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Sunday Talks with JU

I am so proud (and psyched) to serve as the Chair of Camp’s Board of Trustees. As part of the Board’s commitment to communicating with the Camp Family and keeping you informed about who we are and what we are doing to plan ahead and to make Camp the best it can be, we created this “Sunday Talks” blog. You can expect to see a post from me here most Sundays.  Please always feel free to contact me directly at chair@campdudley.org.  And rest assured, the Board’s work is all about what you would expect — love, having fun, leadership, and the Other Fellow First.

Much love, JU # 11904

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Sunday Talks Blog

11.27.22 - Sunday Talk

Like a lot of Dudley guys of my generation, I have spent a lot of time contemplating and appreciating the acquisition, opening and development of Camp Kiniya, as a part of our Camp Family. I first joined the Board twenty years ago and participated in the discussions surrounding whether to open a grils camp, Later, I worked on the transaction that enabled us to purchase Camp Kiniya. And I was part of the Board that formally approved the purchase of Camp Kiniya in May 2006, just in time to begin its association with Camp Dudley that summer. It was exactly what the Dudley Family needed and it was one of the proudest achievements of my life.

 

Because of that history — and the fact that my wife and I sent three daughters through Kiniya, one of whom was still on staff this past summer — I feel deep personal investment in Camp Kiniya and its major milestones. I was so proud to be present at Coleman Dining Hall in the summer of 2018, when Kiniya’s founder, Helen Van Buren, became the first Kiniya alum to receive Camp’s Person of the Year Award. And this year I am again so happy to have had the chance to cast my vote in favor of electing the first Kiniya alum ever to become a voting member Camp’s Board — #19231 Kari McKinley. We know Kari will be an amazing trustee because she has already served four years in our boardroom during her time as the first female officer (and later president) of what was then known as the Camp Dudley Association. Beyond her talents, she will bring a novel perspective to the Board table — that of a Kiniya alum; an insider who lived and worked in the Kiniya community, including in the cabins with the kids. It’s been a long time coming (17 years to be exact) and Kiniya’s alums are finally ready to join Camp’s Board.

 

In coming years, we fully expect that Kari will be joined and later followed by others who served as Kiniya leaders and staff members. Before long, we will add women who came to Kiniya as campers, worked their way up through the ranks as campers, leadership trainees, and leaders, remained connected with Camp, and ultimately earned election to the Board. It is another way in which women will finally assume the same privileges and experiences the Camp has long afforded men. And another way in which Camp will benefit from the talents and insights of alumna in the same ways that it has long benefitted from the contributions of its alumni — and likely in ways that we have not yet imagined. Can you blame me for feeling enormous pride and optimism for Camp’s future. Camp Kiniya never ceases to amaze me.

 

Much love,

JU #11904

11.20.22 - Sunday Talk

Several years ago, I led a Board initiative that focuses on keeping camp affordable for working families. It resulted in our current tiered pricing program. My closest partner in that effort was Evan George, who coordinated communications with the directors, drafted and revised much of our written materials on affordability, and helped to devise the new tuition structure. Earlier this year, I began this blog to communicate directly with the Camp Family about our Board and it’s work. Brendan “Lefty” Loughman leapt into the breach to help me develop a form for the posts, to provide photographs and often to advise on content and suggest revisions. And it’s been a weekly effort for Lefty, all year long. These are just two examples of the many points of collaboration between Camp’s Board and the dedicated year-round staff team that is the backbone of our operations.

 

Jamie Johnson and his team at Dudley and Tom Brayden and his team at Kiniya keep the campuses in first rate shape and help the Board to understand Camp’s building needs and to plan for future capital projects like staff housing at Kiniya or what may be needed on the Frisbie Farm campus. Dave Langston and Dawn Gay work closely with the Board’s development and alumni relations team, coordinating our fundraising efforts and helping us to understand how the Board can support them. In addition to supporting me in this blog, Lefty has supports a wide range of communication efforts that keep the community connected. Jesse Smith keeps the Board informed about Camp’s finances and how we will find various operations and and initiatives. His input is critical to our planning efforts. Evan George and Liz Moore keep the Board connected with our leadership development efforts, which are so central to what Camp does. And both of them seem to have so much broader involvement on everything from building community partnerships to send kids to Camp to providing professional advice and support for our leaders and trainees, to advising on diversity issues at Camp. And, of course, the amazing Anita Johnson is so central to our operations and seems to have a solution for every problem.

 

As trustees, it’s always important for us to remember our roles and one way we do that is to be sure we don’t burden the staff too much with our well-meaning creativity. Frankly, our year-round staff can make it hard to remember that rule. They are motivated and creative people who bring so much depth of both knowledge and wisdom to Board discussions. And they are terrific people who have become our friends and we love being with them. At Thanksgiving this year, I remember and thank this terrific team of professionals. Camp is so lucky to have them making sure that every season (even fall, winter and spring) is another “best ever.”

 

Much love, JU #11904

11.13.22 - Sunday Talk

It’s Friday evening. I’m preparing to talk to an organization named “East Meets West” tomorrow morning. We’re going to talk about Camp Kiniya and Camp Dudley. East Meets West is located near Pasadena, California. That’s 2,856 miles from Westport, New York and 2,895 miles from Colchester, Vermont. The group is comprised almost completely of Chinese-American kids and their parents. Most of the parents are first generation immigrants from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China. It’s not the first time I have spoken to kids and families about Kiniya and Dudley and not the first time I have talked about Camp with a mostly Chinese audience. I have a few slides prepared and will borrow one of Brendan “Lefty” Loughman’s amazing videos to show to the crowd. I expect they will be very impressed with our facilities and our program and have a lot of questions about sending their kids so far away from home — everything from how you get from the airport to Camp to where they will sleep and whether a Chinese kid from Southern California will fit in at our camps.

 

The idea of talking about Camp to a large group of strangers used to make me very nervous. I’m not #20001 Marnie McDonough or #13804 Matt Storey. I don’t do this for a living. And what if I say something wrong? They’re well-rehearsed and they know everything about Camp. I give these talks occasionally and my knowledge is limited. But once I got in front of the first group, I realized that I didn’t have to know it all. I could present based on my experience, make a general introduction to Camp and rely on Camp’s amazing materials to fill in additional details. After all, my job wasn’t to know everything there is to know. It was to share my love of Camp in a way that might inspire a kid or a family to explore further. And maybe we could end up making a difference in that kid’s life or even opening a door to kids and families in a community we had not served before.

 

Alumni often approach me asking what they can do for Camp. I have a lot of answers to that question and it obviously depends on the alum. But one thing we can all do is be ambassadors for Dudley and Kiniya. For some of us that will mean making personal connections to family members, friends and co-workers who have camp-aged kids. For others it will mean forging lasting connections with community youth organizations that serve kids in communities — geographic, ethnic, religious — that Camp would like to reach. And some of us will play my role, talking with youth and other community organizations in hopes of inspiring a few families to take that leap of faith and send their kids to Camp. Then those kids, who are always our best ambassadors, can share their love and enthusiasm for Kiniya and Dudley and really help us build a long lasting relationship with their schools, their friends and their communities. To paraphrase my friend #8804 John Storey, recruiting is everyone’s business. With the 2023 recruiting season in full swing, won’t you get out there and bring us another generation of kids and families whose lives Camp can change?

 

Much love, JU #11904

11.6.22 - Sunday Talk

This past Monday morning, I and thousands of other alums received an email from Harvard University President Larry Bacow, who was writing about the Supreme Court oral arguments scheduled for later that day, in a challenge to the University’s use of diversity as a factor in its admissions decisions. In his note, President Bacow made a special point to explain the importance of diversity at Harvard:

 

Whatever promise we hold as individuals—for ourselves and for our world—is not predicated on narrowly structured measures of academic distinction. When Harvard assembles a class of undergraduates, it matters that they come from different social, economic, geographical, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. It matters that they come to our campus with varied academic interests and skill sets. Research and lived experience teach us that each student’s learning experience is enriched by encountering classmates who grew up in different circumstances.

 

He could as easily have been writing about Camp Kiniya and Camp Dudley. We have put a heavy emphasis on improving diversity at Camp for a long time. And that emphasis has only increased over the past three years. At the Board level, it is fair to say that diversity, equity and inclusion have received as much attention as any other issue we have considered over that time. Indeed, we spent several hours on DEI topics at our most recent meeting last month and I expect we will do so again when we reconvene in February. Why do we do we spend so much time on this topic? Foremost among our reasons are: (1) our desire to be sure that Camp serves a wide range of communities, including those who were historically excluded from our programs; (2) our concern that Camp will need to do even better to reach and recruit from the increasingly diverse communities that make up the United States if we are to remain viable in the future; and (3) our abiding belief, as President Bacow explained, that living and collaborating with campers, leaders and staff who grow up in different communities and different circumstances improves Camp for everyone.

 

We also understand that it is critical for us to be active and vigilant with respect to DEI. We know that, despite our best intentions, diversity, equity and inclusion have not always flowed naturally from our Camp motto: “the Other Fellow First.” There was a time long ago in our history when, notwithstanding our motto, Camp regularly sponsored a “minstrel show,” in which white performers donned “blackface” and caricatured and lampooned stereotyped images of Black people. Similarly, Camp sponsored an annual “Indian Pageant” until the 1950s. While it was intended to honor Native American culture, we now understand that such pageants often similarly exploit stereotypes about Native Americans and are hurtful and offensive to many. Neither a minstrel show nor an Indian pageant would be acceptable at Camp today (nor would they have been for many decades past) and we are sorry that they are part of our history and that the history of both events was sometimes told uncritically in later years. Camp must obviously reckon with these uncomfortable facts from the past. One way we are doing that is taking to heart the need to be intentional and purposeful with respect to diversity and not simply relying on our motto to guide us to do the right thing. As we look back on the past six decades, we can record enormous progress with respect to diversity at Camp. That has been the result of hard work and focus by our Directors, Staff and Board. Kiniya and Dudley remain committed to diversity as a means to improve Camp for everyone and to continue in the hard work that has already been done and is ongoing every day. We have achieved great things and we are not finished.

 

Much love, JU #11904

10.30.22 - Sunday Talk

A few weeks ago, I got a text one Wednesday afternoon from #20001 Marnie McDonagh. #24014 Tom Brayden had let her know that a house at 939 Camp Kiniya Road, two doors down (and just .3 miles from Camp’s entrance) on the Kiniya Road, had been put up for sale at a reasonable price. The house was recently renovated and presented important opportunities for Camp Kiniya. Could we talk about it immediately because the sale of the property was likely to move quickly? I agreed to get on a telephone call that same afternoon and learned that the seller was already arranging for potential buyers to view the property later in the week and would be taking offers by no later than Sunday. Marnie and Tom quickly arranged to see the property on Friday and our Board and staff team swung into action. Later that day, trustee #25075 Leslee MacKenzie, who is a leading realtor in the Burlington area, arranged for one of her company’s brokers to represent Camp in the negotiation. The broker accompanied Marnie and Tom to the viewing and helped to put together a competitive offer that we presented on Friday. By Sunday evening, the seller had reviewed its offers and decided to sell the property to Camp. The sale closed earlier this month. It was a remarkable effort at lightning speed and we are so much better off for the purchase.

 

Kiniya’s ownership of the property allows us to control whether and how a parcel so close to our Colchster campus will be developed in the future. It is also a turn key property — ready to be put to use immediately. The new house allows us to provide at least some additional staff housing in 2023, as we work through longer term solutions to housing for senior staff and their families at Kiniya.

 

The identification and purchase of this property was terrific leadership by Marnie and Tom. The new property will help to alleviate some of our immediate staff housing needs, while also allowing us breathing room to think through permanent solutions and address some of the hurdles that must be cleared to make them a reality. It was also a remarkable Board-Staff effort, led primarily by Marnie, Tom, Leslee, Camp’s business manager #22827 Jesse Smith, and Board Treasurer #13565 Chris Rodgers (who knows a thing or two about acquiring and developing property in Vermont). These folks had the vision to see the importance of this transaction and found the time to make it happen at the breakneck pace of the current Burlington-area real estate market. And for the debt hawks (like me) out there, you should know that we purchased the property without incurring any debt. Thanks to these folks’ leadership and hard work, Camp Kiniya remains debt free and is in an even better position today than it was when the camp season ended just over two months ago.

 

Much love, JU #11904

10.23.22 - Sunday Talk

In the summer of 1939, Camp Dudley acquired nearly 300 acres of woods on the other side of what is now Route 9N. The rustic property offered a cascading mountain stream and multiple sites for overnight trips close to the Westport campus. Camp quickly made Stacy Brook outings a core part of the regular routine of cabin life and our outdoors program. Despite the legend later told to unsuspecting cubbies, the property did not offer a “country club,” but it did come with a well appointed farmhouse that could have fooled some when it was in good repair.

 

Eighty-three years later, you might think we know all there is to know about a property Camp has owned so long. And yet two years ago #13804 Matt Storey was solo trekking at Stacy Brook, as a break from the confinement of the pandemic, and discovered an entirely new campsite that was perfect for cabin suppers and overnights. Camp began using it in 2021.

 

What’s the message here? Something about finding new possibilities in Camp’s assets and programs. The remarkable nature of our properties and the new gifts they continue to offer year after year. Or the vision and creativity of our leadership and the new perspectives they acquire and share by taking a different approach or looking at Camp from another angle. After 138 years at Dudley and 105 at Kiniya, our remarkable camps still hold much that we have yet to discover. And we are fortunate enough to live and work in a creative and inquisitive community full of people who never tire of seeking new ways to make our great programs even better. I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow brings.

