When Philippe Polman, '07, trains, he trains hard. Thirty stitches in his face and a cast enclosing a broken arm — injuries from separate bike crashes in the past few months — make it clear that he takes his training seriously. The outdoors-lover and triathlete is currently preparing for a six-day climb to the summit of Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro.

Polman is no stranger to adventure — he once climbed Western Europe's highest mountain, Mont Blanc. He is also a citizen of the world, having lived in five countries and eight cities, and recently took an account executive job in London.

It was at the University of Richmond that Polman befriended fellow traveler, adventurer and climbing partner Casey Werderman, '07.

But their paths first crossed on the other side of the Atlantic, on a rugby field in Switzerland, where they both attended high school. "I remember this tall guy that kept disrupting my rugby game. I was quite aggravated at how good he was," Polman says. "On move-in day [at Richmond], he walked into my dorm room."

Werderman explains, "We were randomly assigned to be freshman year roommates through RC Extreme and found out that we had uncanny similarities."

Polman and Werderman stayed roommates for four years. In addition to being rugby teammates, they shared a major — international studies with a concentration in world politics and diplomacy — and co-led a three-day outdoors program in the Shenandoah Valley for sophomores.

After graduation, they parted ways. Werderman's senior-year General Assembly internship led to his current job as chief of staff for Virginia Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment and campaign manager for Congressman Rob Wittman.

Polman worked as a flight instructor before relocating to England. "My experience at Richmond taught me how to think critically, motivate others, balance many tasks, among other skills," he explains. "UR prepared my skill set for a large range of careers."

Despite the distance, they stay connected through training for their upcoming climb in December. "Kilimanjaro isn't the most technical climb, [but] the altitude can take its toll, so it is important to be in strong cardiovascular shape," Werderman explains. He runs up to 10 miles a day in addition to biking or swimming after work.

"We both have the travel bug and the 'itch' to do something different," says Werderman. Near the 19,341-foot summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, they will experience something new to both of them: the rapidly melting Furtwängler Glacier.

But the motivation behind this adventure isn't the climb itself. By reaching the summit, the pair is hoping to raise $8,000 to contribute to the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust, a nonprofit that provides and repairs Braille machines to schools for the blind in East Africa. "Success would be raising $8,000 and a photo at the top," says Polman.

"If I don't summit, it hasn't been a success," says Werderman. "That isn't to say it hasn't been a good time or I haven't had an incredible experience, but in the end we are flying around the world to summit Kilimanjaro, not get half way."


Photo courtesy of the United States Air Force.