Spellbound by spelling

Don’t count on keeping up with the competitors in Spellbound, the Oscar-nominated documentary about the 1999 National Spelling Bee. But if you see the movie, you may spot three members of the medical school community.

They include Suzanne P. Lagarde, M.D., HS ’77, FW ’80, assistant clinical professor of medicine, and David Stagg, Ph.D., research scientist in pharmacology, parents of Emily Stagg, one of eight children profiled in the film. Emily’s participation introduced Lagarde and Stagg to the spelling bee subculture, in which the Paideia, a collection of spelling bee words, is considered the Bible. Emily’s strategy was to learn roots from four languages.

Eighth-grader Emily was one of 250 finalists from a field of 9 million competitors. So how did she do? See the film, with its cameo of the 1971 champion, Jonathan P.S. Knisely, M.D., associate professor of therapeutic radiology. His winning word: “shalloon.”

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