Campus News

Bowdoin Dedicates Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center October 18

Story posted October 10, 2002

Bowdoin College dedicated the 5,500-square-foot Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center, new home of the College's Outing Club, Friday, October 18. The building is located at the junction of Sills Drive and Harpswell Road, the former site of the BowdInn.

The $1.25 million center provides a teaching facility and logistical base for Bowdoin's exceptional outdoor programs. It is named in honor of Steven M. Schwartz, a Bowdoin trustee and member of the class of 1970, and his wife and business partner, Paula Mae Schwartz. The couple provided the lead gift for the project.

"Today's Bowdoin students are tomorrow's public leaders," said Bowdoin President Barry Mills. "During their time at Bowdoin, our students acquire an outstanding education made up of many components, including the development of strong leadership abilities. The Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center will significantly expand our ability to engage students in the development of initiative, integrity, self-reliance, confidence and leadership. We are tremendously grateful to Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz for their generosity and vision, which have made this state-of-the-art facility a reality."

The Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) is the largest student organization on campus. With its impressive level of participation and the high caliber of its programs, BOC enjoys a reputation as one of the finest college outing clubs in the country.

"We're very lucky to come to a school that offers these kinds of opportunities for students," said Josh Rudner '03, co-president of BOC. "Only Cornell and Dartmouth, which are much bigger, have had comparable outing club programs. And this new facility has sent the Bowdoin Outing Club to a whole new level."

The Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center was designed by Richard K. Renner of Van Dam & Renner Architects of Portland, Maine. Wright-Ryan of Portland was the contractor.

The interior design is notable for its 26-foot-high vaulted ceilings and open trusses, continuous windows with large areas of glass framing uninterrupted views, a color scheme in yellow and cream to reflect day lighting and to highlight the structure, and a gleaming oak hardwood floor.

The building is oriented around the Beebe Room, a large central space that can be used for lectures, small group sessions, gearing up for trips, leadership training seminars, first aid courses, and meetings of 80 or more people. Gathered around this central room, and looking out into the Bowdoin Pines (one of Maine's few remaining old-growth forests), are staff and student offices, a deck for outdoor classes, and a library/map room.

The center also includes a commercial kitchen in which Bowdoin boaters, campers, climbers, and backpackers can prepare and pack food for trips, and a large, secure equipment room for tents, stoves, sleeping bags, crampons, life jackets, wet suits, and other equipment. An attic space above the equipment room accommodates off-season storage.

Adjacent to the storage area and unique to this building are trip lockers, a set of double-sided closets that allow equipment to be easily assembled for trips without compromising the security of the storage room. Trip leaders gain access to the trip lockers with magnetic key cards.

A focal point of the central room is The James S. Lentz Hearth, a massive stone fireplace named in honor of "the father of the modern Bowdoin Outing Club" who served as its first full-time director. Next to the hearth, a moose head donated by alumnus Michael Jones '77 makes for an imposing sentry at the entrance to the library/map room where maps are neatly organized and easily accessible in a wide bank of drawers.

Elements of "green design" were incorporated into the plan and construction of the building. These features include efficient radiant floor heat, maximum use of natural light and ventilation (eliminating the need for air conditioning), and a deck made of recycled materials.

Bowdoin Outing Club
First organized in 1948 at a time when it served primarily as an equipment-lending organization, the Bowdoin Outing Club is now the College's most active student organization. It boasts an average annual membership of 350 (one-fifth of the student population), with the past decade seeing a surge in female membership and leadership. The program employs full-time Director Michael Woodruff '87 and Assistant Director Stacy Kirschner.

"The construction of the Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center represents a great leap forward for the Bowdoin Outing Club, comparable to the appointment of Jim Lentz as the first full-time director of the BOC in 1984," said Woodruff. "Being in this facility has allowed us to increase quality of programs, both in the field and on campus."

In addition to building leadership skills, BOC promotes outdoor and other recreational activities while stimulating an appreciation of nature and the environment. Taking advantage of the College's spectacular location, an average of 90 student-led trips are organized per year (plus 34 Pre-Orientation trips for first-year students).

Every weekend and many weekday afternoons find students embarking on trips for hiking, mountain biking, flat water canoeing, rock climbing, white water canoeing, kayaking and rafting, sea kayaking, winter camping and mountaineering, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, telemark skiing, alpine skiing, and snowboarding.

Regular trips cover Maine and northern New England, from Acadia National Park to Casco Bay, and from the Penobscot River to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. School breaks offer the opportunity to go farther afield. Recent trips have taken students to the Sierra Nevada, the Smoky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon.

"One of the greatest things about the Bowdoin Outing Club is the number and the variety of outdoor opportunities," said co-president Megan Hayes '03. "Maybe you've never tried sea kayaking or rock climbing before. With this program you can sign up and give it a try. You may find you love it, and it becomes a regular activity. Or, you may try it just that one time. But the opportunity and the resources were there, and you got to experience it."

Each semester the Outing Club also offers an intensive (250+ hours) leadership-training course, which includes a wilderness first-responder course. Getting into the course is highly competitive, with upwards of 40 students applying each semester for just 12-16 spots.

The 80-hour wilderness first-responder course takes place each January. Taught by Wilderness Medical Associates (for whom Woodruff is an instructor), its highly intensive training consists of classroom work, mock rescues, and CPR practice. Virtually every injury or illness scenario that one could encounter on a trip is presented.

Trainees get certified to repair dislocations and administer epinephrine for anaphylactic shock. They learn to assess drowning scenarios, altitude sickness, heat stroke, and hypothermia. They learn splinting, back boarding for spinal injuries, and even delivering babies. Rescue simulations involve car accidents, avalanche burial, nighttime search and rescue. Mock bear attacks are staged. No detail is left out, as trainers employ fake blood and screaming "victims" to closely resemble reality.

In addition, the Bowdoin Outing Club's educational activities include guest speakers, films, slide presentations, and weekly seminars on topics ranging from coastal navigation and astronomy to bike maintenance and ski tuning.

Steven M. and Paula Mae Schwartz
As an undergraduate at Bowdoin College, Steve Schwartz was a James Bowdoin Scholar and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He won the Fairbanks Prize for public speaking and was graduated magna cum laude with a major in government and a minor in English. In 1973 he earned his MFA at Columbia University and began working in public relations.

Steve Schwartz was the speechwriter for General Electric's CEO Jack Welch in 1983-84 and worked as vice president of Interleaf before he and his wife, Paula Mae, founded Schwartz Communications in 1990. Today their company is one of the leading public relations agencies in the United States.

In addition to being an avid kayaker, Steve Schwartz 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. His hope is that the Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center will ensure that Bowdoin students can acquire the same leadership skills and wilderness experiences that have helped shape his life.

Paula Mae Schwartz, co-founder and chief operating officer, provided the impetus for starting Schwartz Communications, Inc. For a decade, she ran her own boutique public relations agency, serving clients in New York and Boston. Before taking the entrepreneurial plunge, she was with Richard Weiner, Inc. and D'Arcy-Benton and Bowles. She has handled public relations campaigns for clients ranging from Clairol and Sandoz Pharmaceuticals to high-tech companies in networking, telephony, Internet infrastructure and e-commerce.

Paula Mae Schwartz graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in English literature. She started her career at Newsweek magazine, where she gained valuable insight into the national media. She enjoys hiking, theater and a good thriller. She serves on the boards of the Gloucester Adventure, a non-profit organization working to preserve the historic fishing schooner Adventure, and the Gloucester Stage Company, a springboard for new theater productions.

Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz live in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

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