It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
From Ulysses, Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Greetings VOBS Friends,
I’d like to introduce you to someone who inspires me: Pam Anderson.
Pam has a saying, and it goes like this:
You can cry, but only on Fridays.
As Pam explains, “You can cry in joy, or you can cry in sorrow, but you can only cry on Fridays.”
Pam Anderson is thoughtful, measured and clear. She listens before she responds, and when she speaks, she doesn’t mince words and she says what she means. Perhaps this is why, when you mention her name in Outward Bound or Twin Cities circles, people often exclaim, “Oh, I know Pam!” Once you have met Pam, you’ll remember her as well as you remember full sun and a clear blazing blue sky.
Pam’s style of leadership is magnetic. She is open, kind, funny, straightforward and principled. When Pam says, “I live by my values,” she means it. Pam is self-disciplined and pragmatic: “You can cry, but only on Fridays.” We might like to attribute Pam’s qualities and strength to Outward Bound, but I surmise that Outward Bound only enhanced the value system Pam grew up with.
Pam served Minnesota Outward Bound for twenty-three years. Her’s is a remarkable legacy of leadership, made all the more remarkable by the fact that, when she joined Outward Bound, she was one of only four women serving in administrative roles across the entire network nationwide.
Outward Bound was an old boy’s club back then. The world was an old boy’s club back then.
Pam was Director of Admissions when Derek Pritchard swanned into Minnesota Outward Bound’s Franklin Avenue office in Minneapolis. Derek was young, new to the organization, self-assured and out to impress. He had never met Pam and he was smoking a cigar. Pam was not smoking a cigar, and she was not impressed.
Derek: “Pam took one look at me and said:
Nice to meet you. If you’re going to smoke that in this office, I’m going to quit right now and I won’t come back.
She was very clear. So I quit smoking.”
Pam and Derek became leadership colleagues and life-long friends. Pam will tell you, “My personal experience of leadership is that you have to put yourself out there, and then you have to choose how you apply your values to each situation in life. It isn’t easy, but that’s how you do it.”
As a man, I’ll never fully understand the number and nature of tough choices Pam and other women leaders have made as they blazed trails through the sixties and subsequent decades. But I can appreciate the strength of character it took to stay the course in a male-dominated world that wasn’t always ready to welcome or learn from women in leadership. To say this trail blazing took courage is likely a big understatement.
What I can say about Pam and the pioneering women of Outward Bound is that they have taught me that people have been doing hard things all along. To paraphrase Tennyson, Outward Bound and Pam, “We serve, we strive and we try not to yield.” Sometimes the struggle is visible, sometimes invisible.
In the midst of this pandemic and economic storm, when our team is trying very hard to figure out how to serve students safely and how best to resume the work of changing lives, Pam reminds us that we can live by our values, even in tough times. We just have to figure out how to apply our values today, and tomorrow, and the next day.
If we consistently apply our values as we make tough decisions, we’ll be a long way toward the Outward Bound vision of a more compassionate world. Leadership may sometimes be about compromise, but not about compromising values.
All Outward Bound schools across the country share four common values: compassion, integrity, excellence and inclusion, but Voyageur Outward Bound decided several years ago that safety was so important to us, we should embrace it as our fifth value, and it has been ever since.
As we face the challenges of Coronavirus, Pam’s steadfast approach to leadership reminds us not to yield VOBS’ values, especially safety, and above all compassion.
Why “above all compassion?”
It is our experience that integrity, excellence, inclusion and safety create compassion.
We believe that to be truly compassionate, one must enact the other four values.
Pam, thank you for your leadership and your service. Thank you for blazing a trail for women and teaching the world to look to you to learn and grow. As the women of Outward Bound forged ahead, their inclusion (an Outward Bound value) eventually created a path for non-binary folks too.
Today at Voyageur Outward Bound, female-identifying people are in the majority. Four of the five members of our leadership team are women. More than half of all our staff, including Field Instructors, identify as women. We have a fund named in honor of VOBS trail blazer, Jean Replinger, that provides scholarships for female-identifying and non-binary students to go Outward Bound.
Pam and her peers stayed the course and created lasting change. Their courage and persistence prove to us that VOBS can stay the course too. This organization can survive and thrive so long as we apply our values as we make decisions– it might be harder to make the right decision today, but compassionate leadership is often inconvenient.
We’ll serve, we’ll strive and we will not yield our values.
