CMCers Hit the Ground Running with Marathon Training, Fundraising

With the motto “Leaders in the Making,” Claremont McKenna College prides itself on being a school full of go-getters and change-makers, and it’s only fitting that 34 students have joined together to fundraise for the Student Imperative by running in the LA Marathon on March 15.

In October of this past year, Ben Tillotson CM ’15 and Rita Gilles CM ’15 came up with an innovative idea to raise money for the College’s Student Imperative, an initiative that aims to raise 100 million dollars in endowment for CMC’s financial aid resources. 

CMC has historically met 100 percent of admitted students’ financial needs, and currently provides $27 million for the study body of 1,300 students, according to the “26.2 for CMC” website. The Student Imperative, proposed by President Hiram Chodosh in January 2014, hopes to open doors to qualified students who may not otherwise be able to reap the benefits of a CMC education.

Ben Tillotson CM ’15 and Rita Gilles CM ’15 thought of training for the marathon to give current students an opportunity to contribute to the initiative. So far, they have inspired over 40 students, faculty members, parents, alumni and even President Chodosh himself to participate in the run.  To raise money, runners have been calling alumni to ask for either pledges per runner or flat donations to support the cause.

“I’m doing this because I benefited so much from my four years at CMC, and I would hate for an amazing prospective CMCer not to be able to come for financial reasons,” Tillotson said. “At this point, as an outgoing senior, running a marathon and fundraising money is the most effective thing I can do to make sure it happens.”

Tillotson, who is finishing up his term as ASCMC President, also mentioned that this fundraiser ties into the goals of ASCMC to make the college more socioeconomically diverse and to improve financial aid. Gilles, who has personally benefited from CMC’s ability to provide these scholarships, is just one of many students who are behind this initiative.

“Socioeconomic diversity is essential to CMC,” Gilles said. “Being involved in this marathon has been a highlight of my experience here and has been for many other students as well. It’s just incredible to see someone go from two miles to 22 miles during training.”

Of the 34 students participating in the marathon, only two are members of a Claremont-Mudd-Scripps athletics team. The rest, as Tillotson puts it, are mostly students who never thought they could run a marathon. Talk about a challenge. And a challenge like this one is exactly what many CMCers are drawn to.

“For me, running the marathon is a great way to challenge myself and contribute to what I see as integral to a CMC education: its affordability,” participant Ramon Gomez CM ’17 said. “26.2 miles is ambitious, to say the least, but it goes to show the incredible commitment CMC students feel towards each other.”

Gilles mentioned that while not everyone can run in the marathon, students can still find a way to contribute. For example, Tess Hubbeling CM ‘15, Editor-in-Chief of The Forum, has gotten involved by running the CMC 26.2 blog off of the CMC website. Students and alumni can still register to join the marathon and are encouraged to donate to this fundraiser by either sponsoring a runner or by making a flat donation.

The degree of support from the CMC community and the fact that this particular fundraiser was student-initiated speaks volumes to the pragmatism of CMC’s students. 

“It says that we take initiative for matters we care about,” participant Margrethe Jebsen CM ’18 said. “Rita and Ben have put in a lot of thought, time and effort [into] planning this fundraiser. It’s inspiring, and I’m happy so many students signed up to join and/or support the cause.”

On the day of the race, March 15, a bus will transport students to the course to cheer on fellow classmates as they finish the final mile. More details are to come for those interested in signing up.

While Tillotson and Gilles do not mention a monetary goal, they did surpass their participatory goal of getting 25 students to run and dedicate themselves to months of training and preparation.

“[One highlight for me] is watching the positive impact on people’s lifestyles,” Gilles said. “We feel so energized, happy and motivated. It’s fun to see people support and rally around us. It speaks miles to see President Chodosh run with us and to see so many people working hard to make this happen.”

For more information on how you can donate or get involved with the CMC 26.2, visit

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