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Peter Roy named Chairman Of The National Outdoor Leadership School

The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) has named Peter Roy Chairman of the school's board of trustees. Roy, who lives in Pawley's Island, S.C., is the former President of Whole Foods Market, Inc., the country's leading retailer of natural and organic foods.

Roy has served on the board of the Lander, Wyo.-based non-profit since 1999. But his ties to the school that teaches leadership and outdoor skills in 11 different wilderness locations goes back to 1973. In that year, Roy graduated from a NOLS Wind River Wilderness course and met Paul Petzoldt, the famed mountaineer and outdoorsman who founded NOLS in 1965. That experience in the mountains of Wyoming, says Roy, changed everything.

"After reflecting back on my life and the different choices that I've made, my NOLS course was very much a turning point," says Roy. "It was one of the most challenging and difficult things I had accomplished in my life."

Shortly after his NOLS course, Roy began his freshman year at Arizona's Prescott College, where he says he quickly put into practice the leadership skills he'd learned in the mountains. "I ended up almost immediately in a leadership position," Roy remembers of his first week at school. "And I ended up in leadership positions for the rest of my life. A lot of the skills I learn on my NOLS course ended up being relevant to what I did the rest of my life. NOLS was, in many ways, my university."

Roy attended Prescott College for a year before dropping out to work in a natural and organic food store in his hometown of New Orleans, La. By 1978, he was president of Whole Food Company and it had become one of the largest-volume natural product stores in the industry. In 1984, Roy founded and became president of the Natural Foods Network, an industry trade association that brought together the entrepreneurs of the natural foods business. This association led to the eventual merger of Whole Foods Market, Bread and Circus, Mrs. Gooch's, Wellspring Grocery, Bread of Life, Fresh Fields and Whole Food Company. He was president of Whole Foods Market from 1993 until he left the company at the end of 1998. By that time, Whole Foods Market had opened 100 stores in 20 states and was doing over $1 billion a year in sales.

Roy's relationship with NOLS took a different turn in 1998, when his youngest daughter attended a NOLS Semester in East Africa. "It was a phenomenal experience for her but also on a different level an incredibly rewarding and gratifying experience for us as parents. There was a very significant turn around in terms of her attitude and what she felt was possible in her life."

At that point, says Roy, "I would have said yes to virtually anything NOLS asked me to do."

In his year as chair of the NOLS board of trustees, Roy has some definite goals, including helping the school continue to increase enrollment, despite a challenging economic climate and shorter enrollment cycles.

Roy also wants the school to continue cultivating one of its newer offerings, NOLS Professional Training, which tailors the school's curriculum to a broader audience through custom courses, skills seminars, leadership training and risk management consulting. He'd also like to maintain and expand NOLS' ties to colleges and universities.

Whatever the tasks ahead, Roy says he's excited to be at the helm of the NOLS board. "I consider it an honor and a privilege to lead the NOLS board of trustees. It's something I take very seriously. NOLS made a tremendous difference in my life and my family's life and I'm certainly willing and grateful to give back to the school in this way."

The National Outdoor Leadership School, a non-profit organization, is the leader in wilderness education and offers courses in the world’s most spectacular classrooms. From two-weeks to three months, NOLS offers over sixty-five different course types in skill areas including backpacking, mountaineering, sea kayaking, canoeing, skiing, caving, horsepacking and rock climbing. More than 75,000 graduates around the world have come to NOLS to learn outdoor skills and leadership.

 
 
The National Outdoor Leadership School International Headquarters in Lander, Wyoming.
© Brad Christensen
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