It is my pleasure to introduce you to Pam Anderson, in her own words:
Q: How are you connected to Outward Bound? What is your history with the organization?
A: Well I was born and raised in Ely, Minnesota, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was my playground. My family spent a lot of time out there at a family cabin. I finished two years of college in Ely and, in 1967, I transferred to the University of Minnesota Business School. I was one of only four women in the whole program. I struggled with that, and ended up taking a break. I joined, what was then called, “Minnesota Outward Bound School,” in 1969 and enjoyed a career with MOBS for twenty-three years.
When I first started with Outward Bound, we were in an office on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, and I was the Admissions Director. I worked for nine months in Minneapolis and then spent three months up at Homeplace every summer. At the time, I was one of only four women to work across Outward Bound in the U.S. It was a man’s world at the University, and it was a man’s world at Outward Bound, until we blazed the trail for women.
In 1965, Minnesota Outward Bound School ran the first course for young women. Later on, we would become the first school to run courses for people with physical disabilities. And later still, we would be the first school to run a course for professional adults. We blazed a lot of trails, and it wasn’t easy.
I worked with Outward Bound Directors across the country, and interacted with leaders at the National office as well. Lot’s of men. I remember bantering with Peter Willauer, who was Director of Hurricane Island Outward Bound (HIOBS) at the time. He was having a hard time imagining young women enrolling on Hurricane Island’s famously tough sailing courses. I told Peter that when HIOBS started enrolling women, I would be one of the first out there on the water. I kept my promise. I did indeed complete a ten day women’s sailing course at Hurricane Island.
Q: What was your most powerful Outward Bound experience?
A: I have seen firsthand the difference an Outward Bound course can make in so many people’s lives. Personally, I try to live by this Outward Bound motto:
To serve, to strive and not to yield.
Outward Bound reminds me to enact the values I grew up with. I learned service from my family. I saw how they treated other people in our community. My family gave me that ethic of service, an ethic that continues in Outward Bound and the other mission-driven nonprofits I have worked with here in Minnesota. Both WomenVenture, where I spent ten years, and Helping Paws, which I joined seventeen years ago, serve people and create positive change.
I was originally going to be an accountant, and I did become one eventually, but all of my leadership roles have been with service organizations. Outward Bound values have carried me through my career. You have to put yourself out there, especially as a woman in leadership, but it’s how you choose to apply your values that makes the difference and creates personal integrity.
Q: How has Outward Bound changed your life?
A: I wouldn’t say Outward Bound changed my life. Instead, I would say that Outward Bound enhanced my life by teaching me the power of believing in oneself, caring and showing compassion and providing service to others– family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers. We are all in this together. A smile, a please, and a thank you have gotten me pretty far.
Q: How do you serve your community today?
A: After Outward Bound, I was Development Director at WomenVenture for ten years and then spent two years in Development at the Animal Humane Society. For the last seventeen years, I have served as Co-Director at Helping Paws.
Our mission at Helping Paws is to further people’s independence and quality of life through the use of Assistance Dogs. We breed, train and place service dogs with individuals. Our dogs are matched to people who need them– those with physical disabilities, veterans and first responders with PTSD, victims of trauma and witnesses to crimes. Our dogs support adults and children alike.
Like VOBS, Helping Paws operations have been interrupted by COVID. Like Outward Bound, we are learning how to deliver online training and services, but we can’t match dogs and people until the coast is clear. We’ve had to cancel our in-person gala and move to virtual fundraising– we need all the help we can get!
Q: How does Outward Bound help you cope with the current crisis?
A: In some ways, coping with quarantine is no different than being on an Outward Bound solo, with the added amenities of home and my dog! I just continue to serve, continue to strive and try not to yield.
Q: Why should others go Outward Bound?
A: No matter where you are in your lifelong journey, Outward Bound gives you an opportunity to escape from the everyday, and reflect on where you have been and where you want to go. You get to interrupt your patterns and habits, your status quo, and you have an opportunity to see yourself differently.
Outward Bound will challenge you physically and, with positive reinforcement and encouragement from your Instructors and crew members, you can accept emotional challenges too. You can take a risk and try something new. Reflect on your life, then build on what is possible. That’s Outward Bound.
VOBS will not yield.
This pandemic may prevent us from serving people today, but we will serve future leaders tomorrow. We need you now more than ever.
Girls, women and non-binary alumni, we invite you to share your Outward Bound story.
Learn more about the trail blazers. See the documentary by alum, Max Davis.