Run, Don't Walk

Rick Bale/Stanford Athletics

Ask Claire Cormier Thielke what she has planned for the next five years and her body language explodes. She tosses her head back, busts an enormous smile and throws her shoulders into her almost-shouted answer: "Nothing!"

If she meant it—and she absolutely doesn't—some kind of cosmic balance might be restored. Everything around the track team's Thielke seems to move faster when she's in action, and that's even truer academically than athletically.

In her five years at Stanford, she has progressed from being voted by her dorm as "the most clueless Stanford freshman" to closing in on a post-master's degree. She was so far along on her bachelor's degree in urban studies by her sophomore year that junior year was partly an exercise in quelling her sense of alarm. As in, "Oh my gosh, I think I'm almost finished. I'm going to run out of things to do." The solution at that stage was Stanford's coterm program, which enabled her to complete her bachelor's while undertaking a master's in civil and environmental engineering.

"It all sounds so much harder than it really was," says Thielke, explaining that she became so passionate about almost everything she studied that the work often just made her happy.

Telling Thielke's full story means glossing over the impressive—such as starting the master's without any background in calculus and physics—in order to spotlight the utterly remarkable. As she advanced to pursue the post-master's engineer degree, she decided she wanted to exhaust her remaining athletic eligibility (unused because of injuries) as a middle-distance runner during a fifth year on the Farm. At various points in her journey, she served as president of her sorority, lined up a post-Stanford job in her hometown of Houston and, for three years, nurtured a long-distance relationship with the man who would become her husband.

"We met on the first day of high school," Thielke says, describing how she and Rick Thielke, MBA '09, who entered the Graduate School of Business after speeding through the University of Texas, went from best friends to a December 2007 wedding.

It won't be long before they're back in Texas, and Claire will plunge into a real estate development career, focusing on sustainable planning and historic preservation. But she also has been taking full advantage of her track eligibility, running well enough to be among the point scorers by finishing sixth in the 800 meters at the Pac-10 championships. Claire Cormier Thielke making the most of an opportunity—gee, what a surprise.