For immediate release
Date: May 5, 2005
Contact: Bruce Palmer
Former NOLS Director Dies in Climbing Accident
LANDER, Wyo.—Jim Ratz, NOLS executive director from 1984
until 1995, died yesterday in a climbing accident in Wyoming’s
Sinks Canyon, just outside Lander. Ratz, 52, lived in Lander
and was the co-owner of Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.
Local authorities conducted emergency response.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy,” said John
Gans, Executive Director for NOLS. “NOLS is a better organization
as a result of Jim’s decade of solid leadership. Our
thoughts and sympathy are with Jim’s wife Lantien Chu and
his children, Mei and Willy.” Lantien was NOLS finance
director from 1985 until 1990.
Under Ratz’s leadership NOLS grew in both size and scope.
The school was educating more than 2,600 students each year by
the time of his departure in 1995. In 1990 NOLS Patagonia opened
in Chile, in 1991 NOLS Southwest opened its doors and in 1995
NOLS Canada program launched as well.
NOLS’ national reputation increased during Ratz’s
tenure as the school took a leadership role in the Leave No Trace
program and published, Soft Paths, which is still the
authoritative book on minimum impact backcountry travel. NOLS
launched its research program under Ratz’s leadership and
the school’s public policy role increased greatly with
NOLS serving as a voice for the practical conservation of the
school’s wilderness classrooms.
Ratz also led the way as NOLS established relationships with
its graduates around the globe. Alumni reunions reconnected graduates
with the school and paved the way for development efforts to
support the school’s scholarship and facility needs. In
1995 the school completed its first capital campaign, a 1.5 million
dollar effort that led to permanent facilities for NOLS Pacific
Northwest and improvements to other NOLS facilities.
It is with sadness and pride that NOLS remembers Jim Ratz, the
school’s fourth executive director.
A private non-profit school, NOLS operates wilderness field expeditions
on four continents and has over 75,000 alumni worldwide. For more
information, call NOLS at (800) 710-NOLS (6657) or visit the web
site at www.nols.edu.