin Scalise about Pena's revelation. "She was protected by the Ivy wall, but all of a sudden you are forced to start the rest of your life. It's the unknown which triggers it in some people."

Since then, Pena, like Musselman, has spoken at numerous symposiums about her life and her struggles. Most recently, her story was portrayed in a made-for-television movie entitle, "Dying to be Perfect" featuring Wings' star Crystal Bernhard.

Already the mother of two girls and expecting another child in June, Pena's life is a story of success, most of which cannot be measured by a medal count.

Pena and Musselman will be the key speakers at the pre-symposium student session starting at 9 a.m. on May 5. Harvard students will then be able to attend two of nine 45 minute workshops.

Within a small, interactive environment, these workshops will touch upon numerous prevalent issues.

Suzanne Repetto and Sheila Reindle from the Bureau of Study Counsel, for instance, will be leading a discussion on eating disorders of friends, family and lovers. In addition, former Crimson squash standout Tal Ben-Shachar '96 will head a talk focusing on pursuing athletic excellence.

Immediately following the workshops, Dr. Mary Wolfman of the University Health Services, along with four other local women M.D.s will hold a discussion for females interested in a medical career.

The main draw of the student session, however, will be Pena and Musselman who will also hold workshops of their own. Students will be able to speak freely with these two individuals who have experienced the vicious circle of the exhilarating highs and the devastating lows that come with sports and life.

Both Pena and Musselman know that the best weapon against these social pressures is knowledge. And on May 5, Harvard students will have a chance to take on step closer to understanding.

***

This student session is just a prelude, however to the general session which is open to the public. Beginning with an address by the acting surgeon general of the United States, Audrey Manley M.D., and running through May 6, the Harvard Department of Athletics along with the Harvard/Radcliffe Foundation for Women's Athletics (HRFWA), have created a program dedicated to the health of the active woman.

Registration forms have been sent out to Harvard female athletes, but all students--both male and female--are encouraged to register and attend both the student and general sessions.

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