 

Much love, JU #11904

10.16.22 - Sunday Talk

The Adirondacks were in full fall foliage splendor as your Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya Board of Trustees gathered in Westport for our final in-person meeting of 2022. We began on Friday afternoon with a hike through the Stacy Brook property, which suffered some spectacular damage, largely to trees, in a recent micro-burst storm. The overnight sites remained intact and will be up and running in summer 2023. After we returned to Camp, we heard from Jake Young, who is communications director at Brave Trails Camps, which run camps for LGBTQ+ young people in California and Maryland. Jake reaffirmed a lot of what our camps are doing well to welcome and support LGBTQ+ campers, leadership and staff and offered suggestions for our consideration about how we can improve. We closed the day with a boisterous Board-Staff dinner at MacLean Lodge. #20005 Gail Coleman came out of retirement to cook a feast and we roasted our departing trustee #24878 Diane Calello and bid her farewell. Later in the evening, a number of trustees repaired to the Middlebury Outdoor Pavilion for additional fellowship opportunities.

Saturday morning, we were back at it early. The Board convened at the Hank Poler Leadership Barn for a fulsome day of discussions. We heard about Camp’s finances, which were squarely in the black notwithstanding the runaway inflation of 2022, as well as our fundraising and development efforts, which are on pace for another banner year. #15198 Ben Cady introduced a remarkable slate of nominees to join the Board in 2023 and the Board elected #19231 Kari McKinley (who is now the first Kiniya alum to have been elected to the Board), #15389 Tom Pohlad, Nicky Hilton-Patterson (who is the outgoing director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative), and Robin Wells as new trustees. This group brings substantive excellence and a breadth of expertise. They are also possibly the most diverse class of trustees ever elected on a variety of axes (including geography, ethnicity, gender and LGBTQ+). They will expand our Board to 21 trustees and will make us a better Board and a better Camp.

Looking back, 2022 has been an important year for the Board. Among other things, we retired of Camp’s debt, authorized the purchase of new property, laid the groundwork for an environmental strategic plan, outlined a long range plan for keeping camp affordable, moved forward with implementing our 2021 DEI Action Plan, and evaluated Camp’s delivery of enhanced healthcare and mental health support. In the coming weeks, we will settle on our strategic priorities and action items for 2023, many of which are clearly in focus already. And we will continue to communicate with you here about our strategic efforts to assure Camp’s long term viability and to make it an even better place. Stay tuned.

 

Much love, JU #11904

10.2.22 - Sunday Talk

This past summer I visited Kiniya and Dudley during the first week in August. One thing that stood out, which I did not expect, was the heat. The temperature was over 90 degrees every day I was there, hotter in Westport than it was in Colchester. Exploring the topic further, I learned that the number of 90 degree days is increasing and that the North Country is not immune from the hotter summers that people have experienced in many parts of the country in recent years. One of the remarkable accomplishments of our staff and leadership teams was their ability to get their jobs done with a smile and deliver the outstanding program that characterizes Kiniya and Dudley, even in the extreme heat. It was done with a lot of patience and a lot of water games.

 

As we look forward, the hotter summer temperatures and the inconsistency in the quality of the water in Lake Champlain (which forced some waterfront closures in 2021, although not this past summer) have led the Board and our Directors to renew out conversation about investing in swimming pools on both our campuses. The discussion has just begun, but it is one that may move quickly. On the positive side, pools will offer many more opportunities for water activities that allow campers to beat the increased heat. They will allow us to expand offerings like swim lessons, and life saving instruction and to make our pool facilities available to local groups in the late spring and early fall. We think kids and leaders will love them. Conversely, we understand that Camp has traditionally used Lake Champlain as its waterfront. We do not believe that swimming pools would be a substitute for the lake. To the contrary, we believe they will increase our program options and make Camp more fun. We also know that pools will be costly to construct and that there is risk associated with them. All these points and more will be part of the Board’s discussion.

 

It bears emphasis that questions surrounding whether to build swimming pools cut to the core of the Board’s strategic considerations. How do we assure Camp’s long term viability in a time of increased summer temperatures? How do we adapt our program to changes in the environment (in this case, higher temperatures and less reliable lake conditions)? Will the availability of clear water swimming areas where you can see and touch the bottom increase the accessibility of swimming and water games for campers with less developed swimming skills? If so, does that enable us to make camp available to a more diverse range of campers? In what other ways can swimming pools help Camp and, relatedly, what considerations counsel against building them? This is the meaty work of the Board’s strategic considerations of building swimming pools and a wide range of other issues. It is what is exciting about doing this work and collaborating with the thoughtful and talented professionals on our Board — banded together to assure an even brighter future for Kiniya and Dudley.

 

Much love, JU #11904

9.25.22 - Sunday Talk

In a hit song about 40 years ago, Don Henley famously wrote, “I can tell you my love for you will still be strong after the boys of summer have gone.” That could be a theme song for the Camp Kiniya and Camp Dudley Board of Trustees. Of course, we all know that summer is what it is all about at Camp. The kids are on campus. The program is in full swing. We are providing fun and fellowship, teaching leadership and the Other Fellow First, and preparing another generation for lives devoted to the service of others and their communities. That’s why the Board, Directors, and Staff do what they do and we love it. But for those of us who support Camp’s planning efforts, September is when we start to get busy.

 

With the summer of 2022 distantly in the rearview mirror, your Board has long since begun its work on the 2023 season. In the weeks since Camp ended, we have heard from our directors about the successes and opportunities for growth at Camp this summer and what they perceive as likely challenges as to which the Board may need to support our Directors and their teams. We have advanced the process of selecting the new trustees whom we will elect to join the Board in January. We have made significant strides toward concluding our 2022 strategic initiatives — on implementing our DEI action plan; developing an environmental strategic plan; continuing our work to keep camp affordable; expand Camp’s healthcare and mental health support; and plan for future capital projects on each campus. In a month, the Board will meet for its third and final time in 2022 and we have much to accomplish both before and after that meeting. (For those familiar with the traditional Board schedule, we are piloting a calendar in which we conduct three two-day meetings per year, instead of four meetings that range in length from a half day to two days.)

 

As you might expect, our focus has longer range than just completing our busy agenda for 2022. We are also turning our attention to the Board’s strategic efforts for 2023 and beyond. The future is the present at the Board table. The majority of what we do is planning to support Camp’s efforts in future years and to assure its viability and financial security. I will report more on those discussions and considerations after our October meeting. The boys and girls of summer are gone. But the old boys and old girls on the Board are just getting started. Much as we love the summer, autumn is the beginning of the good part for us — the much longer season in which we fulfill our sacred commitment to Camp and have a lot of fun doing it. I’m so psyched for fall!

9.18.22 - Sunday Talk

This is a joyous weekend at Camp.  Our own #20001 Marnie McDonagh was married to her fiancé Stephen Dybas yesterday at Camp Kiniya.  The stars aligned for perfect weather, which can be a gamble in Colchester in the fall.  The Camp Family and Marnie’s friends and supporters on the year-round team and the Board, and in staff and leadership could not be happier.  And it seemed a natural moment to celebrate Marnie and everything she means to Camp.

 

I have served on the Board for a long time.  2023, which is just around the corner, will mark 20 years since my first year as a trustee (then called managers) in 2003.  That means I have participated in a number of momentous decisions over the past generation, but none so rewarding as the Board’s decision to purchase Camp Kiniya and begin operating our camp for girls there in 2006.  One thing that was apparent when we first engaged with Kiniya’s former owners in 2004 and 2005 was that among the most important assets that came with camp was its outstanding director — a young woman named Marnie.  Marnie’s skills were apparent from the outset.  She adeptly facilitated our discussions to purchase camp, helping Jack and Marilyn Williams to acclimate to the reality of selling their beloved Kiniya and bringing both sides together in a cooperative negotiation with Camp Dudley’s leadership that led to the opening of our girls program far earlier than anyone would have predicted.  Marnie understood the importance of girls camps then, as she does now, and she had the vision to see how Dudley’s purchase of Kiniya would allow her beloved camp to live and grow in perpetuity and become a beacon for girls camping in the United States.

 

Over the years, Marnie has evolved as a leader and Camp Kiniya has evolved as an institution, assuming and advancing Camp Dudley’s motto and mission, while delivering on them in unique ways that could not have been anticipated in 2006.  After all, Camp Dudley without boys and without Westport was a wholly new venture at that time.  In the 17 seasons that followed, we have seen Marnie emerge as a legendary director —only Willie, Bob Marshall and Chief served longer— and develop a Camp with its own identity — a different approach to core Camp traditions like hymn sing, team competition and awards, with its own hymn, cheer and traditions like Kiwi Night.  Marnie has been a creative force, rebuilding the entire Kiniya campus, one building at a time, while also remaining sensitive to the surrounding environment.  She has done nothing short of converting the camp she always loved into an eternal institution in the Camp Family and outfitting it to serve campers for the next hundred years.  As Marnie and Stephen take this momentous step in their lives together, we should all step back and sound our appreciation and love for Marnie and everything she means to Camp.

 

Much love, JU #11904

9.11.22 - Sunday Talk

On the first Sunday in August, I joined the final leader-staff meeting of the 2022 season at Camp Dudley. As we walked over to the area behind the Brodie building, #13804 Matt Storey reminding me the I had agreed to say something to the group. And sure enough, toward the end of the meeting, he called on me to speak. I read to the team from my blog post that week, which lauded their high energy and sensitivity to our motto and mission. And then I turned briefly to the future. Especially to the leaders who were “aging out” for lack of a better term — whose time on campus was ending— I said, “I want you to know that you have a future at Camp. You can look back to 2011-12 when many of the most senior leaders were cubs. And you can look forward that same amount of time and many of you will be active in leadership the Dudley Kiniya Alumni Association and preparing yourselves for service on Camp’s Board.” Among the 38 or so leaders present, I told them, I have not doubt that at least five of them will serve on the Board in the future. And the same is thankfully true at Camp Kiniya, where members of our first generation of Kiniya alums are finally becoming trustees — as #19231 Kari McKinley and #21013 Bear McKani have already done.

 

It is critical for us to educate the Camp Family about the many stages of a Kiniya or Dudley lifetime. To be sure, the experiences that bind most of us are the camper, leadership training, Leader and staff years. But Camp continues for those who remain involved. And it breathes life into our institution for members of the community to know that early and for them to start thinking like the trustees they will become. What are Camp’s future needs? How will we plan for them? And what can I do about it? Those are healthy questions for our 18-22-year-old leaders to be considering. And we, as a board, can benefit so much from their leadership and fresh ideas, as I did on both campuses during my visits last month.

 

In truth, the discussion can and should start much earlier. I make a point of asking the Kiniya and Dudley campers I know what they think Camp is doing well and how we might improve it. I am asking because I really want the reality check of the camper perspective. After all, they are the people for whom we are doing all this hard work. But I also ask because I believe campers, too, can and should think like trustees. What can we do to preserve and improve our camps? Our 10-14 year-olds have a lot of very useful ideas and allowing them to sharpen their strategic planning skills and focus on the future of Camp can only benefit the whole Camp Family 30 to 40 years from now, when Kiniya and Dudley will still be going strong under their leadership. As I told Dudley’s Cub division on Friday night before that Sunday staff meeting, in the future one of you will be the Board chair and talk with all the cubbies and many of you will be the leaders who make camp an even better place. On the anniversary of September 11, a day of infamy that was an ending for so many and to so much of our way of thinking and living, my thoughts are drawn to Camp and this spirit of constant renewal in our leadership that gives me such great confidence in our future.

 

Much love, JU #11904

9.4.22 - Sunday Talk

In the summer of 1977, I was just like any other plebe. Loving Camp. Doing Plebe things and not standing out in any particular way. Then #10617 Rodger Stebbins agreed to accompany me on the guitar as I sang The Beatles’ song “Yesterday” during a Wednesday Night Show. And it changed everything. Suddenly, I became known as a kid who could sing. I ended up in the Evening of Music and the Big Show and went on to sing before Dudley audiences countless times and later for many other audiences in far-flung places. The influence of Dudley’s music program on my confidence and my life has been immeasurable. It is the reason I feel comfortable in front of a large crowd or even a hostile appellate court. Camp taught me that I can sing.

 

Of course, music has been core to the programs at Kiniya and Dudley from the beginning. Kiniya’s original programming in the 1920s involved quite a lot of music instruction. Meanwhile at Dudley, the music program has flourished under the leadership of luminaries like #4615 Hank Ready, #4464 Johnny Jones, #9373 Pete Edwards, #13322 Karen Bartholomew, #8760 Stu Hemingway, and #14866 James Mayo, among others. But that doesn’t even begin to tell the tale of the countless camp musicians who contributed to the soundtracks of our summers from #12931 Scott Sylvester to #17682 Sam Luke to Kiniya’s own #21013 Bear McKani, Piper Higgins and Giulia Campagna. Or the many events where music is blaring or being played brilliantly (or even poorly) from swim meets to lacrosse games, from hymn sing and chapel, to the Wednesday Night and Council Ring and Mellowfest, and of course the Rhythm Ramblers and the Big Show. It’s easy to think of music as an accompaniment to the Camp experience, but for so many of us, it has been at the core of what Kiniya and Dudley mean.

 

That was partly why I asked the Board of Trustees to help me compile a playlist this summer. I asked each trustee to choose up to two songs that they identify with Camp for whatever reason and to send me the songs and explain the reasons. The result is the playlist attached below. It was intended to be a diversion — some fun for the Board in the summertime. After all, having fun is part of Camp’s mission. But it also revealed that, even among your Board, music is an enormous part of Camp. Every trustee responded and the passion and often the emotion behind the explanations of the choices were moving. The Board’s playlist is linked below. We hope others will answer the challenge it presents — can we have a 2022 leaders’ playlist? a staff playlist? an Aide/JL/AL playlist of the future? Bring it on folks, let’s hear the wide range of selections that people believe is truly the music of Camp.

 

Much love, JU #11904

 

Listen to the playlist!
Apple Music
Spotify

8.28.22 - Sunday Talk

1989 was my last summer as a leader. It was an interesting year. Most of my cohort of leaders, mainly guys who started in leadership around 1985, had finished their Camp careers, and I found myself surrounded by leaders of the next generation and having to build relationships with those whose time would come mostly after mine — and it was not just leaders. One week I stayed around Westport on my day off. I had lunch at the Country Club and played nine holes afterward. (If you have ever seen me play golf, well, let’s just leave it at that….) My foursome involved three 15-year-old aides — #13804 Matt Storey, #14107 Jay Wells, and #13564 Jeff MacBean. How they got the afternoon off to play golf with me away from campus, I cannot say. But they spent the entire time correcting everything I did on the course. And I had the best round I ever played before or since and a terrific DO.

