Alumni director Lily Derrick asked alumni what they most remember about Catlin Gabel’s experiential approach, and how it prepared them for life. Here are some excerpts.
|Katherine Campbell Kahn ’71|
KATHARINE CAMPBELL CAHN ’71
Executive director, child welfare partnership, PSU School of Social Work, Portland
One trip in particular stands out for me—a road trip with the madrigal choir. Somehow Schauff (former head Manvel Schauffler) and Dave Schauffler, the choir leader, knew the most interesting, artistic people up and down the coast, people who were willing to have 15 to 20 teenagers sleep on their living room floors. In the middle of one night, Schauff was driving the bus down I-5. He always took the night shift. Everyone else was asleep and I was riding shotgun, talking with him as he drove. We were looking at the Milky Way, and agreed that the middle of the night was the best time to drive. Just one kid, and one teacher, talking together like real people. It wasn’t just about academics, but about who you were as a person. Until then, I hadn’t had that many adults in my life who were like that, who had that level of respect for kids. It was a great conversation about how great it was to be alive—that’s what sticks with me.
|Georgia Young ’95|
GEORGIA YOUNG ’95
Donor relations manager, Nature Conservancy, Seattle
During my senior year, a core group of students in the Outdoor Club went to Ecuador. We spent a year planning the trip, which involved climbing three major peaks in the Andes. The total Spanish spoken in our group was 50 basic phrases from Spanish 101. The trip introduced me to the most barren landscape I have ever experienced—nothing grows at 19,000 feet above sea level—as well as the jarring and thrilling humanity of millions of people living close to poverty, yet sharing a rich cultural history. The whole world opened up.
The great thing about Catlin Gabel’s approach to experiential education is the chance to learn new things, but also to return to a place or a group of people over and over again and feel a sense of connectedness. The class trips and summer Elana Gold ’93 Memorial Environmental Restoration project on Mt. Hood left me with very specific memories of building fences, thinning trees, wearing hardhats, and swimming in the lake. To me, these memories symbolize the best part of childhood. The lifelong love of the outdoors that Catlin Gabel inspired in me is ever-present in my work life. From exploring the woods on campus with Dave Corkran, to visiting old growth forests on Mt. Hood, to climbing all the major peaks in the Cascades, the passion I rely on now to stay engaged in what I do goes back, as it does for many people, to my experiences growing up.
|Peter Chaille ’98|
PETER CHAILLE ’98
Postdoctoral researcher and faculty member, biological sciences, UC Santa Barbara
My best memory? Crabbing off the docks at Camp Arago! Perhaps since I ended up a marine biologist it is fitting, but I distinctly remember that it was on this trip that I decided that learning about the ocean was what I wanted to find a way to do. Okay, maybe just fish; but nonetheless, I was excited. I work now for Mars Symbioscience, a division of Mars Inc. (the chocolate and pet food company, among others) on the development of an internship program for Duke University business school students. They are exploring the sustainable use of marine and land resources in Indonesia. Eventually the program will incorporate students from a wide range of colleges and universities, and encourage participation and experiential learning related to novel research on sustainability being done in developing nations. So things that start at Catlin Gabel have a way of continuing beyond!
|Pippa Arend ’90|
PIPPA AREND ’90
Co-founder, p:ear, Portland-based mentoring organization for homeless youth
On a 6th grade trip with Shoe (retired middle school teacher Dick Shoemaker) we went to HIS beach house (or at least that’s my memory). It felt personal, and as I was coming out of five years of public school, this was a very different kind of experience. He welcomed me into class with warmth and affection. We also went crabbing—an amazing field trip. In high school, I spent most of my lunches in the ceramics department working on independent projects. In my senior year, I created a life-sized bust with a removable top, but since I was always alone, I often went to visit Tom Tucker ’66 in the woodworking department to see what his face looked like and use it as a model for my sculpture. I still have this bust (we keep it at p:ear, as a cookie jar). Little does he know, he is still an active part of my life—at least at snack time.
At p:ear, we need to think critically and creatively at all times. In our motto, creatively mentoring youth, the word “creatively” refers less to the arts we have available and more to how we strive to approach each day, each student, each situation. In a sense we are making this up as we go along—constantly adapting to the needs of the youth, the program and ourselves—and I’m thankful for the learning experiences I’ve had, including my time at Catlin Gabel, for giving me the strength to creatively and constructively work with others, and to trust myself to passionately pursue wacky goals.
|John Chun ’87|
JOHN CHUN ’87
Commercial litigator, Summit Law, Seattle
Experiential learning at Catlin Gabel had a significant impact on me: it broadened my perspective on the world and my community; it made me a better student and even a better attorney. Catlin Gabel opened up the world of community service to me—when I joined the school as a freshman, I wasn’t really aware of community service. While I’m not in public interest law, like my wife Elizabeth Baldwin ’89, I’ve kept one foot in the nonprofit world, serving on many nonprofit boards. Rummage was significant, too, because I saw how the school interfaces with a broad crosssection of our community. Not all schools have that kind of interaction with the city around them.
Winterim had a tremendous effect on me. Not a month goes by that I don’t think about my Winterim experiences. One of the most memorable was Derek Butler’s art of rap course, in 1985. We would listen to Grandmaster Flash, Flava Flav, Run DMC, and break down the elements of rap; then we got to write our own! Catlin Gabel gently nudged us to take a broader view, which has definitely played out in my life, where I find myself reading about areas beyond my experience. That’s a product of the experiential learning approach.
|Aaron Rapf ’96|
AARON RAPF ’96
Tennis sports marketing, Nike, Beaverton
At Catlin Gabel, the focus was not just on what books and others told you, but experiencing it for yourself. That really shaped me. From the 6th grade on, I learned to test and try things out before judging them, and to trust the process. That’s an incredible skill to have.
My first year at Catlin Gabel was the 6th grade. On the way to the Camp Arago camping trip, we stopped at these enormous sand dunes in southern Oregon. They were HUGE, and everyone was jumping off of them, not really knowing what was below. It was one of those indicative moments, where you have to close your eyes and believe everything will be okay, trust in your environment, and just jump.
On our senior trip to Mt. Hood, two friends and I went off with Dave Corkran to learn how to chop wood. Dave’s pretty handy with an ax, and he was like Paul Bunyan, chopping these logs that were one and a half feet in diameter with such accuracy. That was such a memorable image. He was teaching us self-sufficiency; he taught me to be a man.