KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Eight Western Michigan University students will embark Thursday on an iconic journey – exploring the life of Walt Disney by tracing the geography of his life.
Marking the start of the journey is a proclamation from the city of Kalamazoo, declaring Thursday, July 12, 2018 as Walt Disney Day. Mayor Bobby J. Hopewell and city officials made the declaration to mark Walt Disney's visit to Kalamazoo 54 years ago - and to encourage residents to celebrate Disney’s legacy and connection to the city. Disney came to Kalamazoo to visit his friend Gilmore Museum founder Donald Gilmore.
For the pilgrimage trip, the students will visit more than 40 destinations related to the entertainment mogul’s life, including his hometown of Chicago, his former home in Missouri and his grave site in California, before returning to Kalamazoo on July 20. Their progress can be tracked through the project’s Facebook page.
The trip is part of a special travel class, called “Walt’s Pilgrimage,” offered through the Lee Honors College's Study in the States program. The class was created by Christopher Tremblay, a provost and instructor at Western Michigan, as well as an alumnus of the school. Tremblay, who holds a doctorate in educational leadership, also wrote a book about Disney’s life, called “Walt’s Pilgrimage: A Journey in the Life of Walter Elias Disney."
The book includes a chapter about Disney’s visit to Kalamazoo.
"Walking through Walt’s footsteps from the start of his life through the end of his career is a one-of-a-kind experience because we see the places that were the origins of his creativity," Tremblay said in a written statement on the project, posted on Western Michigan’s website.
"My students are always in awe of his humble beginnings while also honored by the legacies that he left behind," Tremblay said.