 

Three weeks ago, I was on the Dudley campus with another group of young men. This time I was sharpening my budding guitar skills (that’s a generous description). I sat atop Hafner Hill with a borrowed acoustic, doing my best with “Scarborough Fair,” Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” and Jorma Kaukonen’s “Genesis.” A few minutes into it, Dudley senior #25254 Carson Wasbes, who is known at Camp as an accomplished bluegrass guitarist at the age of 14, joined me. He listened and played some of his own music and introduced me to some scales and bluegrass picking techniques. It was not long before 17 year-old AL #24221 Sam Harris, whom I had seen coaching on the cub diamond earlier that day, joined the jam and offered me his advice. I was clearly the one with the most to learn in that trio. And these generous young Dudleyites were only too happy to teach me in a positive and constructive way and to share their own stories and aspirations as they did. What an amazing morning!

 

Camp is a place where older generations learn from younger ones. We take our campers and leadership seriously and value their ideas and contributions. And they often inform the decisions we make because this institution is and always will be one that focuses on the next generation — reaching them; hearing them; weaving them into the continuum of boys and girls through the years that is Camp Kiniya and Camp Dudley, and supporting them as they make the world better. At the Board level, the wisdom of our younger generations has informed our strategic decisions surrounding environmental strategy and how to plan for climate changes that affect our programming; diversity, equity and inclusion and how to build a Camp that even more fully includes people from all backgrounds, healthcare and mental health delivery for a generation whose use of those resources is more complex than ever before, and LGBTQ inclusion for a generation in which fully 30% of people identify as part of that community. And these are just a few examples. It is no accident that our oldest (#8580 Bob Craft) and youngest (#20608 Martha McKinley) trustees are close friends. At Camp, the younger generations lead and it is important for those of us in older generations to engage, listen, collaborate and follow.

 

Much love, JU #11904

8.21.22 - Sunday Talk

Reunion is back — FINALLY!! Over 200 alumni and friends have descended on Camp Dudley this weekend for our annual summer reunion for the first time in three years. A lot has happened since the last time we met as a Camp Family on the shores of Lake Champlain in the aftermath of a Camp season. One significant development is a new name for the Reunion, as the Camp Dudley Association (“CDA”) changed its name to the Dudley Kiniya Alumni Association (“DKAA”), in recognition of its service to two camps over the past generation and into the long future. Of course, a lot has also stayed the same, as you might expect from a place as rooted in tradition as Camp often is. Our DKAA Reunion weekend began at the Hank Poler Leadership Barn, where #11889 Dwight Poler and #10555 Dave Langston hosted a recognition event for the donors who helped Camp to exceed its $10 million dollar goal for the recently completed Building For the Future capital campaign. Friday night was what you would expect at Reunion — dinner on main campus in front of Beckman Hall and music and fellowship until all hours at Witherbee Hall. Saturday, of course, was the big day — hiking in the Adirondacks, golf on the Westport course and the evening program in Witherbee. We finally got to recognize our Persons of the Year for 2020 (the first responders in the Camp Family) and 2021 (#7582 Stu and #8276 Charlie Updike) in-person. And the DKAA named #8191 Alf Kaemmerlen as this year’s recipient of Camp’s highest alumni honor. The evening closed with a beautiful and spiritual hymn sing led by #17883 Kutako Komaheke. Three years later, the Camp Family is still the Camp Family.

 

Your Camp Kiniya and Camp Dudley Board was out in force. Although we no longer conduct a meeting on reunion weekend, your trustees understand the importance of coming to campus, circulating among the community, sharing our thoughts and activities with all of you, and hearing from you about your questions and ideas. Your energy and insights are critical to our work. So 14 of our 19 elected trustees were at Camp for all or part of this weekend’s festivities —not to mention #20001 Marnie McDonagh, #13804 Matt Storey, and DKAA co-president #17982 Matt McElroy, who all also sit on the Board and were at the center of the action and planning. And trustee #25793 Monique Jones closed the weekend with a powerful chapel sermon reminding us that there’s no place like home.

 

As for me, well, COVID reared its ugly head and kept me away from Westport. Still testing positive on Friday and Saturday, I had to miss Reunion for the first time since 2000. And, boy, did I miss it! But it was another opportunity for Camp to teach its essential lesson. As Marnie and Matt reminded me, the decision was not just about what I might be able to handle, but critically about whether I would bring COVID to campus and expose others. Of course, I knew that, but it was helpful to frame the question as a matter of putting the Other Fellow First. And I have had the remarkable experience of being the other fellow — receiving countless calls, texts, and other messages from concerned Kiniya and Dudley friends who have buoyed my spirits through isolation and having to miss this amazing gathering. I know I’ll be back in 2023, and I can hardly wait to be with all of you again. Much love, JU #11904

8.14.22 - Sunday Talk

Forty years ago, a Dudley mother sent a mailgram to her son at the end of the Camp season. “It bothers me so,” she wrote, “to be the one to take you from such fun.” But take heart, she consoled, “summers must end so that others can start.” And so the 2022 season at Kiniya and Dudley is a wrap. This was an epic summer by all reports — and I got to see it first hand last week on both campuses. It was the sort of season that stands out beyond others and is talked about for decades to come. Camp faced down immense challenges confronting the camping world and the larger community and conquered them or moved the ball forward significantly — beating inflation, managing tuition burdens, achieving full enrollment, delivering more complex heathcare and mental health services than ever, meeting environmental changes (including lack fo rain, extreme heat, and unpredictable lake conditions), improving diversity, equity and inclusion (including among racial minorities and LGBTQ campers, leaders and staff). And most of all, we delivered fellowship and fun for the kids in our charge with a focus on leadership development and putting the Other Fellow First. What a year!

 

Last Sunday night, I sat at hymn sing with old friend and former trustee #13033 Mike Bransford and we got to talking about the conversations the Board had in the 2018 and 2019 time period surrounding industry-wide enrollment challenges for summer camps, which were having increasing difficulty filling their bunks, especially in August as schools started sooner each year and early athletic practices cut into the summer even further. That problem seemed like it would only be exacerbated by the pandemic, which sadly ended many established summer programs that could not survive financially. As we looked at an overcrowded Witherbee Hall, filled to the brim with loud, energetic young men, I asked Mike, “does August look dead to you?” We are answering the enrollment challenge. Similarly, Camp has actually lowered tuition repeatedly since 2019 and now offers a tuition tier that is lower than what my wife and I paid to send our son as a cub twenty years ago. And as I spent time on the Dudley campus last week, it was clear to me that our gay brothers are no longer simply welcome, as I hope they were in my time, but are becoming woven into the fabric of Camp in an essential way. The progress is heartwarming and sends exactly the right message in so many ways.

 

All this is not to say that Camp is a panacea or that we have gotten everything right. But we continued to make major strides in the right direction in many ways this season and to identify other areas that will inform future strategic plans and the successes of later summers. And best of all, we are more willing than ever to speak openly about what is working and where we can improve. So, as the 2022 season ends today, I offer my thanks and those of a grateful Camp Family to our directors, staff, leadership team and our amazing Board, which cares so deeply about our camps and works so hard. It’s always tough to come to the end of something so special, but having been here many times before, I have to agree with that wise mother and her message from 1982, “summers must end so that others can start.” Here’s to the summers of 2023 and beyond. Your Board and Directors are working on them already!

 

Much love, JU #11904

8.7.22 - Sunday Talk

I have been lucky enough to spend several days this week at Camp Dudley. Because of the pandemic, it has been three years since my last visit during the season and I am happy to report that Camp is better than ever. #13804 Matt Storey has assembled an outstanding leadership and staff team, including the sons and daughters of many close friends who worked with me at Dudley in the 1980s, alongside many first-generation leaders and staff members, who have formed a strong, professional crew. I have even encountered some of those old hands who worked with me back in the day — including #13820 Marcus Chioffi, who is running the boathouse, #10883 Bob McKeown, who runs Camp’s golf range, and #11445 Grey Todd, who has returned to Witherbee to direct shows and support our drama program. It has been an amazing time and I have been welcomed as only the Camp Family can do.

 

My time at both our camps this past week has been invaluable to me as a trustee and as the Board Chair. I have had the chance to see Camp first hand — to understand what is working well and also where the Board can provide resources or help to reinforce Camp’s programs. Our key staff have taken time to tell me how they think we can make future Camp seasons even better. I have observed firsthand the tremendous diversity at both Dudley and Kiniya — racial and ethnic, LGBTQ, economic, geographic, religious, and more. I have heard about our healthcare and mental health delivery, food service, leadership development, spiritual programming, arts and music, and even the challenge of balancing an improved level of athletic competition with sportsmanship and putting the Other Fellow First.

 

Overall, the state of our camps is strong. The challenges we face are the ones you would hope camp faces. How do we continue to provide “best ever” summers? What can we do to give our Directors and their staff the resources and personnel needed to deliver on the promise of Dudley and Kiniya? What are the most effective ways to teach love, leadership and putting the Other Fellow First and how have our challenges changed, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic? What I can say is that Camp has assembled a high-energy group of very strong leaders and staff who strive to answer these questions every day, all summer. And that your Board of Trustees is so grateful to them and committed to listening and supporting them as much as we possibly can. That is our privilege and the least we can do. Much love, JU #11904.

7.31.22 - Sunday Talk

I have the pleasure of spending my Sunday at Camp Kiniya this week. It will be a great time visiting friends on the Kiniya staff, mixing with leaders and seeing camp in action for the first time since the pandemic began. This morning, we will hear a chapel address by my friend #18141 Fran Bisselle, whom I have known and worked with since my first term on the Board, which began in 2003. (We actually met even earlier, at the father-son weekends she organized in the early 2000s.) I am so psyched! Fran’s roots at Kiniya and Dudley run deep. Camp first hired her just over 20 years ago when our discussions about a girls camp finally became serious. At the time, Fran was a young woman who was going places. She had been a Division I varsity field hockey player at Boston College and taught history at the Taft School. She came to Dudley with the idea that she might become director of Camp Jean D’Arc (“JDA”) in New York, where she had been a camper and leader, and work toward making JDA into Dudley’s camp for girls. And it almost happened.

 

Fran did become JDA’s director and, for two years, Dudley encouraged families to send their daughters there for the summer. The idea was that Dudley would eventually buy, and run our girls camp at, JDA. In the end, however, Dudley was not able to purchase JDA and we had to look elsewhere to find a location for the girls camp. But when the Dudley-JDA relationship ended, Fran only seemed to work harder. She led the team that that spent two years researching and visiting various properties and eventually found Camp Kiniya. And Fran was one of three people who negotiated the purchase of Kiniya from its former owners, Jack and Marilyn Williams. Then, when Dudley finally had its girls camp, Fran recognized that Kiniya already had an exceptional director in #20001 Marnie McDonagh and Fran stepped aside and supported Marnie.

 

Fran understood how important the dream of girls camping at Dudley was. And she worked hard to make it a reality. Even when that meant Fran stepping down as director of her own beloved JDA and helping Dudley find a different camp for our girls’ program. And even when it meant taking herself out of the picture and supporting another outstanding woman as Kiniya’s director. Fran sacrificed things she cared about and even her own ambitions to serve her community and support something more important than herself. In all my time at camp, I have never seen a better example of someone living the Other Fellow First. I am so excited to hear Fran speak today at Kiniya — especially because of her deep connection to the Dudley-Kiniya relationship and her personification of the Camp Motto. How lucky we are to have benefited from her character, wisdom, and leadership. Much love, JU #11904

7.24.22 - Sunday Talk

With Camp’s second opening day of the 2022 season just past, I am reminded again of my first day at Dudley. My best friend and I arrived on the train from New York City with a few other boys. (Historically, that train had been the way almost everyone came to Camp, but those days were long gone by 1976.) We drove to Camp from the Westport train station and the first person to greet me was #10463 Tom Mendl — who most of us in the Camp community know as “Fungo.” (I still don’t know why.) He was charming, welcoming, affable. If you know Fungo, you know he can talk with anyone and specializes in putting people at ease and drawing them out. I took to him immediately and actually thought he was my leader. After all, he was the one who met me at the gate and carried my trunk down to my cabin (which was Poly) and helped me unload my stuff. I was actually a little disappointed to learn that he was the leader across cub alley in Syracuse.

 

My leader turned out to be #10626 Pete Dinsmore. I liked Pete, but it took a little longer for me to connect with him. During the first week of Camp, I was awakened in what felt like the middle of the night. It was probably more like 10:30 p.m., but I was only ten years old. Pete woke our whole cabin and took us out to main campus to see the Dudley Dome (the beautiful night sky over the Adirondacks) for the first time. We didn’t have stars like that in New York City. I had never seen anything like it — before or since. In that moment, Pete forged a connection with me that lasted the whole summer (eight weeks in those days) and for many years thereafter. He became a guide, introducing me to the secrets and treasures that Camp had in store for those of us lucky enough to have come for the summer.

 

I knew that first summer that I wanted to stay at Camp for a long time — for all the camper years, through leadership training, and to become a leader. The inspiration was not just magic, of course, it was the result of hard work and genuine commitment by some great cub leaders who were deeply committed to the kids — Fungo, Dins, our amazing d-head #10649 Steve Wertimer, the irrepressible #10874 Doug Schmidt, and his brother #10875 Steve Schmidt, and #11264 Mark Davenport to name a few. They didn’t just love Camp, they took leadership seriously and really knew their campers. They led by their actions and by their examples. Some of them stayed and worked on staff for years. Others served on our Board and contributed to camp’s governance. All of them inspired me and a generation of Dudley campers to commit ourselves and, in many instances, our lives to Camp. As for Fungo, I still hear from him about once a month — yes, I am still talking with the first person I ever met at Camp 46 years ago. All of which is a reminder that these first few days and weeks at Camp can be formative moments with enormous significance for our campers and for our camps. And Kiniya and Dudley are so lucky that we find ourselves in yet another golden era with a new generation of outstanding leaders who will inspire this year’s campers to commit themselves to Camp and to lead it in future years. Have a great second session up there and know that you are building a great future for Camp as you deliver a “best ever” summer in 2022.

