Tessa Leake and Bryce Shaneyfelt
40th anniversary event
November 5, 2015
On Thursday, October 29th, the Wilderness Institute and the Wilderness and Civilization Program had its 40th Anniversary celebration at Flathead Brewery, a local brewery in downtown Missoula.
The night began with Natalie Dawson (above), director of the Wilderness and Civilization Program, giving a brief introduction on what the program consists of, as well as the influence it has had on members of it and the community over the years. Additionally, she acknowledged a number of individuals who have played key roles in the success and longevity of both the Wilderness Institute and the Wilderness and Civilization Program. She also described a relatively new program the Wilderness Institute has recently implemented called the Freshman Wilderness Experience. The idea came to her when she was on top of a mountain with her students and they were all whooping and having a great time. She began thinking of having students on top of a mountain yelling “I’m free” and that turned into FWE (Freshman Wilderness Experience) where groups of freshman are taken out on a four day backpacking trip just before the beginning of the semester. The program's goal is to get as many freshmen into the wild as possible so they too can experience what it means to have a true appreciation for nature.
Natalie then handed the floor over to Bob Ream (above) who is one of the original founders of the Wilderness Institute and Wilderness and Civilization Program. Bob spoke about some of his experiences with students in his years in the program. He recounted a story of being on the Fall Trek and getting to a campsite with his students. They wanted to hike up to the peak, but he convinced them to wait until the morning, so they could do a sunrise hike. Bob continued to speak of one of his fondest memories while being a part of the program. He remembered waking everyone up at three o’clock in the morning, hiking to the top of the peak and seeing one of the most breathtaking sunrises of his life.
The night was a great opportunity for both former and current members of Wilderness and Civilization to interact and learn from each other. If you were to walk around the room you would see people of all ages striking up conversations because of the shared love of wilderness. Students from old classes reconnected with their former classmates and shared memories from old trips.
The current students pestered the graduates with questions, curious to learn where the program took them and what activities, both personally and professionally, they occupied their time with. This was a great experience to illustrate the fact that many graduated of the program go on to pursue very meaningful roles as they continue their journey through life carrying a true love for nature. We, as current students, also saw how lasting the friendships made in Wilderness and Civ are. Even years after the program, people greeted each other like it had been only yesterday they began that hike on the Fall Trek.