Thursday, April 30, 2015

Farewell Alex Benepe

Ten years ago a student at Middlebury College went out on a lawn with some friends and quidditch was born. Many of you know the story of how Alex Benepe and Xander Manshel invented quidditch; fewer know what it was like to work with him on a day-to-day basis.

Photo by: Jonathan Blake
Alex worked his last day with US Quidditch today and will be joining Sky Zone as Director of Leagues  to head up the Ultimate Dodgeball Championship Series. We could write at length about all that Alex has done for the sport, but really that you’re reading this and that you know what quidditch is itself is a testament to his hard work throughout the years. Instead we asked those who have worked closely with him throughout the years to tell us about his experience working with this dynamic force.
Photo by Isabella Gong

Hannah Lindgren World Cup VI Tournament Director: 

“Without Alex Benepe, I wouldn't be where I am today.” The amount of people who can claim this statement to be true is astounding. Alex's impact on the world since he pursued his desire to see quidditch become “a thing” is something that is probably incalculable. (Although I have learned to never doubt the brains and abilities of quidkids to figure this sort of thing out.) While I can't speak for the thousands of others, I can talk about the impact he's had on me.

As with most quidditch connections, there's when you “met” and when you actually communicated in person. To quickly recount... we met “IRL” at the first-ever Midwest Regional, which my team at the time coordinated with another team in the state. After attending the event, Alex invited me to work at WCV on Randall's Island in New York. Those few days were some of the most grueling in my life! After the event I wrote up a document of things I'd change about the structure of the event and sent it to Alex. (Like a know-it-all.) Alex could've dismissed it—I wouldn't have blamed him—or become defensive about it. Instead, we had a series of Skype calls about the potential future of the World Cup. It takes a very humble person to take criticism and welcome it with open arms. Alex has done this from the get-go with quidditch, and it's obvious that this has gotten the sport very far, very quickly.

After I was selected to run WCVI Alex asked if I could come out to New York City for the summer of 2012 to monitor the regional and World Cup bidding process from the IQA's home base. That summer I not only grew to know Alex as a mentor and a colleague, but also as a friend. It was one of the best summers of my life. Throughout the time I worked with Alex, I noticed he has this ability to take people who kind-of-sort-of know what they're doing and give them the environment and means to grow their skills for what they need to do. My mother once said to me, “Alex knows how to spot potential.” From the people he's brought into the organization, or brought up into leadership positions, that is pretty apparent. Alex didn't just create a sports organization—he created a place where people can come with whatever skills they have, both on the field and off, and be a part of something bigger than themselves.

I can honestly say that without Alex Benepe, my life would be drastically different. I wouldn't have organized quidditch. I wouldn't have worked for the IQA. I wouldn't have lived in New York City. Without the support I received from Alex, I wouldn't have cultivated the skills and confidence I needed to start my own business. Needless to say, without quidditch—and therefore without Alex Benepe—I wouldn't been personally or professionally as happy as I am right now. I owe it to him. In some ways, whether big or small, we all do.”

Harrison Homel, IQA Executive Director:

What a time for the quidditch world.

This is a time for reflection. The contributions made by Alex Benepe and Alicia Radford to our sport are incalculable, and go well beyond the commonly told origin story from that afternoon at Middlebury College, the World Cups they helped bring to life, or any other major achievement of the league. Their most lasting contributions were small, incremental, mundane, and the product of long hours of almost always unglamorous work. Working beside them during my time at the old and current IQA in a variety of capacities, I have been never ceased to be impressed by the work ethic, tenacity, professionalism, and creativity they both brought to the league and to the sport. They will be missed, but their service will last long beyond their own tenures.

This is a time for excitement. The world has not ended, and quidditch is nothing if not a forward-looking institution. I am personally and professionally incredibly excited to see the next chapter in USQ's life under new leadership, and to see what my friends Alex and Alicia will do in their own next chapters.

Allison Gillette, gameplay director World Cup VI, Former President of Emerson Quidditch Club: 

If you've ever worked with Alex Benepe, you will believe me when I say he is a wizard in the muggle world. The man may have never read all the Harry Potter books, but he is the only person I know who can work without sleeping, run an international organization without getting overly stressed and always have time to spend celebrating with friends all while NEVER being anything less than kind and enthusiastic. Alex literally dedicated his entire life for nearly 10 years to a job that couldn't pay him and didn't come with a job description or a blueprint. Alex always told the story of Xander Manshel, the founder of quidditch, but I think the story (more fittingly) can now be told about Alex Benepe: the guy with a head like “Hey Arnold” who wore nice suits and top hats even when it was 90 degrees outside and gave everything he had to create an organization that gave friendship, fitness, happiness and camaraderie to tens of thousands of kids who may never have received those things otherwise. THAT is why Alex Benepe is a wizard amongst muggles, and I cannot wait to see him shed his light on a new group of people in the next chapter of his life!

Kathryn Mudgway, USQ Volunteer:

I found out about quidditch in 2009. I tried to start a team but that didn’t work out so I wanted to find another way to get involved. The first person that emailed me back was Alex. We figured out what I was able to do and before I knew it, I was a volunteer in the teams department with Alicia as my first supervisor. The rest is history. It has been a pleasure getting to know/working with these two over the years and watching the league/sport grow up before our eyes. Thank you for always believing in me. Even though they’re passing the torch to the next generation, their legacy will live on.

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