During the week, Allen Dupont, PhD, MS, is the keeper of numbers for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. But most weekends, you’ll find him 14,000 feet above rural west Tennessee farmland doing what he loves to do – skydiving.
Dupont, director of Institutional Effectiveness at UTHSC, is matter of fact about the daring hobby that seems the polar opposite of his workday persona. “I spend so much time dealing with numbers and staring at the computer, that this is a way to do something very different,” he said.
He’d wanted to try skydiving since he was in college. “There was always a reason not to,” he said. Last summer, he decided it was now or never.
In typical analytical fashion, Dupont did his homework in advance. “I will say, I looked at the data as much as I could on it before I did it,” he said. “What I told my mother was, ‘I am probably in more danger driving out to the drop zone than I am jumping out of the airplane.’ ”
He chose West Tennessee Skydiving, 40 miles east of Memphis near Whiteville, Tennessee, for instruction. He did his first tandem jump in July, loved it, and proceeded quickly through ground training, instructor-partnered jumps, coached dives and a written exam. With 26 jumps under his belt, he received his Class A license in late October, allowing him to jump with small and large groups or alone. By now, he’s completed more than 63 jumps.
“It was a bit nerve-racking at first, but I really did enjoy it,” he said. “Now, it really doesn’t feel like falling, unless you see some clouds whipping by you. It’s like being in the water, you’re not touching the ground, but you’re being supported. The air’s really supporting you.”
Elizabeth Young, an instructor at the skydiving facility, was Dupont’s coach for most of his early dives. “Allen was a very disciplined student,” she said. “He was very determined.”
Young, a cancer survivor who was treated at West Cancer Center, is hosting a skydiving event May 12-14 to raise money for the Foundation for Women’s Cancer. The West Tennessee Sisters in Skydiving Boogie will bring skydivers from all over the country to West Tennessee Skydiving for a day of jumping, food, prizes and camaraderie. The event is geared to women, who will get half-priced jumps and be eligible for prizes, but men are welcome to participate or observe. Of course, Dupont will be participating in support of his coach, and is encouraging others, whether veteran divers or interested newbies, to attend.
Beyond the Boogie, Dupont plans to continue jumping, and hopes one day to instruct others to take the leap like he did. “I’ve always enjoyed teaching, and I don’t get to do that much anymore with my job,” he said. “Maybe someday, I can get an instructor license, so I can jump with brand new skydivers and help them develop.”
West Tennessee Sisters in Skydiving Boogie
When: May 12-14, 8 a.m. Friday through sunset Sunday
Where: West Tennessee Skydiving, Wings Field, 985 Laverne Davis Road, Whiteville, Tennessee, 38075. (901) 759-3483 or http://www.skydivekingair.com/
What: Half-price jumps for women, prizes, food, activities. Men welcome
Why: Fundraiser for the Foundation for Women’s Cancer
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