 

Much love, JU #11904

7.17.22 - Sunday Talk

On October 21, 1979, our beloved director #7405 Willie Schmidt ran the New York City Marathon. He ran roughly 21 miles before realizing that the pains he had felt since about mile 9 were pretty serious. It turns out he suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the emergency room. There he was met by a young cardiologist — #12690 Oscar Garfein. It was somehow fitting that Willie continued running a marathon for 12 miles after suffering a heart attack and even more characteristic of him that, from his hospital bed, Willie recruited Oscar to come to Camp. Oscar served as a Camp doctor for decades and often entertained us on Wednesday nights with his musical and (erstwhile) comic talents. (Oscar is a man after my own heart — another Jewish guy from New York City who was a couple of years behind my dad at medical school. How did we wind up at Camp Dudley again? Oh, that’s right, Willie…)

 

Oscar is one many physicians who made a major impact on Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya. Perhaps the greatest of all was #1698 Condict W. Cutler — a noted hand surgeon from New York City who helped #310 Chief Beckman to develop the Westport campus. My father’s medical school classmate #7446 John Brust was a mainstay of the theater and music programs in the 1950s and later served as one of Camp’s doctors. For many years, Dudley’s infirmary has been staffed by a long list of visiting physicians, who come to Camp on a volunteer basis and work for a week, as well as a team of nurses. This year’s doctors include Board members #11871 Kevin McCormick, who has already served his stint, and #24878 Diane Calello, who heads to Westport later in the month. Physicians have likewise shaped healthcare delivery at Kiniya, including #23372 Kathy Wiseman, who is also a former trustee. In recognition of their myriad contributions over time, physicians have been named Camp’s Person of the Year on four occasions — #7314 Don Stevenson (2004), #7987 Dick Edie (2014), #8665 Mike McCutcheon (2015), and #7582 Stu Updike (2021).

 

Our Board has traditionally reserved at least one seat for a physician and that has never been more important than it is today, as we navigate providing Camp’s programs safely in a post-pandemic world and adapting our healthcare delivery to the ever more complex needs of our campers, leadership and staff. Camp’s decisions surrounding canceling our summer operations during the pandemic summer of 2020 and the policies that have allowed us to reopen safely and successfully in 2021 and 2022 have been guided and informed by some amazing doctors, including trustees #13469 Joey Donahue, who is an orthopedic surgeon at Stanford, Kevin McCormick, who practices at the University of Rochester, and Diane Calello. Diane, in particular, could not be more valuable — she is not just a public health doctor; she has been one of the doctors leading New Jersey’s response to the pandemic. As we move forward into a world in which public health concerns and healthcare delivery challenges are part of the daily fabric of Camp, we could not be more grateful for the leadership of Camp’s physicians, who truly put the Other Fellow (that is, all of us) first in everything they do. Much love, JU #11904

7.10.22 - Sunday Talk

Many of you probably know my friend #12664 Ted Smith. When we started this blog, I promised to keep the Camp Family informed about what the Board is doing and who we are. Teddy is one of the trustees who best personifies who we are. His Camp roots run deep. I have known Ted since we were leaders together in the 1980s. And he was here earlier. Ted has been camper, leader, long-time division head, staff, CDA VP and president and now a two-term trustee. Counting his time in CDA leadership, Ted has been in the boardroom for twelve years already and has two more years to go on his current term. His deep knowledge of the Board’s operations and history are invaluable. Equally importantly, Teddy returns to Dudley every summer for pre-season and the first ten days or so of camp to lend his knowledge and expertise to today’s campers, leaders and staff. And he brings that experience to the Board table, along with deep compassion, high energy, and a strong desire to stand up for what is right on a wide range of topics.

 

Teddy cemented his special place at Camp Dudley years ago. As a leader and d-head, he was a favorite of #7405 Willie Schmidt because he was smart, reliable and one of the folks that campers and leaders identified with Camp. He also proved to be a deep thinker and inspirational speaker — several of his chapel talks are published and, when Willie passed away in the summer of 2008, Camp called on Ted to deliver the euology at the memorial chapel service at the next CDA Reunion. On the Board, Ted has been a sage counselor (drawing on lessons from his decades as a private school teacher and administrator — he knows kids), a tireless worker, and a good friend. More than anything, he has been a voice of conscience, not willing to sacrifice principle in the interest of consensus. Ted had a heavy hand in shaping our Board when he chaired the nominations committee during his first term as a trustee. In his second term, he has emerged as a Board leader in his role as Secretary.

 

Perhaps most importantly, Ted’s love and enthusiasm for Camp have never diminished. After finishing his two-week stint at Dudley this summer, he wrote “our camps are in amazing shape and . . . the campers are having an absolute blast in Colchester and Westport.” But was careful to note that “our camps are offering these great gifts to not only our campers, but our leaders and staff . . . bringing energy, positivity, love and support to every member of our community in every corner of both campuses.” And in his next breath, he told me that his choices for the Board Playlist we are compiling are high energy selections from Traffic and (of course) the Grateful Dead. No surprise from a guy who’s Camp band (the Golden Boots) still plays occasionally and who led the Board’s sing-along at our last meeting. Diversity comes to our boardroom in many forms. The perspective, knowledge and experience Teddy brings to us are frankly unique. What a treasure!

 

Much love, JU #11904

7.3.22 - Sunday Talk

On Saturday evening, a text came through from my old friend #11702 Doug Dimitri. That’s not unusual. I hear from Doug two or three times a week, especially during the baseball season. This one was a little different. Doug had spent the afternoon at a memorial for #14251 Mary Tanneberger, who died this past winter from complications of ALS. Doug said the event was more of a celebration than anything else and was heavily attended by Camp friends. Both of those things made sense. Although I did not know Mary well, two things I knew about her were that she was one who celebrated life and people and that she was closely connected with a wide range of folks in the Camp community, largely because she had such a warm and inclusive spirit.

 

Mary came to Camp in the summer of 1986. She had married #10875 Steve Schmidt the previous year. She was from a local family and grew up in Westport. Even that first summer, it was clear that Mary fit in at Camp. She joined the drama staff at Witherbee Hall and introduced what became known as Dudley Dance Theater, bringing interpretive dance and movement to the Camp stage. She quietly challenged the unspoken wisdom that “boys don’t dance” — not in a defiant way, with joy and humor, enthusiasm and an expectation that, well, why wouldn’t you join the dance? And that’s exactly what some of our best athletes and guys who were not Witherbee stalwarts did in Mary’s shows for a decade. Part of what made those shows work, and what made Mary so essential to Camp in her time, was her outgoing and inquisitive nature. She genuinely wanted to know every person she encountered. When I think of her, my lasting memory is her real interest in me, my family, and what we were doing, every time we met. Mary’s spirit actually helped me to overcome a little bit of the intimidation that comes from joining a social circle with people ten years older who were leaders and staff when I was camper in the 1970s, which drew me closer to the Camp community. That’s what Mary did for me.

 

#11260 Ed Schmidt was kind enough to send me the speech he delivered at the memorial. One thing I learned from reading it was that Mary spent more than 30 years as a social worker in New York City, often working with homeless and runaway teens for whom hope can be elusive. Much as she did at Camp, Mary received those kids for who they were, not for their circumstances or what they had done or not done. And it would surprise me if she did not change more than a few lives through her generosity of spirit — in the same way she touched my life. Mostly, Ed’s speech reminded me that Mary’s story is so much better told by her family and those who knew her best, especially her husband Steve and their daughters #20351 Telka and #22875 Qi Mei, or her sister #20637 Carol Schwoebel. But surely Mary’s story is also a Camp story. As Mary made abundantly clear, Camp had a special place in her heart. And she, too, belonged to us. That is doubtless why so many Camp luminaries came out to celebrate her life in New York City last weekend and will do so at a second event at Camp Dudley later this month. We were were so lucky to be part of Mary’s life and to have her in the Camp Family.

 

Much love, JU #11904

6.26.22 - Sunday Talk

On July 1, 1976, I arrived at Camp Dudley for the first time, after a long train ride from New York City. I dropped my stuff in my cub cabin (which was Poly), and my j.l. took me down to Swim Point for my swim test. I was on a swim team before I came to Camp, so I figured, “swim test? I got this!” And then I dove into Lake Champlain for the first time. Oh, my gosh! It was so cold. I couldn’t breathe. And I thought, for my first act at Camp Dudley, I was going to drown. Of course, that’s not what happened. After a moment of panic, I recovered my breath, remembered I could swim, and passed my swim test — just barely!

 

That swim test served as a reminder. Camp was a new and different place with new and different challenges. I had a lot to learn and it went far beyond the cold temperature of the lake. Before coming to Camp, I had never been on an overnight hike, never played a sports game where the teams cheered for one another at the end, never been to an event where you sing hymns for an hour. And the Camp Motto puzzled me — the Other Fellow First, why would you let that happen? Fortunately for me, Camp and great leaders of the era like #10649 Steve Wertimer, #10626 Pete Dinsmore, #11329 Scott Hudson and #10874 Doug Schmidt, had plenty of experience helping kids conquer unexpected challenges and learn the Dudley Spirit.

 

The Board’s work can sometimes feel like that first dive into Lake Champlain. Our trustees are seasoned professionals with long histories at Camp. We generally know our roles, but new and different challenges often remind us that we still have much to learn. For my own part, I had limited experience supporting a $10 million capital campaign (let alone two of them) and few points of reference for our work helping Camp to survive the cancellation of our summer programs in the summer of 2020 and to reopen safely and successfully in 2021. And those are just a few examples of recent efforts that tested our skills and sometimes our limits. Fortunately, Camp’s Board has diverse expertise and we are blessed with strong directors and senior staff who have plenty of experience working with trustees to answer difficult questions and navigate uncharted territory. So, today, as our 2022 waterfront directors, #21461 Jem Bullock (at Dudley) and #20904 Tori Ulin (at Kiniya) administer swim tests to dozens of new campers in a lake that has been very cold this spring, let’s all be grateful that we are beginning the education of a generation of leaders who will guide Kiniya and Dudley into a future that will surely defy our expectations. I know they will do better on that swim test than I did!

 

Much love, JU #11904

6.19.22 - Sunday Talk

Friends, the 2022 Camp season is upon us. By the time I post again, campers will have arrived at Dudley and Kiniya and will have spent their first night in the cabins. How awesome is that? Do you remember your first night at Camp? I do. My best friend, #11903 Geoff Whelan, and I had come up from New York City on the train — the way nearly everyone did in #310 Chief Beckman’s time — and gotten situated in our cabins. Although we were right next door to one another in Adirondack and Poly, by the evening time we had separated into different cabin groups and the division had gathered on the upper fields for Capture the Flag. It was a sea of new faces whose names I did not know in a place I had never been that was seven hours from home and I was there for two months — essentially forever from my ten-year-old perspective. I was plenty nervous, not exactly sure how to navigate or what was coming next, but overall excited for the adventures ahead.

 

A decade later the first night of Camp brought different feelings. I was firmly entrenched in Camp in the 1980s and part of a corps of leaders who started in 1985 and stayed together as a group for several summers. But the first night of Camp still brought nerves — will I have a good cabin this year? how will I break the ice with this group of kids I don’t know? do I still remember how to do this? — and excitement for the adventures ahead with my cabin, with the other boys in my division, with fellow leaders who were cementing their positions as the essential players in my life. It was always a new beginning with everything that entails. As #22830 Anita Johnson told me when we spoke on Friday, I loved the energy and was so happy to be back, but there were a lot of moving parts.

 

All these years later, opening day is something I watch with pride and a little bit of envy. The Board’s work is not seasonal. Some initiatives are timed to deliver results that can impact the upcoming Camp season. Our work supporting Camp’s healthcare and mental health delivery systems, its diversity efforts, and the use of gendered language in our single-sex programs are good examples. Others, like our planning to keep camp affordable over the long term, to develop a coherent environmental strategy, and to address the capital improvements we anticipate on both campuses in the near future, have a far longer horizon. And our work as trustees continues unabated, even during the Camp season. As with so much else, the longer you stay at Dudley and Kiniya, the more the first night of Camp becomes about the Other Fellow First. It is the fruition of long and hard work by trustees and directors both this past year and for many years before that, all for the benefit of the generation arriving this summer, among whom are a group of future trustees who will repeat this cycle in the decades to come. Welcome home campers. Here’s to the adventures ahead!

 

Much love, JU #11904

6.12.22 - Sunday Talk

In the winter of 1980, I got a note from #7405 Willile Schmidt. He did not have a position for me as an aide that summer. I hardly knew what to say. I had never even thought about a summer away from Dudley and I thought that might be the end of my time at Camp. But the following year Willie encouraged me to apply for a position as a j.l., which I did and in June of 1981, I returned to Camp to find my friends (and a fair number of new faces) waiting to greet me with open arms. Two years later, Willie again told me I should take a year away from Camp. I would not even turn 18 until the last week of the 1983 season and it wasn’t the right time for me to become a cabin leader. Worse yet, 1984 was Camp’s 100th season, so a lot of old-timers returned and the number of available leader spots was very small. So Willie asked me to take a second year away. When he finally agreed to make me a leader in 1985, I returned to Camp with great excitement and some trepidation. Three years after my last summer, would I still fit in? Would Camp still feel like home? Well, many of you know the rest of the story. Five years as a leader, a lifetime of alumni connection and here I sit as the Chair of Camp’s Board — the one who Willie told to take the summer off, three different times.

 

My story is hardly unique. Many of Dudley and Kiniya’s best known figures have had what #14571 Pete Groves so colorfully described as “imperfect relationships with Camp.” In an informal survey of past and present Board members, I learned that two of our current trustees were asked to take a summer off before later becoming leaders. One of us did not receive his Camp Flag as a senior. I am aware of two former trustees who were sent home from Camp for disciplinary reasons. And many simply chose other paths, often wishing they had spent the time at Camp instead. But none of that was the end of their stories. Or their relationships with Camp. Instead, these leaders and great Dudleyites maintained their commitment to this place they love. They accepted criticism, assessed their own situations, dusted themselves off and tried again. And Camp, as it always does, found a place for us and gave us a second chance. And sometimes more than one “second” chance. Part of the richness of our Board is the variety of experiences trustees bring to the table, including the crooked paths many of us have traveled with Camp. It helps to illuminate just how important second chances are and how many different ways there are to find success at Camp — as Willie used to assure us “every kid” can do.

