Bob Carson Fund opens outdoors to new students
A new fund was created this year in the name of Professor of Geology Bob Carson to boost the Outdoor Program. The fund’s stated goal is to allow students who wouldn’t usually go on outdoor trips to experience education outside of the classroom. Starting this year, each incoming student is granted $150 credit, which they can freely spend on OP trips.
“It was a total surprise, and I am deeply honored,” said Carson about learning that the fund was dedicated to him.
The fund was created and is maintained by two anonymous alumni, who will match all money raised up to $50,000. The seeds of the fund were sown decades ago, when the two alumni, then Whitman students, went on various outdoor trips with Bob Carson. They shared his love and appreciation for the outdoors and the personal growth that can be gained through these trips.
The Bob Carson Fund is named such because of the energy Carson put into Whitman’s Outdoor Program to help it mature into what it is today. Since he was hired at Whitman in 1974, Carson has frequently taken students on outdoor trips, both in relation to geology and for the OP.
“If I want to go climb a mountain or run a river, why shouldn’t I take students?” said Carson. “There’s always going to be geology. There’s always going to be rocks to see. There’s always knowledge to be shared.”
With Carson’s help, new types of trips such as whitewater kayaking, boating, mountaineering and hiking were implemented by the growing OP. Today, Whitman maintains an impressive outdoor program which is a significant part of the lives of many students.
Brien Sheedy, current director of the OP, observed that enrollment in trips so far this year has been strong, and plenty of first-years have already tapped into their fund money. He acknowledges that, with increased interest in the OP, new trips may have to be scheduled for the winter.
Sheedy is excited for new students to try OP trips and the educational experiences that come with them.
“One of the great things about being on Outdoor Program trips is that you get exposed to natural beauty and new ways of experiencing the natural world while also learning about yourself, working with other people and getting challenged,” said Sheedy.
Jamie Kennedy, director of planned giving, looks beyond this year for the future for Whitman’s OP. His goal is to raise enough money to have the Bob Carson Fund available for every student at Whitman.
“Inevitably the program will grow,” said Kennedy. In addition to the alumni who created the fund, 72 alumni have already donated to it. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to at least double the number of alumni this next year who will support it. There’s nowhere to go but up.”
Kennedy foresees that in a few years, once more alumni are aware of the fund, the match limit set by the donors will be surpassed. Currently, $5,580 has been raised, in addition to the initial donation from the fund’s creators. Kennedy hopes that the fund will last for not just the next few years, but for many years to come.
In the same way that Bob Carson helped expand the OP in the ’70s and ’80s, the Bob Carson OP Fund is intended to further the program, starting with the freshest students on campus.
“It would be great for students to realize how fortunate they are that this is an opportunity for them,” said Kennedy. “They should take advantage of it because there aren’t too many times in life when people are charitable enough to be doing something strictly for the benefit of others.”