On 27 August we opened our campus to the 43rd semester of The Outdoor Academy. Our 28 new students are still relative strangers—to each other and to our faculty—but we know, having experienced 43 Opening Days, we will soon come together as a community. We will soon feel as if we have known each other for a lifetime and we will build those bonds that will last a lifetime.
But there was a special feeling on this particular Opening Day. Even though we were welcoming 28 new students, their families, and five new faculty members—Renee Raffini, Madalyn Wofford, Caroline Lauth, Marisa Melnick, and Eric McIntyre—into our community, it felt more like a homecoming than an Opening Day. As we joined hands on Cabin 7 Field to sing Sweet Winds, our circle included some very familiar faces.
In addition to OA faculty and staff returning from last year—Katie, Lucas, Ted, Rodrigo, Racheal, Robbie, Mark, Ryan, Julie, and myself—our circle included returning friends from semesters past. Susan Daily, our new Dean of Students, has been with the OA since Semester 26 in many capacities, including Dean of Students. She returns to Eagle’s Nest having completed most of her work toward her second Master’s Degree and has moved back into her home on the northern boundary of campus with her husband Michael, son Noah, and daughter Wren.
Other exciting homecomings included our new Arts Director, Brian Quarrier, and our new Admissions Counselor, Reily Kennedy. Last year, Reily and Brian were members of our amazing Residential Faculty, positions that are typically one-year gigs. One year, we decided, was not enough for these exceptional educators, wilderness leaders, and role models, so we convinced them to stick around and take on new roles and responsibilities at the OA. In Reily’s case, this was an especially poignant homecoming. A proud alum of Semester 25, she is the first member of our permanent staff who has been both an OA student and an OA Resident.
Finally, we welcomed to our Opening Day circle two other OA alums. Micah Parsons, OA Semester 27, mastered her craft at American University before joining the Eagle’s Nest team this summer as our Marketing Coordinator. Joining our Arts Department is Madalyn Wofford, a graduate of OA Semester 20. Madalyn is a multi-talented artist and gifted teacher who will be teaching our Music & Dance arts elective this semester.
It speaks well of our school and our Foundation that so many of our alumni—students and faculty—are choosing to come home. More than that, however, it speaks volumes about the quality of OA alumni. These people, along with the OA faculty and staff they have now joined (or rejoined) as colleagues, are among the most caring and competent educators in the field…and that’s why they’re here.
Thomas Wolfe, local boy made good and one of my favorite writers, famously suggested: You Can’t Go Home Again. I must, respectfully, disagree.
Roger Herbert, Outdoor Academy Director