NOLS: National Outdoor Leadership School Home
 
Fall 2003 Issue
    Cover Article
    Message from the Director
    Alumni Trailblazers
    Alumni Profile
    Branch Profile
    Issue Room
    Wild Side of Medicine
    Never Say Never
    Where Are They Now?
    Chapter Update
   
Winter Articles
  Why Ask Why?
  Winter Memories
  Snow Scientists
  Winter Camping
  Winter Worries
  Captain Jack
  Notes From the Field
  Making a Race
Leader Archives
  Address Update Form

Online Gift Form

Contact Us


Where Are They Now?
Reconnecting with the first NOLS course…
By Kerry Brophy

Part 1 | Part 2

On June 8, 1965, the high peaks in Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains still sat under a blanket of snow. Below, at a cabin tucked away in Sinks Canyon outside Lander, Wyoming, a group of young men sat listening to the booming voice of Paul Petzoldt, who had called them together from all over the country.

That winter they had each received a hand-written letter from Petzoldt, asking them to make the trip out to Lander. Petzoldt’s tightly scrawled letters, some of them many pages, said he was trying something new in wilderness education, and he wanted them to join him. From New York to Texas, these first NOLS students arrived by bus, train, or sticking their thumbs out on the country’s highways. There were 23 students at the cabin that day and six instructors.

“I knew that what we were doing was new and exciting,” remembers Tap Tapley, who had worked with Petzoldt at Colorado Outward Bound and agreed to help him with his leadership project. “Paul said, ‘Come on, let’s go up to Wyoming and do something different! Let’s teach them skills.’”

Almost forty years later, Petzoldt’s idea for something “different” has turned into the National Outdoor Leadership School, and his 23 students have grown into over 75,000 graduates all over the world. This coming June, there will be another gathering in Lander—this one to celebrate the 39th anniversary of the school and the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, a milestone for our wilderness classrooms. In preparation, The Leader has reunited—on paper, at least—some of the first NOLS students.

So where are they now? Well, the ones we tracked down have ended up all over—from the other side of the country, to right out the backdoor from where they first stepped in the mountains with NOLS. Most of them were Petzoldt’s former students at Outward Bound, hand-picked in 1965 for having strong potential as outdoor leaders. While many of them did go on to teach in the outdoors, others decided to use their new-found leadership skills elsewhere. Regardless, almost forty years later, they still remember.

Andy Weary
Favorite memories: Andy Weary wrote to Petzoldt in Januray of 1965, saying that Petzoldt’s offer to attend a course in Wyoming “sounds like a great deal.” He continued, writing, “I’m anxious to dig right in!” At the time Weary was also applying for an appointment to the Air Force Academy. But his memories go all the way back to a fateful day in 1964, when he overheard Paul Petzoldt saying in his characteristically-gruff way, “I’m going to start my own damn school!”

Weary remembers the remoteness of Wyoming’s mountains more than anything. “It was a wild countryside,” he says. Moose were so tame, he says, they’d let you walk up and pet them (something you’d never do today), and there were hardly any trails. He also remembers finding lakes that had been stocked from the air in the ’50s but never fished. In these lakes, says Weary, he’d “throw in 21 casts and catch 22 fish” (that last fish jumped right out of the water onto shore). He also recalls meeting Thelma Young, who at the time was making some of the first Dupont-Holofill products ever made. Today Weary still uses a sleeping bag Young sewed especially for that course.

Where he is today: Weary lives in Austin, Texas, where he’s a physician at a family practice. Every year, he takes groups of teenagers camping for up to seven days, backpacking, climbing and putting his NOLS skills to use.

Tom Warren
Favorite memories: Tom Warren was one of the only students on that first NOLS course who didn’t get a letter from Petzoldt. Instead, Warren, 18, who grew up in nearby Riverton, Wyoming, wrote Petzoldt and asked if he could join the course. Petzoldt agreed and Tom became the first NOLS scholarship student. Warren went on to become one of the strongest students on the course and a NOLS Instructor until 1981.

Warren remembers all the students piling into an old cattle truck—the primary mode of transportation for students in those days—to get to the trailhead. From Sinks Canyon, they drove up to Dry Ridge and then traveled over Indian Pass, where they spent the first week practicing rope handling, swimming, and even knife throwing. The first peak he ever climbed was Mt. Warren, wearing the Army surplus clothing Petzoldt had collected during his days with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. “[Paul] had a lot of knowledge and taught everyone how to survive and be leaders,” says Warren. “He would make someone a leader and give them all the responsibility. NOLS was a leadership school from the very start.”

Where he is today: When The Leader contacted Warren, he was on his way out the door to go wind surfing near his home in Driggs, Idaho, where he has a roofing business and lives with his wife, Dorothy. “I’m going to be wearing wool under my wetsuit,” Warren joked, referring to all the wool they wore on that first NOLS course.

Part 1 | Part 2

If you're not getting The Leader in the mail and you want to, click here.

  ALUMNI EVENTS
Alumni Trips
Alumni Courses
Reunions
Seminars
  ALSO SEE...
NOLS On the Road
Leave No Trace Master Courses
   
Chat:
Chat with a real person.
Share:

Sign up for the NOLSie News
NOLS Top of Page
NOLS Home About Us Courses Apply Wilderness Medicine Institute NOLS Professional Training Alumni Store Donate NOLS Home Parents Press Room School Resources Photos NOLS.TV Events WRMC The NOLS Blog Introduction About Leadership History Mission & Values Profiles Partnerships Frequent Questions Find a Course School Locations Skills Leave No Trace Financial Aid Academic Credit NOLS Pro Home 1-3 Day Courses 7-30 Day Courses Risk Management Staff Clients Design Your Course Contact NOLS Pro NOLS Pro 1-3 Days 7-30 Days Risk Management Clients Contact Us NOLS Pro Design Your Course NOLS Pro Staff Overview Outcome-based Curriculum Faculty Overview Outcome-based Curriculum Faculty Case Studies Overview Administrative Training Staff Training Consulting Conference: WRMC How to Apply Apply Online Download an Application Admission Policies WMI Home About WMI Courses Schedule FAQ Photos & Movies Curriculum Updates Employment Sponsors WMI Home About WMI Admissions Courses Schedule Host a Course Resources Gallery Alumni Home Trips and Events The Leader Alumni Chapters Employment Staying in Touch Volunteer Photos & Videos Home NOLS Photos NOLS.TV The NOLS Podcast NOLS on Flickr Leave No Trace Overview Leave No Trace Principles Leave No Trace Master Educator Course Host a Course Contact Enroll Map of Events Dream Expedition Leadership Week Press Room Images for the Press Archives