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Running Down a Dream

Running Down a Dream
Raj Bhala smiles while looking at books in the library.

Bhala ’80 viewed the Stephens-Bruemmer World Affairs Collection, which he and his wife established using books from their own collection that they acquired over many years from around the world, in the Stratton Upper School Library.

Raj Bhala ’80 has gifted the school with a substantial collection of books in honor of his former teachers John “JS” Stephens and Steve Bruemmer. They are available to the entire USM community to use, enjoy, and learn from.

Raj Bhala ’80 is an expert in many things—international trade law and Islamic law, for starters—but especially in running. It was around mile 16 of his 111th marathon, however, when he realized he was making a mistake: He was running too fast. His left lateral collateral ligament was making itself known, loudly and urgently.

Giving up wasn’t an option for Bhala, who ran the 2022 Chicago marathon in support of the Franciscan Outreach Team, which raised thousands of dollars to help the city’s homeless. After walking 30 paces, utilizing the race’s Biofreeze stations, and thinking about friends and family who supported him, he was able to resume running and finish the race. He lost time, perhaps, but gained humility, perspective, and wisdom.

Raj Bhala after completing the Chicago Marathon.

Raj Bhala ’80 after completing the 2022 Chicago marathon.

Bhala and his wife, Dr. Kara Tan Bhala, visited campus several days later to view the Stephens–Bruemmer World Affairs Collection, which they established earlier this year with books from their personal collection. Housed in the Stratton Upper School Library, the collection honors Bhala’s former teachers John “JS” Stephens and Steve Bruemmer and is available to students, faculty, and alumni to use. It covers a wide range of subjects, including U.S. history, foreign policy, international relations, international law, economic development, and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian studies. “A lot of the collection is directly related to what I learned in my classes with Mr. Stephens and Mr. Bruemmer in particular,” said Bhala. “They catalyzed and nurtured my love for U.S. history, world history, and international affairs, so I thought the best use of these books, their highest calling, would be at USM.”

Bhala traces his love for scholarship and running to his time at USM, where be benefited from both passionate, inspiring teachers and a no-cut athletic policy. “USM set a really good example for a flourishing life of intellectual, physical, and emotional balance. What else is an education for, really?”

Raj Bhala ’80 currently serves as the Brenneisen Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Kansas, and senior advisor at Dentons LLP (Kansas City). He also serves on USM’s Alumni Association Board.

  • Alumni