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Think again: Bemidjian picked to defend title of 'Great American Thinker'

Marsh Muirhead of the Bemidji area is one of four finalists in "The Great American Think-Off," which will be June 9 in New York Mills. He is pictured with Scout, his golden retriever. Monte draper | bemidji pioneer

BEMIDJI - Writer, poet, photographer, bodybuilder, pilot, flight instructor - it seems there isn't a title Bemidji dentist Marsh Muirhead hasn't held.

Last year, he added another title to his list - Great American Thinker - a title he hopes to hold onto for another year.

Muirhead was recently named one of four finalists for the 20th annual amateur philosophy contest, "The Great American Think-Off," to be held June 9 in New York Mills. The question entrants answered this year in their 750-word essays was, "The nature of humankind: Inherently good or inherently evil?"

"Last year's question was 'Does poetry matter?" Muirhead said Monday. "The question was the reason I entered, and I won. This year I entered as a whim since I had so much fun last year."

Muirhead is the first entrant in the contest's history to win one year and then be named a finalist the next year, he said.

"They tell me they read the entries not knowing who wrote them," Muirhead said. "I'm very surprised I was chosen again. I think a bit of luck played into it."

Retired Bemidji State University music professor Pat Riley said if anyone deserves to be a Great American Thinker, it's Muirhead.

"He is one of the most well-rounded people I know," Riley said. "He knows sports, science, flying, boating; he can do it all and can do it well."

Riley said it's Muirhead's curiosity that has helped him become so knowledgeable.

"He always asks questions, and I think that curiosity will help him in the Think-Off," Riley said. "They're looking for people who have interesting things to think, and he definitely does."

Retired BSU English professor Susan Hauser said Muirhead is a renaissance thinker who is always asking whether he can do something.

"He brings all his skills to the table when he is trying to answer a question," Hauser said. "He's curious in his thinking, which is rare today. He doesn't just ask why; he explores new ways of thinking."

Muirhead said he credits his vast knowledge to his curiosity and his love of writing.

"I want to see what something's about and then write about it," Muirhead said. "I worked for UPS freight, flying in all conditions, and then wrote about it for different publications. I was really big into auto racing for awhile and wrote about it. When I was into bodybuilding and met people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, I did a lot of writing and commentary about it."

These days, Muirhead likes to spend his time in Key West, Fla.

"A few years ago I wrote a guidebook called "Key West Explained," Muirhead said. "I took all the pictures while I kayaked, wandered the streets of Key West and learned all the history of the area."

To help him prepare for the Think-Off, Muirhead said he plans on sitting down with some of his professor friends from BSU to pick their brains.

"They help me get a broader view of the topic because their passions are in different areas than mine," Muirhead said. "I'm looking forward to the Think-Off. It's a nice weekend that I'm pumped up for."