 

This weekend leaders and staff arrive at Kiniya and Dudley to begin the 2022 pre-season. Some will be folks who were with us in 2021 and who have been able to return year after year. Others will be folks who have spent time away — maybe because they were not accepted for another position in a prior year, because they needed a year off for maturity or some other reason, or maybe they just chose other opportunities. All of them will have another chance this summer to shine and to make Camp an even better place because they are part of the team. To these folks, Camp says, “Welcome home. Here’s a chance to succeed. Run with it.” And to the group of young people who are away from Dudley and Kiniya in 2022 for whatever reason, we say know that you have a place at Camp, being away does not mean that you cannot come back, and we look forward to welcoming you home.

 

Much love, JU #11904

6.5.22 - Sunday Talk

A few months ago, trustee #26142 Catherine Sanderson introduced the Board to a large-scale nationwide survey about percentages of Americans who identify as LGBTQ by generation. In my generation — Generation X (born between 1965-1980) — just over 4% of respondents openly identified as LGBTQ. For those in Generation Z (born between 1997-2003) the number is roughly 21%. The trend line shows an increasing willingness among Americans to publicly acknowledge their LGBTQ identities and suggests that the percentages of those who say they are something other than straight and cis-gender is likely to increase among those born between 2004-2022. Whether the increasing numbers reflect a higher percentage of LGBTQ individuals in later generations, a greater willingness to speak about it openly, or a combination of the two, the numbers reaffirm what has long been clear. Our openly LGBTQ neighbors play an integral part in all aspects of our lives and their numbers are growing.

 

At Camp Kiniya and Camp Dudley, we have greatly benefitted from the hard work and leadership of a significant number of LGBTQ members of the Camp Family for many years. We love and embrace Camp’s great LGBTQ leaders and continue to strive to foster an environment where LGBTQ young people feel at home. Of course, the generational divide remains. As I write this post, I can think of any number of LGBTQ individuals who played major parts in my Camp experience and to whom I would like to pay tribute here. But I wonder, are they “out” to the entire community? And even if they are, would they be comfortable with me writing about their LGBTQ identities in this blog? And then I turn the questions inward — is this just me, trapped in my Generation X sensibility, where only 4% of individuals openly identify as LGBTQ?

 

Happily, Camp is (and always has been) a place where we turn to young people to teach and lead. If ever there was a topic on which older generations need the guidance of younger ones, surely this is it. Generation Z, in which 21% of people openly self identify as LGBTQ, has much to teach us — about openness, acceptance, and honesty and ultimately about embracing people and what really matters. Our Board is blessed with the presence of Camp’s first two openly LGBTQ trustees — #15198 Ben Cady and #20608 Martha McKinley. In addition to their professional expertise (Ben is a teacher and Martha is in finance) and their perspective as parents and Camp alums, they add a depth to our conversations surrounding Camp’s LGBTQ community that can only be learned through experience. And they do it with joy, humor, and love, in the best traditions of leadership at Camp. As Ben told the Board toward the end a lengthy discussion of diversity, equity and inclusion last year, “it’s exhausting hanging out with you straight people all weekend.” Those of us in older generations are so fortunate to have Ben, Martha and younger folks among Kiniya’s and Dudley’s staff, leadership and campers to educate and lead on matters that we have never been prepared to address as openly. Our ability to work together to find an enlightened path forward should be a source of great pride for everyone at Camp.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.29.22 - Sunday Talk

In the summer of 2003, we sent our son #18756 Curtis Ulin to Camp Dudley for his cub season. It was a big year for us — Curtis’ first year at Camp and my first year on the Board. On the final Saturday morning of the season, I strolled down to Cub Alley to find Curtis, unaware that parents were not supposed to arrive until after rest period. (I now cringe at the thought that others may have thought I was exercising Board privileges — which are not a thing at Camp — by coming on campus early….) On the way over, I ran into another cubbie, whom I had never met, and he asked me a question that has stuck with me ever since. “Are you Curtis’ dad?” It caught me off guard. I was not the new Board member with an inflated sense of importance. Not the well connected alum who knew so many people in the Camp Family. Not the leader and division head of the 1980s. For this boy and almost everyone else at Camp 14 years after my time on campus ended, my significance was my relationship to our son. I thought to myself, “that is who I am” and said to the boy, “yes, I am Curtis’ dad.”

 

This week, our daughter #20904 Tori Ulin will arrive at Kiniya to prepare for her job as waterfront director. It will be Tori’s 13th season at Camp and our 20th consecutive year as Camp parents. Of all of the milestones we have passed in our relationship with Dudley and Kiniya, that is the one in which I take the greatest pride. In the boardroom, parenthood plays an enormous role. While being a parent is by no means a requirement of Board service, it is not accidental that all 19 of the current elected trustees are parents or prospective parents and 15 of us have sent kids to Kiniya or Dudley (or both camps). The parental perspective allows us to explore Camp’s challenges through the lens of different kids and different eras in our history (whenever our kids attended). It enhances our understanding of how Camp has evolved over the years and also gives us access to a constituency whose voice in the Camp Family is often muted because parents have less opportunity to communicate their thoughts directly. That indirect relationship with Camp through our kids is often also the tie that binds and on which our commitment to Camp and its future is based.

 

Critically, our role as parents drives home Camp’s core lesson. We must always put the Other Fellow First. That is a basic rule of parenting and also how it goes at Camp. As you stay longer and graduate to new roles — aide, JL, AL, leader, d-head, junior and senior staff, trustee, alum — Camp becomes less and less about me and more and more about other people. That is critical to the way we think and operate in the boardroom. And nowhere is the lesson clearer than in our roles as Camp parents. It our children’s time and our role is to work with our Directors to assure that Camp delivers “best ever” summers for them and for future generations of Kiniya and Dudley campers in our families and yours.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.22.22 - Sunday Talk

I’m thinking this morning about two of the many great leaders who have chaired our Board. #11846 Tom (“TC”) Canning was chair from 2007-09. In his first year, I served as TC’s Board Secretary. I actually met TC at the first Dudley event I ever attended —the 1975-76 reunion (now called open house) in NYC at #9106 Greg Farrell’s apartment. Later he was the junior division head when I was a junior, and he took me on a memorable 1978 woods trip where he taught me a vision of leadership that I still remember today. “Leadership,” TC said, “is seeing what needs to be done and making sure it gets done.” TC was also a mentor in my first Board term, where he modeled how to be a responsible trustee and taught the importance of committees in advancing the Board’s work in the long stretches between meetings. TC recently suffered a stroke. He is doing well, and there are many positive signs, but he still has a long road ahead to full recovery.

 

#8804 John Storey chaired the Board from 1987-1988. His daughters #14002 Jenn and #14504 Jessica were on staff when I was a leader and #13804 Matt Storey was a camper I knew well. But I did not really get to know John until I joined the Board in 2003, when he was Dudley’s director of development. John taught me much of what I know about what it means to be a trustee at Camp, including knowing the importance of a trustee’s words, so I took what I said seriously and thought before I spoke — about other perspectives, and the impact of my comments, truly putting the Other Fellow First. John and his wife #18204 Martha published the Other Fellow First magazine (then known as the CDA News) for decades and he later orchestrated Camp’s first $10 million capital campaign. He was fond of reminding us that “development is everyone’s business.” Truly, John and Martha have done more for Camp than almost any other individuals in our 137-year history. We see John less around the Westport campus these days, but he is frequently in our conversations and we know he will be just up the Dudley Road at the Storey Farm every summer, including this one.

 

TC and John embraced and carried forward Dudley’s leadership mandate — perhaps the most important thing we do; at least on par with the Camp motto. They have taught and inspired generations of leaders who followed them. And I am one of those. Most of all, both of these Camp icons led by example, showing the Board and others what it meant to lead and to appreciate the influence our words and actions might have on those around us and on the larger community at Camp and beyond. In the Hebrew tradition, these lessons are what is known as “mitzvot” — the fulfillment of commandments and gifts that cannot be paid back. They can only be paid forward to future leaders and we are doing our level best to honor that mission.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.15.22 - Sunday Talk

Your Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya Board of Trustees is meeting with key staff this weekend on campus at Camp Kiniya. Summer has come early and we are enjoying 80 degree temperatures in Colchester that make it feel even more like being at Camp. For the trustees, it has been a terrific reunion of friends. We spent Friday touring Kiniya, learning the campus and its history, experiencing the amazing improvements that we have made over the past 16 years thanks to your generosity, and exploring Kiniya’s future campus building needs and goals. #15198 Ben Cady and #25793 Monique Jones led a discussion of their work on diversity, equity and inclusion (“DEI”) in schools and how we may be able to support and improve Camp’s diversity efforts. We concluded with committee meetings in which the small groups that really advance the Board’s work had the rare opportunity to gather in person. After dinner (cooked by the legendary #20005 Gail Coleman herself!), trustees got together around the fire on the back porch of Mimi’s Lodge, passed a guitar around, and sang selections from Bob Dylan, James Taylor and others. #25223 Liz Moore led a rousing chorus of “Wish You Were Here.”

 

Saturday’s full agenda began early in the morning. #25075 Leslee Mackenzie delivered an invocation on the subject of cherishing people as individuals and avoiding the pitfalls of putting them into categories. #13804 Matt Storey and #20001 Marnie McDonagh reported on Camp’s preparation for another “best ever” summer that starts in just six weeks! #22827 Jesse Smith and #13565 Chris Rodgers led a discussion of how Camp is managing rising costs and a tight labor market and balancing our budget while also meeting our staff needs and delivering the program our campers deserve. We kicked off the Board development season — discussing the Board’s needs and who may be able to serve in the coming years. We also adopted a proposal to change our Board terms in a way that we hope will make it possible for more people in the Camp Family to consider Board service. #21013 Bear McKani and #17982 Matt McElroy closed the morning by discussing the future of the Camp Dudley Association (“CDA”), which is heading for a name change later in the year.

 

In the afternoon, we focused on our 2022 strategic initiatives, including a report from a working group on the use of gendered language at our single-sex camps. We closed with a discussion of our efforts to improve Camp’s support for the mental health needs of our campers, leaders and staff, led by the remarkable #26142 Catherine Sanderson, who chairs Amherst College’s psychology department, and a report on the development of our environmental strategy by #25416 Alice Tornquist. As we leave Colchester this afternoon, our trustees and staff wish we had more time together. We part company refreshed and inspired for the work ahead, in the true spirit of love, leadership and the Other Fellow First that defines the Camp experience.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.8.22 - Sunday Talk

It’s Mother’s Day. Today I am thinking of the Camp mothers who have sent their boys ang girls to Kiniya and Dudley over the past 137 years. They obviously vary as broadly as the campers who have come through our gates – different backgrounds, different choices about professional paths, different relationships with their kids. They are probably the most influential group of people without camp numbers in our community. And one thing they share in common is that they all chose to send their kids to Camp Kiniya or Camp Dudley and gave us all the opportunity to join the Camp Family.

 

It is a brave choice. Camp, of course, is a place where kids go to strike out on their own away from Mom and Dad, often for the first time. Mothers have to let go of kids as young as ten years of age for longer than they have ever done in the past, so the kids can spread their wings. My own mother knew how important Camp was to me, but she used to lament how long I was away and how much she missed having me home. Conversely, while my Dudley career lasted another decade (and, indeed, one could say it hasn’t ended yet…), my mother last visited me at Camp in 1981. Still she has remained an important presence in my Camp life, advising me about how to handle campers, how to work my way up through the leadership ranks, and even how to address Board governance issues and now how to manage a Board of Trustees – topics on which she has long personal experience.

 

The role of mothers at Camp today is more robust than ever. Nine of our current Trustees are mothers and many others, including our most recent past Chair, are former Board members who still work actively with Camp. In fact, the Board is currently considering changes to the length of trustee terms and our meeting schedule and other requirements, with a particular focus on enabling mothers to join our ranks, while balancing the responsibilities of work, family and Board service. On the ground at Camp, mothers continue to assume more prominent positions on Dudley’s staff and Kiniya has long been a place where mothers, from Marilyn Williams to #20001 Marnie McDonagh and many who supported them, have led all aspects of camp. Of course, mothers still play the traditional roles that have been so critical to Camp’s success – outfitting their kids for Camp, preparing them emotionally and psychologically to be away from home, sending letters full of news and support, visiting and celebrating their kids’ achievements, and, perhaps most important of all, letting us go for a few weeks every summer, so that we can come to Camp and become better people. For all that and more, we are eternally grateful for our Camp mothers and wish you all Happy Mother’s Day.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.1.22 - Sunday Talk

May is a big month for the Board of Trustees. We always meet in May — this year we’ll be at Camp Kiniya two weeks from now. In earlier times, that meeting culminated with a get together at the Director’s residence for the Kentucky Derby — at which #13081 Jack Mingle unfortunately was not dispensing advice. And at one of my favorite Board meetings, in May 2006, we approved the purchase of Camp Kiniya, which opened as part of the Dudley Family a month later.

 

May is also the month we begin identifying the new trustees we will elect to join the Board next year. #11889 Dwight Poler has described the Board nominations process as a matrix of considerations — and if Dwight thinks it is complex, you know it’s not easy! We begin by looking at what the Board is losing in the outgoing class whose terms end this year. In 2022, we are losing a public health physician who has served as camp doctor at Dudley and one of the leaders of our development and alumni relations committee, both Camp parents and strong professional women. Looking forward, we will examine the Board’s needs. Should we elect another healthcare professional in this time of unique health and safety issues? Do we need to add a minister or a trustee whose career is in the arts? How can we maintain the even balance of men and women we have worked so hard to develop? What are our other diversity priorities? Should we add more trustees who live outside the Northeast? Who are the next generation of Board leaders — perhaps those born in the late 1980s and early 1990s — and when is it right to elect them? What is the right mix of Camp alumni and folks whose connection to Camp is through their families? How will the Board support Camp’s fundraising and development goals? Those are just some of the important considerations we will discuss before we begin to identify the individuals who meet our needs and might join the Board in 2023.

