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Press Release

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



Under Ratz’s leadership NOLS grew in both size and scope. It is with sadness and pride that NOLS remembers Jim Ratz, the school’s fourth executive director.

Memorial Service
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
2:00 pm at the Lander Valley High School auditorium, Lander, Wyoming
A reception at the Lander Community Center will follow the service.

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