Story posted February 28, 2000
Bowdoin College has received a $420,000 gift to construct a permanent home for the Outing Club, Bowdoin’s largest student organization.
The gift from Steve Schwartz ’70 and his wife Paula Mae doubles the amount that the College has raised over the past 18 months for the $1 million project.
"This is a tremendous gift in terms of student life," said Craig Bradley, dean of student affairs. "The Outing Club plays a major role in student life at Bowdoin; it’s integral to many students’ experience here and is a vital arena for leadership development."
The Outing Club has 350 members, more than one-fifth of the student body. It organizes more than 100 trips a year, from two to eight on any given weekend. Students go whitewater and sea kayaking, canoeing, hiking, rock climbing, cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, winter camping and mountaineering. The club also organizes pre-orientation trips for first-year students, and more than three-quarters of the incoming class takes advantage of the opportunity.
The club provides all the equipment the students need, including canoes and kayaks, tents and sleeping bags, foul-weather gear and wetsuits. But it does not have a permanent home. The offices are in Sargent Gym, and the equipment is stored in three basements, a garage and closets around campus.
"This is a remarkable gift," said Mike Woodruff, who co-directs the Outing Club with his wife Lucretia. "It will fundamentally change the way we operate."
Woodruff said he spends at least one day a week just keeping track of the club’s equipment and preparing it for weekend outings. It is difficult to maintain the equipment and keep track of the inventory.
Of equal importance, Woodruff said, the new building will provide the organization with a focal point on campus, and will help create a greater sense of community to Bowdoin as a whole.
In addition to giving students a chance to experience the New England environment, the Outing Club also provides them with rigorous leadership training: Students lead most of the trips themselves. The club also sponsors slide shows and speakers from all over the world who share their wilderness experiences with the public. One presentation last year drew more than 400 people.
In 1990, the Schwartzes co-founded Schwartz Communications, the country’s largest public relations agency focusing on emerging-growth companies, with offices in Waltham, Mass., and San Francisco. Steve Schwartz serves as president; Paula Mae is chief operating officer. Both are avid hikers and kayakers, though Steve describes himself as a "more hard-core" adventurer than his wife. He has hiked all over the world, including Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Costa Rica, Iceland, across Wales, and throughout the Alps and the White Mountains of New England.
Schwartz said he has learned more in the mountains than anyplace else and has spent many of his happiest times there. He wants their gift to ensure that Bowdoin students can acquire the same leadership skills and wilderness experiences that have helped shape his life.
Schwartz, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, graduated magna cum laude from Bowdoin with a major in government and a minor in English. He went on to earn a master’s of fine arts from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. He serves on the Board of Advisors of the Appalachian Mountain Club and is a member of the Bowdoin Board of Trustees.