 

Thankfully, in this critical work, we are led by #15198 Ben Cady, whose long career at Dudley culminated in three years as a division head (and he has remained deeply connected in the Camp Family), and Board Vice Chair #25368 Erinn Harley-Lewis, who will have kids at both our camps again this summer. Ben and Erinn have been actively engaged in Board development throughout their terms as trustees. They keenly understand that choosing the small group of people who govern our camps is one of the most important ways we have of influencing Camp’s future course and our prospects for continuing success. With the support of our Directors, former Board development chairs like myself and #12664 Ted Smith, and the involvement of the full Board, Ben and Erinn are well-prepared to begin the critical work of shaping Camp by carefully choosing the trustees who will govern our sacred institution. Here again, we are in terrific hands!

 

Much love, JU #11904

4.24.22 - Sunday Talk

During the CDA Reunion in 2006, I tried to persuade #7381 Paul Lutz to consider a return to Camp’s Board of Trustees. I cornered Paul outside MacLean Lodge and gave him my best pitch about the value he would bring to the boardroom and especially his perspective as an alumnus whose Dudley career dates back to the 1940s. Paul — it should come as no surprise — demurred. “You don’t need me back in the boardroom. Let someone else have a chance. If you want my thoughts, you know where to find me. I’m not going anywhere.” I conceded and we did not pursue Paul further, although he was true to his word about not going anywhere. He is still the most recent reunion chapel speaker, having given his latest sermon in 2019 — at age 90!

 

When I became a trustee again in 2017, I found that someone more persuasive than I had convinced #7951 Jack Kotz, whose Dudley career also began in the 1940s, to join the Board. Jack’s family has been connected to Camp for over a century. HIs grandfather was a boyhood friend of Chief Beckman’s. Jack’s son #12135 Pete Kotz was a leader with me and Pete and younger generations of the Kotz family are still at Camp today. Jack had the energy of trustees half his age and was always at the center of plans for trustee road trip adventures from South Carolina to Camp. He was also the leader of the Board’s committee that evaluated Camp’s programs and suggested possible enhancements. Jack’s nearly 60-year association with Camp gave him a unique perspective on what might (or might not) work.

 

More recently, #8580 Bob Craft, who came to Camp in the mid-1950s, has been the Board’s senior statesman. Somebody with a sense of humor assigned me to be Bob’s mentor in his first year as a trustee in 2019. (The notion that I had something to teach him was, well….) Bob’s son #14580 Tiger Craft had been a Plebe in my cabin in 1988 and he has grandkids at both our camps. After an enormously successful career as a lawyer — another field in which he is the one who should teach me — Bob took his talents back to Camp, where he has helped to steer us through the pandemic, as part of the Board’s risk management committee, and is working with the group developing our environmental strategic plan to preserve our campuses and natural resources for future generations. Bob’s knowledge of Camp history is invaluable. In discussions of the history of people of color at Camp, Bob alone can talk about his personal friendships with early pioneers like #9111 Buddy Howard, who is the first known Black person with a camp number, or #8481 Zenro Ozawa, who came to Camp from Tokyo around the same time Bob was on campus. As we continue our focus on developing an ever more diverse group of trustees to consider the interests of the entire Camp family, the Board remains committed to generational diversity as part of that effort, so that our progress will always remain rooted in our history and we can benefit from the perspectives of our elder statesmen and stateswomen who have lived the traditions that we cherish and seek to preserve and improve.

 

Much love, JU #11904

4.17.22 - Sunday Talk

Two weeks ago I got a text from fellow trustee #26245 Liz Kirkpatrick that read simply, “[#7405] Willie Schmidt is smiling down on you!” I had gotten the notion that Camp might be able to do something to help displaced kids in the US and around the world and Liz’s email was a response to a note I had sent her to explore the idea. Liz remembered Willie’s belief in the healing power of Camp and his efforts to expand our reach to benefit kids and families in need, who often came from faraway places and found a home at Dudley.

 

Earlier this winter, on the morning of my first Board meeting as Chair, #13820 Marcus Chioffi texted me a photograph of the two of us with Willie in 2007. In his inimitable style, Marcus wrote, “Just don’t screw this up. We’re watching.” Of course, I didn’t need to be reminded. After I stopped laughing at Marcus’ text, I paused to reflect. As he and Liz noted, in everything our Board does, Willie is always just behind our right shoulder. In our cub season, #10874 Doug and #10875 Steve Schmidt convinced my friend #11903 Geoff Whelan to pose for a “brothers” photograph (which Willie used to take of all brothers who were at Camp each year) with #11804 Rhen Alderman, who was not Geoff’s brother, although they looked a lot alike. Willie took no notice as they came up for their photo and announced them as “the Alderman boys!” That moment made us realize that Camp was a place where even an 11 year-old cubbie could play a joke on the Director and it would bind us to the community, which thrives on good humor. When Willie found out about the joke, he loved it.

 

Willie’s vision was far reaching. He fully embraced #20001 Marnie McDonagh and Camp Kiniya when they became part of the Camp Family in 2006. The dream of Camp Dudley for girls was one he had shared for many years — another example of that broad, inclusive spirit that Liz Kirkpatrick remembers. Willie and #16000 Lois Schmidt actually invited trustee #15293 JJ Alexander to live with them for his high school years because they (rightly) thought they could make a difference in his life. And when I was a new trustee in 2003, I had the audacity (that’s one word for it…) to suggest that Camp consider building an extreme sports center. The Board laughed it off, but I later learned that Willie had made the same suggestion, in yet another effort to reach a new generation of campers. The photo that Marcus sent me in February is from Willie’s final chapel address at Kiniya and it was the last time I ever saw him. I knew then that he would continue to inspire me and many others at Camp for years to come. Even now, when I often have to explain who Willie was to the generations of campers who have come to Dudley and Kiniya since he retired 28 years ago, Willie’s sense of humor, knowledge of history, tireless work ethic, belief in the power of Camp, and commitment to reach kids and families who have not been included in our programs, resonate loudly in my life and in everything our Board does. His spirit is alive and well at Camp.

 

Much love, JU #11904

4.10.22 - Sunday Talk

A year ago, the YMCA closed three Hudson Valley summer camps that had supported kids from underserved neighborhoods in New York City for over a century. The decision was announced just two months before camp started. #13804 Matt Storey promptly reached out to Camp Dudley’s former director #9398 Wheaton Griffin, who had been involved with the camps that closed in recent years, to explore how we could help the more than 1,000 kids whose summer plans had been upended. While one of them ultimately attended Dudley last year, we still wondered what more we could do for the other campers.

 

Two days before our last Board meeting, war broke out in Ukraine. Among the many images that flickered across my screen was a video of elementary school kids filing into a bomb shelter and sitting on a high shelf or berth while they awaited the all clear. I was left to consider where those kids will be this July and August – whether they will have summer programs like Kiniya and Dudley that give them hope and let them have fun after that awful experience. Once again, I asked, “what can Camp do to help?”

 

These events highlight the challenge of defining Camp’s role as a leader in the broader camping community and our obligations to kids and families who will probably never come to Kiniya or Dudley. It’s a discussion that dates back many years, which is hardly surprising at camps whose very mission is to “enabl[e] boys and girls to live lives characterized by devotion to others.” Of course, we are focused first and foremost on our camps and the Camp Family. And a significant part of Camp’s work consists of raising leaders and people of character who will make a major difference for kids in need and their families throughout the country and around the world. But does that fulfill Camp’s leadership imperative? And what is the extent of our obligation to assure that kids in need have summer opportunities, at our camps or elsewhere, which offer hope for the future and the chance to just be kids? These are difficult questions with no easy answers. Looking forward, the Board will be working with our Directors to develop meaningful strategies to address them, even as we remain keenly focused on our primary obligations to Kiniya and Dudley and our campers. I can’t tell you what our approach will be yet, but I can confirm that, as in all things we do at Camp, it will be rooted in love, leadership and the Other Fellow First.

 

Much love, JU #11904

4.3.22 - Sunday Talk

In the summer of 1949, Joe DiMaggio and the Yankees edged out Boston in a wild pennant race and went on to defeat Brooklyn in the World Series. Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic of China. And, on the shores of Lake Champlain, Camp Dudley formed its alumni association. The Camp Dudley Association (“CDA”) began as a forum for Dudley alums to gather and reminisce, provide support for the Board (then known as the Camp Dudley Committee), share Dudley’s news, promote and recruit for Camp, and organize a summer reunion on campus. #310 Chief Beckman, who had retired as Director only two years earlier, was the CDA’s first Secretary, and his contemporary #410 Ed Austin (whose great grandson #13758 Jake Rutter runs Dudley’s outdoors program today) was the first President. The CDA immediately took over publishing Camp’s newsletter, which became known as the “CDA News.” It also hosted an annual meeting and banquet in New York City and the CDA reunion began that first year when 140 alumni and friends came to Camp for a weekend in late August. In 1959, the CDA named chapel icon Rev. James Lee Ellenwood, who had passed away earlier that year, as its first “Man of the Year” (now “Person of the Year”) — Camp’s highest honor.

 

While the original CDA was separate from Camp Dudley, it has become more a part of Camp over the years. Today the CDA’s officers sit as non-voting members of our Board, bringing the voice of the alumni community to our discussions. The Board, in turn, elects the CDA’s officers and many of them have later served as trustees. Camp has taken over publishing our alumni news, now known as “The Other Fellow First” magazine, but the CDA still organizes the August reunion at Camp (which we REALLY hope to resume this year!) and supports other events, including the Leaders’ Luncheon and the Kiniya Tea. In recent years, the CDA has become a voice for younger alumni and, significantly, alumnae — that is, young women who spent their camping careers at Kiniya. More women have been recognized as “Person of the Year,” including two of the last three individual honorees. And #19231 Kari McKinley became the CDA’s first woman officer in 2018 and first woman president in 2020. The CDA has since changed its leadership structure to have co-presidents, one from Kiniya and one from Dudley and additional changes are coming, likely including a name change reflecting the organization’s ties to both our camps.

 

Today’s CDA leadership truly reflects the best of our younger generation of alumni. Co-presidents #21013 Sarah (“Bear”) McKani (formerly McDonough) and #17982 Matt (“Rooster”) McElroy both had long careers at Camp and come from Camp families. Both are successful professionals who bring their talents and expertise from the worlds of law and finance to our boardroom, where they have become essential voices. And both have strong connections to Camp’s alumni in their late 20s and early 30s who will lead this community in the years ahead. Bear and Rooster have deep love and respect for Kiniya and Dudley and their traditions (Bear, you may recall, actually wrote the Kiniya Hymn “‘Neath the Pines”), but they also appreciate the need for Camp to adapt as we move forward into a post-pandemic era and embrace a Camp Family with even greater representation from Kiniya that is becoming ever more diverse in many ways. So, here’s to the future. We’re in great hands!

 

Much love, JU #11904

3.27.22 - Sunday Talk

Service on the Camp Board has been a huge part of my life. And I have served on the Board for a long time. I first joined in 2003 and have served for 11 of the past 20 years. Do you know who has served longer? #20001 Marnie McDonagh has served for the past 17 years and #13804 Matt Storey has served continuously for the past 13 years and also served a year and a half in 2008-09. You may ask, “aren’t they our Directors?” Of course, they are! Under Camp’s bylaws, the Directors also sit as non-voting members of the Board of Trustees. They are both the Board’s only employees and our fellow trustees.

 

What does that mean for Camp? It means the Board and our Directors have an amazing partnership that allows Camp to benefit even more both from Marnie and Matt and from our trustees. In addition to running Camp, assuring that we are oversubscribed and under budget, and delivering another “best ever” summer that is true to our motto and mission, the Directors are central to the Board’s strategic efforts to build an even better future at Dudley and Kiniya. They contribute their visions about, e.g., how to improve our campuses, develop our programs, keep Camp affordable, and assure diversity, equity and inclusion. And they provide essential information about what is actually happening at Camp that allows the Board’s decisions to be grounded in Camp’s current reality.

 

Camp is the winner in this arrangement. We get the benefit of our Directors’ leadership in both current management and future strategy and our Board is more informed and able to have more meaningful discussions and make better decisions. And the Directors interact directly with our Board and benefit from our expertise and oversight. As Board Chair and a long-sitting trustee, it is a treasure for me to find Marnie and Matt in the boardroom every time I return. Just like the rest of you, their presence is a big part of what makes camp “Camp” for me. But more than that, their participation as trustees on our Board is critical to our success. Quite literally, we could not do our jobs without them. It is one more reason to be grateful for both of our Directors.

 

Much love, JU #11904

3.20.22 - Sunday Talk

Billy Berger is probably the most influential person you’ve never heard of in Camp history. He was Camp Dudley’s director for one season in 1907. Charged by the YMCA with finding a permanent home for Camp and a leader to build its future, the irrepressible Berger engineered the purchase of the Roe farm, which is still Dudley’s campus today, and hired Chief Beckman, who served as director for 40 years and defined Camp as we know it. Berger had a vision for the Westport campus that began with a small capital campaign to fund the construction of Dudley’s “Lodge,” a precursor to Beckman Hall, which sat in the same location and also served as the dining hall. In short, Berger had a big year!

 

A decade later in Colchester, Vermont, a young woman from New Jersey named Helen Van Buren –another enormously influential person who is little known to many at Camp– rented the Winnisquam Orchards on Lake Champlain and opened the summer camp that would become Camp Kiniya. In 1925, she convinced skeptical bank officers to lend her the funds to purchase the next door McNall Farm, where Kiniya’s campus remains today. Like Billy Berger, “Miss VB” had a vision. She oversaw the construction of camper cabins, a dining hall, the office and welcome center, the original Lodge (theater), and a music practice cabin (among other buildings) and, of course, planted Kiniya’s famous pines (as in “’Neath the Pines”) with her own two hands.

