By the time you sit down to read this, probably sometime in late April, Lei Wang will very likely be living out of a tent somewhere near the base of Mount Everest in Nepal. There, Wang will spend the next several weeks training, gathering her strength and preparing both mentally and physically to climb the largest mountain on earth—a mountain so enormous, so dangerous and so unpredictable that 210 people have died in pursuit of its summit.
But Wang, WG’03, is not one to worry. And if everything breaks just right—if the weather holds up, if the climbing is good, if disaster doesn’t strike, and, of course, if Wang is feeling good and strong as she traverses Everest’s icy slopes—the diminutive China native and Boston resident just might reach the top. If she does, she will have become the tenth person in world history, and the fi rst Chinese woman, to ever climb the tallest mountains on each of Earth’s seven continents … and, just for good measure, ski to both the North and South poles, too.
Wang’s pursuit of this goal has taken up nearly a decade of her life. It’s drained her savings. It’s put her career on hold. So when I spoke with Wang late this winter, about a month before she was to ship out for Everest, I had ask her: Why do it? In “Nearing The Summit,” Wang answers that question. She talks about her remarkable personal journey—a journey that has transformed her from a self-described “out-of-shape” young woman into one of the most accomplished climbers in the world. Wang’s inspirational story is just one of the highlights of our Spring 2010 issue.
As we saw most recently with the horrible earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, disaster is truly inevitable. In “The Masters of Disaster,” contributor Jason Fagone explores the remarkable work being done by faculty at the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, a crucially important research center that is educating global leaders in government and business about why and how they should be planning for the “next” major disaster.
In “Saving Smith Island, One Slice at a Time,” we profile Brian Murphy, WG’08, a former commodities trader who last summer took a huge entrepreneurial risk by launching a new bakery on Smith Island, MD, an isolated island located 12 miles off the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. The challenges for Murphy’s business are obvious. But if he succeeds, he’ll have not only proved his mettle as a businessman, but also quite possibly helped to save the island as well.
And for those of you who have enjoyed our Final Exam challenge and love a good cheesesteak, well, we think this issue’s edition of Final Exam will prove to be a treat.
As always, we invite you to share your thoughts about the magazine by sending your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to visit our website (whartonmagazine.com) and follow us on Twitter (@whartonmagazine).
Thanks again for reading—and let’s all hope that, in our Summer issue, we’ll be able to run a photo of Wang, Wharton banner in hand, atop mighty Everest, her long-sought goal finally met.
Tim Hyland / Editor