By Tom Reed
Reprinted from The Leader, Spring 2001, Vol. 16, No. 2
In 1975, at age 15, Bruce Jacobsen set out on his first NOLS expedition, an adventure course in the Beartooth Mountains. The experience was so lasting and made such an impression on Jacobsen that 25 years later, he and his wife, Gretchen, made a contribution to NOLS and the Campaign for Leadership of notable proportions. Jacobsen, who served as president and chief operating officer of Real Networks, donated stock in the company.
RealNetworks develops and markets software products and services. Today, Jacobsen serves on their board of directors.
"NOLS was one of the most meaningful relationships I've ever had in my life," Jacobsen says when he talks about the donation.
In 1975, Jacobsen was awestruck by the mountains and the NOLS experience. Over the next six years, he attended two more NOLS courses, a winter mountaineering course and a rock climbing course.
At NOLS he learned a host of important things: "First, the need for leadership. Second, leading by example. Third, a strong sense of teamwork. I've had the pleasure to work with some leading business people from Bill Gates to Steven Spielberg and the chance to learn from them. I view elements of my NOLS education as crucial to my business practices."
Jacobsen credits NOLS with affecting his perception of the wilderness and his interest in environmental issues. "I do a bunch of work with the Trust for Public Land and try to practice my enthusiasm for the environment in the corporate world, for example working to use recycled packaging at Microsoft."
He also spends as much time as possible in the wilderness and uses the outdoor skills that he learned at NOLS. "I use all the skills. I try to Leave No Trace, I route-find using topo maps and I still tie my knots 'NOLS style'. Basically, I drive my wife crazy as I repeat NOLS homilies about this or that.
"I have an incredible appreciation for what NOLS did for me. Two of the most important parts of my life-love of wilderness and appreciation of teamwork-come from NOLS."