The man, the myth, the legend: Ted Wesemann retiring from OA after 27 years
In the late 1970s, a homesteading hippie and self-professed nature nerd met a beautiful, dark-haired dancer in a bean patch in the Ozarks. She quickly waltzed him off to the Western North Carolina mountains, where he hit the biology books en route to a B.A. & M.S. at Appalachian State, learned to whitewater canoe, and ran a ski shop. Then, eight years into a stint at a naturalist’s dream job as director of a Savannah, Georgia non-profit that offered natural and cultural history programs around the world, he stumbled upon a classified ad about some place called Eagle’s Nest opening a semester school.
“Hey Jane, want to move back to the mountains?”
The next 27 years are history. Over 1000 remarkable young people have benefited from Ted Wesemann’s fateful discovery of that classified ad announcing the Founding Head of School opening for The Outdoor Academy in 1994. Since then, Ted and Jane have been a fixture here at 43 Hart Road, and so it is with a mixture of joy for what we have gained and sadness for what we will lose that we announce Ted’s retirement.
From joining Helen Waite to build a new kind of school from the ground up, to stewarding it through transitions, to teaching its students lessons more powerful than science or history alone, Ted has been here virtually every step of the way at The Outdoor Academy. To say goodbye is indeed bittersweet, but something tells us we will see him around…maybe dashing through the woods for old time’s sake.
For Ted, we Give Thanks!
We asked some of the folks who worked with Ted to get OA up and running and those who have strived to fill his simultaneously-giant and nimble boots (seriously — how does he run off through the woods so fast?!?) to share reflections about their time with him. Check out these great memories:
From Helen Waite, former ENF Executive Director and founder of OA:
“Together” is the most endearing word in the English language. Partnership walked in the door,1994, when Ted Wesemann, the first OA head of school, came to the nest. Only through unmeasured partnership and non-ownership in all things: history, nature, honesty, ceremony, scientific studies, work and play can a freedom of autonomy be built. For these attributes Ted has been our builder and our unwavering leader. Truly thankful. Helen. founder
From Marc Magnus-Sharpe:
When I think of you Ted, I recall your early morning hikes in to greet us with a welcome gift of hot coffee; your soft laugh; whittling away at spoons during meetings; and, smiling and sitting on the porch with Jane and that hound dog. You model an enviable balance of consideration, humbleness, and an ever-steady commitment to the students’ learning. In your element you bring us all to a more thoughtful sense of place. Ted is forever carved into the natural history of OA, much in the way that you’ve left a lasting impression on each of us.
May you continue to be well, do good work, and stay in touch.
From Mark Braun:
Ted, our teacher and community leader, emphasizes the importance of engagement, observation, and patient reflection. He teaches us to slow down and honor moments of encounter. He shows us how to encounter our landscape in poignant ways and how to encounter one another with care and responsibility. He reminds us to show what is right through action, not merely through our words. Above all, he wishes for us all to be genuine and true.
From Michael Brown:
When I began teaching English at OA years ago, Natural Science was at the same time, and we would split the students into two groups then switch. One of my greatest joys was meeting Ted on the porch of Sikwayi, looking at each other, then running in opposite directions as students scrambled to follow us to a spot in the woods for our respective classes. A good part of my joy, and that of the students, I believe, was seeing the glee and enthusiasm that Ted brings to his work. We both knew, too, that the work we did with students was going to be substantive and productive as well as fun. When I became Head of School, I drew on both of these eminently “Ted” qualities, boundless joy and faithful solidity, as a source of support and inspiration. As a leader, it was a comforting gift to know that Ted always had the good of the school as a whole as our highest ideal. He has done that for more than 25 years for the Outdoor Academy, and it now becomes incumbent upon all of us to continue that legacy. Give thanks!
From Roger Herbert:
Given my professional background–the Navy and then higher ed–Eagles Nest took a chance when they brought me on board. The search committee assumed–and they assumed correctly–that Ted would serve as a steadying influence as I learned my way around the world of secondary education.
While I was most grateful for this resource, I also felt it was unfair to Ted to have to babysit the new guy. So, as a reminder not to abuse the privilege, I bought two OA mugs and had them inscribed. The mug I gave to Ted reads, “That sounds like Roger’s problem.” The second mug, which I kept on my desk, was inscribed: “WWTD?” Although I’ll admit I turned to Ted more often than I should have, I tried my best to leave the great man alone, consult my mug, ask “what would Ted do,” and then act accordingly.
As I prepared to “ship out” to the Naval Academy, I planned to pass my mug off to Glenn, for surely WWTD was the best advice I could offer my successor. Moments before handing over the mug, however, I decided I couldn’t part with it. Today the mug sits on my desk in Annapolis. My students at the Naval Academy are indeed fortunate that I consult it frequently.
From Glenn DeLaney, current Director of OA:
In observing Ted’s work throughout my three years as Director of The Outdoor Academy, I have seen him consistently model everything that we stand for as a school. It has certainly been handy to be able to point toward a great example of work ethic, or self-reliance, or the “life of the mind” in what Ted is up to on any given day at OA. I think that he is so deeply respected and beloved by students, faculty, and alums for precisely this reason. They develop such a powerful appreciation for the cornerstones and principles of this community, and anybody who has hung around here for any amount of time sees those cornerstones and principles in everything Ted says and does. He is a walking, talking, crafting embodiment of what makes this place so special, and I give thanks for having had the opportunity to watch him make the OA experience come to life and mean something–truly mean something–to the people fortunate enough to inhabit this space with him for a semester or for many years. Though they are just down the road (and something tells me that I’ll see that red truck show up some future Sunday afternoon to take care of chainsawing limbs after a storm or something), the impact of Ted and Jane’s constant and steady presence at The Outdoor Academy will be sorely missed.
From Noni Waite-Kucera, current ENF Executive Director:
Steady, loyal, inspirational. Ted, you have created an incredible legacy in your 27 years at Eagle’s Nest and I am honored to have worked alongside you each step of the way. Your leadership in building our school, creating curriculum, envisioning programs, and stepping in at every level of the organization to lend a hand has been instrumental in furthering our mission. My deepest gratitude to you now and always.
Want to honor Ted’s legacy at OA? Make a donation to the Sun Lodge Renovations project and “Ted’s Deck”. Give to the Sun Lodge Project!