 

Today, Camp’s leadership continues to explore visions for the development of our campuses in ways that will benefit future generations. In recent years, Kiniya replaced its dining hall and built a new Lodge, arts and crafts center and several camper cabins. Dudley, for its part, added the Hank Poler Leadership Barn and dramatically expanded the campus with the purchase of the Frisbie Farm. Looking forward, the Board is focused on supporting our Directors’ visions for Camp’s future. #13565 Chris Rodgers leads our strategic initiative on capital projects planning. Chris’ team is working with our Directors to develop long-range plans for both campuses and considering, among other projects, Kiniya’s need for staff housing, the possibility of building an alumnae house on the Colchester campus (like MacLean Lodge at Dudley), and what will be needed to support Dudley’s programming on the Frisbie Farm. It is a time to dream big and then to plan carefully and realistically to assure that Camp can realize its dreams for the future “boys [and girls] through the years.”

 

Much love, JU #11904

3.13.22 - Sunday Talk

At at time when many Dudley and Kiniya campers, leaders and staff have endured great disruption in their lives and are seemingly under greater stress than at any point in the past, we are very fortunate to have a nationally-known psychologist leading our strategic efforts to support our community’s mental health and healthcare needs. #26142 Catherine Sanderson chairs the psychology department at Amherst College. She joined our Board in 2021. Last month, Catherine spoke to the Board about mental health in teens and young adults — that is, young people the ages of our campers, leaders and much of the staff. Some of the facts she presented pose important challenges for Camp, as we emerge from the pandemic. In recent studies, parents report new or worsening mental health issues in more than 20% of teen boys and more than 30% of teen girls. For their part, young adults reported higher levels of emotional distress during the pandemic than any other group, with fully two thirds saying the suffer medium or high levels of distress. And social media has increased pressures on young people to live up to images of their peers thriving that are often unrealistic.

 

Many of us think of Camp as a haven and we were so happy to be able to reopen in 2021 and give our campers and leaders the Dudley and Kiniya experiences and time away from home that they craved. But campers obviously cannot check their stress at the gates and Camp provided more mental health support last summer than ever before. Some of that was driven by the effects of the pandemic and some resulted from broader social trends and a greater willingness among younger folks to address mental health issues openly. Regardless, the research Catherine shared tells us this is a need that is only likely to increase in coming years.

 

For all these reasons, Catherine is chairing the Board’s 2022 strategic initiative on mental health and healthcare delivery. We have begun by identifying the challenges Camp confronts and cataloging our efforts to meet them in recent summers, including the amazing work of #22046 Mollie Farnham Stratton, who has served as Camp’s social worker and supported young people at both Kiniya and Dudley; #22830 Anita Johnson, who works with campers and families as they adjust to Camp life; our leaders, whose training includes how to meet all of their campers’ needs, including emotional and mental health; and, of course, our Directors. Camp is adding new counseling resources at both Dudley and Kiniya for the 2022 season. And thankfully, we have Catherine guiding the Board’s effort to develop a comprehensive strategy, so that our Directors have what they need to navigate this evolving terrain and make sure Dudley and Kiniya kids are well cared for and able to have fun at Camp and focus on the life lessons about character, leadership and service that make our camps so special.

 

Much love, JU #11904

3.6.22 - Sunday Talk

In the summer of 2019, I sat in Witherbee Hall and watched then-Board Chair #22898 Whitney Phelps and incoming CDA president #19231 Kari McKinley present Camp’s Person of the Year award to #15305 Sheila Kapper, who was head nurse at Camp Dudley for 30 years. That moment, when we saw women assume all three of the most revered positions in our alumni community, was a long time in coming. In fact, it took 99 years before Dudley even issued Camp numbers to women regularly. Hymn sing icon #10475 Ellie Edwards and director’s assistant #10698 Helen Moak received numbers in the late 1960s, and it appears legendary Camp secretary Martha Ellenwood was next. In 1983 she refused her own number and adopted her late husband Jud’s number with a “-W” suffix (presumably for “wife”) – so her number was #4606-W. That summer, Camp began issuing numbers to all women staffers. The first group to receive regular Camp numbers included Olympian #13295 Leslie Milne (1984 bronze medal in field hockey), Martha’s successor #13300 Pat Allen, and three of the Coyne sisters—#13281 Carol, #13288 Tracy and #13302 Mary.

 

After the Camp number barrier fell, women began to assume positions of even greater importance at Camp. In 1968, Ruth Marshall had been the first woman recognized as the CDA’s person of the year. #18178 Joan McKeown won the award in 1993 and it went to #16000 Lois Schmidt the following year. In 2018, Camp Kiniya’s founder, Helen Van Buren, became the first woman to win in her own right, and Sheila was the second in 2019. In 2020, the CDA itself finally got a woman president, when Kari took the job. Meanwhile, #17400 Betsy Griffith, who was head of the Madeira School in Virginia, became the first woman to join Camp’s Board in 1998. In the ensuing decades, our Board has become equally balanced between men and women and Whitney became the first woman chair in 2019.

 

Of course, we are now entering our seventeenth summer operating an entire camp for young women and girls in Colchester, Vermont. Our first woman director, #20001 Marnie McDonagh, is delivering on Camp’s motto and mission for a generation of Kiniya girls who will lead Camp into a future that has already arrived. Under their leadership, we will continue to assure that women are celebrated in our community and that all people in the Camp Family are on equal footing, regardless of gender. It has been a long journey and we are still climbing.

 

Much love, JU #11904

2.27.22 - Sunday Talk

Here is a photo of three guys who left home at fifteen and never moved back. #15293 JJ Alexander grew up in the Bronx and came to Camp Dudley as a senior in 1990. The following summer, instead of returning home from Camp at the end of the season, he moved in with #7405 Willie and #16000 Lois Schmidt and finished high school in Westport. JJ later moved back to the New York area and his daughter now attends Camp Kiniya. #25737 Shiro Nogaki grew up in Japan. He came to the United States as an exchange student at Greenwich High School in Connecticut, stayed to attend the University of Vermont, and went on to a successful career in finance. Shiro and his wife have sent three kids to Dudley and Kiniya. As for me, I grew up in Manhattan and came to Camp Dudley in 1976. After the 1981 season, I went to boarding school in Massachusetts, followed by college in New England and then moved to Southern California, where our family still lives. All four of our kids attended Dudley and Kiniya and we have been Camp parents for 20 consecutive years. All these years later, this Jewish kid from Manhattan, Japanese kid from Tokyo, and Caribbean kid from Trinidad are forging deep personal bonds as we work together to support the camps we love so dearly on the Board of Trustees. It’s a classic Camp story.

 

Shiro is leading our finance committee, drawing on his background in banking and investment. JJ joined the Board this year and is working with our development and alumni relations committee and has emerged as a leader in our strategic efforts on environmental sustainability, which is a focus of his work for Con Ed in New York. I am engaging with all of our Board’s committees and initiatives in my first few months as chair, relying on my professional background as a litigator and long experience on the Board. Our friendship and camaraderie makes our work as trustees more collaborative, more effective, and more fun. And the diversity in this group, and in the Board as a whole, helps our discussions to address the interests of the entire Camp Family.

 

This weekend, the Board of Trustees met for the first time in 2022. It is so awesome to be able to gather in person, after nearly two years of remote meetings on Zoom. As one trustee put it, “I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much, but also was so inspired.” We opened with an invocation from #26245 Liz Kirkpatrick on a theme of coming together as friends, in a selfless and positive spirit, to serve Dudley and Kiniya. The Board heard reports on Camp’s planning for another “best ever” summer in 2022. We approved Camp’s budget for the year and discussed the fundraising and development strategy. We spent the afternoon in spirited discussion of our strategic initiatives. The Board has the opportunity to be aspirational this year and to plan for the future on core topics including keeping camp affordable for working families, preserving our natural resources, addressing the evolving healthcare and mental health needs of our campers, leaders and staff, planning for future building and capital projects, and implementing the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan that we published last fall. All that work will keep us very busy over the year ahead as we work with our Directors as a diverse team of friends to plan for a robust future at both our camps.

 

Much love, JU #11904

2.20.22 - Sunday Talk

#9111 Cleveland “Buddy” Howard was the first known Black person with a camp number at Camp Dudley. He joined the music staff in 1956 and stayed until 1959. Dr. Howard later earned a Ph.D. in music and was a professor at the University of New Hampshire. The first Black camper was #9778 Calvin Chapman, who was a cub in 1961. His brother #10047 Phillip joined him in 1963, making them the first Black family to send more than one camper to Dudley. #10057 Sam Amukun was the first Black leader in 1962. He was a sprinter at Colgate University and competed in the 1960 and 1964 Olympics. In 1966, #9918 Simeon Moss, who was later a university spokesperson at Cornell, became the first Black aide, and #10055 Drew Hatcher, whose father was the first Black person to serve in the White House press office, became the first Black JL.

 

These are some of the early learnings of Camp’s “Alumni of Color Project,” which the Board commissioned in 2020, partly in response to a call from a group of young alumni to explore and tell the history of Black people at Camp. A dedicated group reviewed every cabin, staff and half-season camper photo in every Camp Dudley “Last Whistle” as part of a larger effort to identify every Black person (and ultimately every person of color) who ever came to Camp. The idea was that if we were to tell the history of Black people (and other people of color) at Camp, we first needed to know whose stories we were telling. The process can be imprecise – old photographs reveal only so much and Camp’s yearbooks date back only to 1938 and do not cover our first 53 seasons. We know from other records that Black people worked on Dudley’s staff as early as the 1890s and #3102 Yoshio Osawa, who later ran Japan’s Toho film studio, came to Camp around 1920, but there was no Last Whistle in those days. Moving forward, we appreciate that there are far deeper lessons to be learned as Camp’s alumni of color describe their experiences at Dudley and Kiniya. It is also clear that we will need a historian to take on the job of synthesizing and telling these stories. Still, the Alumni of Color Project’s research has been a critical first step.

 

Of course, telling Camp’s Black history is only one aspect of the Board’s work on implementing our October 2021 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (“DEI”) Action Plan. Under the leadership of #25793 Monique Jones, who focuses professionally on DEI in schools, the Board and our Directors are moving forward together with every aspect of that plan – from reviewing and revising Camp’s policies and procedures through a DEI lens to increasing diversity among our campers, leadership and staff, and Board of Trustees to assuring that our camps and our alumni activities are welcoming and affirming environments for the ever more diverse community that is the Dudley and Kiniya Family. In all this work, there will be tough stories to learn from and great successes to celebrate. Camp has made a lot of progress in its DEI efforts and we are not finished!

 

Much love, JU #11904

 

P.S.: For those who want to explore further, you can learn more about Camp’s DEI Action Plan using the link below.

2.13.22 - Sunday Talk

To a Dudley boy I never had the privilege of meeting:

 

I got word Sunday evening that you died in a snowmobile accident last weekend.  Awful was the first word that came to me.  Tragic.  Heartbreaking.  Unbelievably sad.  Devastating.  These were some of the words used by friends in the Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya Family when they learned the news.  Before anything else that we do or that we are, at Camp or beyond, most of those folks are parents.  Some of our kids are in their 30s and 40s, some are just babies, and some are 16 years old, as you were.  And we felt your loss deeply.  I know I did.

 

Because we never had the privilege of meeting, I asked people at Camp and in the Westport community about you.  They said you were a soccer player – a goalkeeper with great promise – and you played for our friend Evan George.  I feel sure I must have seen you practicing with his BVCS Griffins team on Dudley’s upper fields last fall.  You also played basketball and made such an impression on one of your coaches that he said he felt a piece of him died with you.  You were a classic car buff, like your grandfather, with a knowledge of vintage cars far beyond most kids your age.  And a “sneaker head,” as one person put it.  I wonder how many pairs you owned and what styles.  You were an animal lover.  The first photo of you in the local newspaper shows you holding a dog and your family asked that donations in your honor be made to the local society for the prevention of cruelty to animals.  And, of course, what connected us to you most directly was that you were a Dudley boy – one of us.  Perhaps I also saw you when I spent the afternoon on the Coach Ben Nelson basketball courts one day in the summer of 2019.

 

One of your coaches spoke about how you made a point to let him know how much you loved him whenever you saw him.  That story made me believe that you had a pretty good read on who we are and what we value at Camp Dudley – love and looking out for the other fellow.  I hope you and your family will know that you made a difference here.  You were at Camp for only one summer, but you are remembered well, especially by those with connections in Westport and the surrounding area.  Please also know that you will always be one of the “boys through the years” at Dudley – a long line of more than 27,000 people (actually including both boys and girls) who have come to Camp since it began in 1885.  Your memory, both as an individual Dudley boy and as part of that eternal heritage, inspires literally everything we do at Camp.  I only wish we could do more to bring peace to your family, your friends and your community.

 

Much love, JU #11904

2.6.22 - Sunday Talk

In the fall of 1975, #11903 Geoff Whelan and I were in the market for a summer camp to attend the following year. The camp we had attended in New Hampshire closed when the owners decided to retire. Geoff’s mother identified a handful of camps and Camp Dudley quickly rose to the top of the list. We loved the people we met at the New York City reunion (as the open houses were called in those days), hosted by #9106 Greg and Cathy Farrell, and especially the irrepressible #7405 Willie Schimdt, who sold us on Camp in the same way he convinced so many others. But unbeknownst to us, another factor was at play that made a major difference in our parents’ decision to send us to Camp — cost. In 1976, Dudley charged just $900 for a camper to attend full-season. If the season were the length it is today, when campers usually come for one of Camp’s two sessions, the prorated price would have been about $350. That affordable price made all the difference. We came to Camp Dudley the next summer and the rest is history.

 

Camp’s history is rooted in delivering meaningful summer programming at a reasonable price. In announcing Camp’s move to Westport, New York for the 1891 season, Sumner Dudley told parents the tuition would remain $1 for two weeks (or so it appears on an old document that is tough to read). By 1902 the Camp tuition was still just $2 for eight weeks — a lot more camp for a similar price. And that low price persisted. In 1928, Camp’s tuition for eight weeks was $150. And tuition remained essentially flat, adjusted for inflation, for nearly 60 years. The eight-week tuition was $300 in 1948 and still just over $900 in 1978. Beginning in the late 1980s, camp’s costs and its price increased significantly, to the point where one-session tuition surpassed $6,000. While this price is in line with or below what our competitors charge and Camp has worked hard to limit tuition growth, the Board and our Directors became increasingly concerned with keeping camp affordable for all families.

 

In 2018, the Board launched the Keeping Camp Affordable initiative, which we call “KCA.” We studied trends in the price of Camp and in tuition as a percentage of household income, which both showed significant growth over the past three decades. And we committed ourselves to develop strategies to lower Camp’s tuition so that all families can afford to send their kids to Dudley or Kiniya. The first step was Camp’s adoption of a tiered pricing system. Instead of one tuition, Camp now offers five tuition tiers that parents can choose based on what makes sense for their families. Last summer, nearly 300 campers took advantage of the opportunity to choose a tuition other than the top tier. Camp was full and it thrived financially. For 2022, Camp is offering a tuition tier at $2950, which is less than my wife and I paid to send our son to Dudley as a cub twenty years ago. Yes, we actually lowered the tuition that much. The Board, for its part, remains committed to KCA and to developing long-range strategies to enable Camp to continue offering tuition options that working families can afford. Another of our key strategic initiatives for 2022, led by #14571 Pete Groves, is focused on how we will keep camp affordable for decades to come and how we will fund the strategies we devise. After all, affordability is not just something we care about at Camp. It is an essential part of our history and who we are.

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.30.22 - Sunday Talk

I had a text exchange with #13804 Matt Storey last summer after Camp purchased the Frisbie Farm property. He told me about the huge undeveloped spaces that provided great opportunities for outdoor activities and getting back to nature. “What will you do with it?” I asked. “Bring back the cubbie swamp walk,” he suggested. That cubbie swamp walk was a pivotal moment in my cub season in 1976. Under the leadership of #10248 Cam Plowden, half the cub division waded through waist-deep muddy water and pretended to be muskrats on a day hike they called an “acclimatization.” I didn’t even know what that word meant. And, as a New York City kid with little experience in the woods, I was WAY out of my comfort zone. 46 years later I still remember it as a message that I had a lot to learn in this new place and a door that Camp opened for me to a (sometimes pretty challenging) relationship with nature that I might otherwise have missed.

 

One of our Board’s key initiatives for 2022 focuses on environmental strategy. We have only just begun to discuss what our focus will be. Under the leadership of #25416 Alice Tornquist, the Board is exploring everything from how we conduct outdoor education to the effects of changes in Lake Champlain on Camp’s programs. From managing the trees and plantings on both campuses to controlling Camp’s water use, energy use and carbon footprint. From sustainable food sources to making responsible use of the Frisbie Farm Campus. And, yes, whether to bring back the cubbie swamp walk. We start from a good place. Dudley and Kiniya are already very environmentally friendly places — among other things, we grow food on campus at both camps, we mill our own lumber for construction work, and we have a thoughtful outdoors program that helps to connect campers with nature.

 

The Board intends to be purposeful in creating environmental strategies for Camp that build on our history of respect for the environment and allow us to emerge as a national leader on sustainability within the camping world. We know that natural resources are, as Teddy Roosevelt put it, a sacred heritage we hold in trust for future generations. At Dudley and Kiniya, we mean to embrace and protect our natural environment, both at Camp and in the larger world. It’s challenging and heady stuff — all in a day’s work for Camp’s Board as we develop long range strategies for the benefit of Camp’s next 27,000 campers and beyond.

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.23.22 - Sunday Talk

Last week the Camp Board’s Executive Committee met in Southern California to discuss our strategic priorities for 2022 and how we will work together to make Camp the best it can be. It was a carefully planned meeting that involved repeated rapid testing and confirmed triple vaccination by all participants. And the 77-degree temperatures allowed us to meet and conduct all activities outdoors. The result was a productive time and warm reunion with Board Vice Chair #25368 Erinn Harley-Lewis, Treasurer #13565 Chris Rodgers, and Secretary #12664 Ted Smith. Because it was a Camp meeting, we began with an invocation, and the theme was “why not me?”

 

We first discussed Camp history. Chief Beckman, we agreed, was probably Camp’s most influential figure. He opened the Dudley campus in his first season as director in 1908 and built most of the familiar buildings that still stand over the next 40 years. Chief also introduced core Camp traditions like the Camp Motto, leadership training, the daily schedule, and our athletics, overnight hiking and drama and music programs. But we recognized that there were other leaders from Camp’s early days who could well have become the central figure that Chief became. Sumner Dudley, who founded camp, was a pioneer in American camping. He established Camp’s first permanent home in New Jersey and later moved Dudley to Lake Champlain for the first time. If he had not died in 1897, at the age of 43, it could be Mr. Dudley’s vision that shaped Camp. George Peck, who came to Camp in its first season and was camper #1, became director in 1897. He expanded Camp to more than 225 campers, established regular business operations and instituted the 8-week camp season. He was a fixture at Camp, as a visitor, until the 1940s. If he did not have to return to his year-round business in 1903, it could be George Peck that we remember. Finally, the irrepressible Billy Berger, who was director for only one season, committed himself to giving Dudley a permanent home and finding a long-term director to guide Camp for generations. He succeeded spectacularly, overseeing the purchase of the current campus and hiring Chief as his successor. If Billy Berger were more focused on his own advancement at Camp, it might be him we remember.

 

As we considered the possibility of a world in which someone other than Chief Beckman became Dudley’s central historical figure, it led us to ask more basic questions. Why not me? Maybe none of us will serve as Dudley’s or Kiniya’s director or institute programs that become core aspects of Camp. And we obviously did not come to Camp at a formative moment when many basic decisions were still being made. But much like Sumner Dudley, George Peck and Billy Berger, we have the opportunity to make important decisions that keep Camp strong and help it become an even greater place in the future. And why not you? What do you imagine yourself doing to improve Camp Dudley or Camp Kiniya or the lives of the people in the Camp Family? Will you be a leader, a division head, a future director, influential alum or board member. Will you start a new program, identify a new campus, hire a visionary leader, or improve Camp’s financial security? If Camp’s history teaches anything, it is that we need the contributions of a wide range of people. So why not me? And why not you?

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.16.22 - Sunday Talk

The 2022 Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya Board of Trustees met for the first time this past Wednesday. It was a New Year’s kickoff on Zoom with a packed agenda. We welcomed four new trustees and introduced the Board’s strategic initiatives for the year. Most importantly, we accomplished our first major goal of 2022. The Board voted unanimously to retire all of Camp’s outstanding loans and to restore Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya to zero debt for the first time in more than 15 years. As a result, Camp will no longer carry a debt service burden and can use funds that would have gone to paying down loans to reinvest in our people, our programs and our facilities.

 

Our debts were incurred to support visionary investments that changed the course of Camp. We took a mortgage loan to purchase Camp Kiniya in 2006 and launch our summer programming for girls. We took construction loans to build the Coleman Dining Hall in 2017 and Mimi’s Lodge in 2019, giving Kiniya’s campus the same core buildings (a dining hall and an auditorium) that anchor the Dudley campus. And we entered into another mortgage loan to purchase the home of Kiniya’s former owners, Jack and Marilyn Williams, which is located on the Kiniya campus, after they both died in 2014. Thanks to the enormous generosity of the Camp Family, we raised the money to pay for each of these projects. The loans allowed us to realize our vision for girls camping sooner, knowing that your contributions would ultimately allow us to pay them off promptly. Wednesday was the day that finally happened.

 

The retirement of Camp’s debt is the result of great financial management by #13804 Matt Storey, #20001 Marnie McDonagh, #10932 JR Scanlon, #17600 Fred Guffey and #22827 Jesse Smith, among others. It is also a tribute to the success of Camp’s development team under #10555 Dave Langston, #19542 Dawn Gay, #8804 John Storey and #15900 Bonnie Vaughn. And we stand on the shoulders of remarkable Board leadership from the likes of #12152 Charlie Johnson, IV, #11846 Tom Canning, #11889 Dwight Poler, #10643 Matt Quigley, #22898 Whitney Phelps and #12764 Chris Perry, who had the financial acumen and confidence in this institution to borrow strategically and enable Camp to realize its dreams, while always assuring that we were secure and in the black. And they accomplished all this even after the pandemic forced us to cancel our summer programs and take in zero tuition dollars in 2020.

 

Over the years, the Board’s discussions on this subject have truly brought out the best in all of us. We had different views about whether Camp should incur debt. As one of the “debt hawks” on Camp’s Board, I have always been very reluctant to approve borrowing. My views are based in our conservative history with respect to loans. Prior to 2006, Camp had only taken on debt once — in 1968 when we agreed to purchase the Westport campus from the YMCA for $140,000 payable over 30 years. But I was persuaded by others with long experience in finance and management that, in order to make a generational opportunity like Camp Dudley at Kiniya happen, we could take out another mortgage loan to buy a second campus in Colchester, so long as we had a plan to raise the funds to pay it back. And given our successes in the Building for the Future capital campaign, some of those same leaders persuaded me that we could take on short term loans to fund key buildings on the Kiniya campus, secure in the knowledge that we would repay them soon. On Wednesday, the tables turned and we “debt hawks” had our day, assuring that Camp made good on its commitment to eliminate these loans in the short term. Over the course of 15 years, our Board, Directors and finance and fundraising teams worked together, listened to one another, realized a dream, paid for it, and restored Camp to its historic position of zero debt. It is a moment for us all to be very proud of what we have accomplished as a Camp Family and a great way to start the year.

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.9.22 - Sunday Talk

If anyone on Camp’s Board of Trustees fulfills the image held by some in our community that Board members are special people, it is my friend Erinn Harley-Lewis. Erinn is probably the hardest working lawyer I know. You can call her at any hour of the day and find her on her computer at what used to be her dining table. Erinn lived in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean before settling in the DC area. She was a teacher and trustee at a school in Kenya. Erinn and her husband have three awesome kids, two of whom were at Camp last summer. She made a viral video of her younger daughter imitating Kamala Harris that got nearly 750,000 views on Twitter alone and was so popular that the Vice President herself commented on it. Erinn also has emerged as a leader in Camp’s Boardroom. She joined the executive committee in just her second year on the Board, led our 2021 task force on diversity, equity and inclusion, and wrote the DEI action plan that we published in October. And now she is our first woman Vice Chair of the Board. That’s pretty special. 

Of course, one of the purposes of these Sunday Talks is to demystify Camp’s Board. And if anyone can do that, it’s also Erinn. She was still very new to Camp when she joined the Board. She had been a Camp parent for only two years. But if you have been around Dudley and Kiniya, you know that we are pretty good at giving talented people jobs they may not feel quite ready to handle and helping them thrive. It happens on the Board in just the same way it does at Camp. And Erinn is a great example. She went from new Camp parent to Board Vice Chair in five years! And her path is a model for how folks with less experience at Camp can become very influential trustees, if they want to make the commitment. I hope a wide range of people in the Camp Family will see themselves in Erinn and become inspired to serve on the Board.

 

At a personal level, my experience with Erinn drives home one of the most important points about Board service. It is another stage in a Dudley or Kiniya lifetime and it carries many of the familiar benefits of Camp. I have been fortunate enough to make several lifelong friends while serving on Camp’s Board — people I did not know before we served together and who are now part of my inner circle. Sound familiar? Erinn Harley-Lewis is definitely one of those. When I think of her, I can’t help hoping that many of you will have the chance I had to make new friends later in life as you work together with them to support the camps we love so well. 

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.2.22 - Sunday Talk

Some of you who were around in the summer of 1988 may remember it as the “summer of love” — a theme cooked up by yours truly and my old friend #12082 Patrick Butler. It started as a joke. We thought it would be funny to announce a “love of the day” at breakfast and have everyone at Camp tell that person “I love you” all day long, whenever they saw them. What evolved was anything but a joke. The theme became transformational. For people who were named “love of the day,” it was amazing to be told “I love you” repeatedly, all day, by everyone you saw. I know. I was one of them late that summer and the experience could sometimes leave you speechless. And it went beyond that. In subtle ways, the summer theme brought out the best in our community — encouraging us all to declare our love for one another openly. Even the toughest and unlikeliest of people were willing to say it out loud.

 

The emergence of the 1988 “summer of love” theme is such an essential Camp story. What started as a joke took on a life of its own and became a meaningful way to build people up, to express who we are, and to strengthen our community. It reminds me of a quotation that was posted on the wall of Edie cabin at Camp Kiniya one summer, which reads “watch carefully, the magic that occurs when you give someone just enough comfort to be themselves.” (h/t #21303 Ellie Whelan) I paraphrased that quotation as part of a talk I gave about Camp a few weeks ago, at the Rotary Club in San Marino, California. Camp, I told them (with the 1988 summer theme firmly in my mind), is about love. And it is an amazing thing to see the magic that occurs when people are part of a community where they know they are loved for who they are.

 

Today, I begin one of the adventures of a lifetime, serving as Chair of Camp’s Board of Trustees. Camp is working on big plans in the coming years, including for how we will use the Frisbie Farm property, how we will keep Camp’s tuition affordable, and how we will make our camps affirming and inclusive places for a wide range of people. We also face major challenges, including how we will navigate the pandemic and its aftermath, how we will adapt to changes in the climate and environment, and how we will meet the evolving health care needs of our community. I can’t tell you today how all that will work out. But I can promise you that our Board’s work on every issue will be rooted in love — for one another, for all members of the Camp Family, for Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya and for the larger community we lead and serve. After all, as we said back in ’88, love is what Camp is all about.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.29.22 - Sunday Talk

In the summer of 2003, we sent our son #18756 Curtis Ulin to Camp Dudley for his cub season. It was a big year for us — Curtis’ first year at Camp and my first year on the Board. On the final Saturday morning of the season, I strolled down to Cub Alley to find Curtis, unaware that parents were not supposed to arrive until after rest period. (I now cringe at the thought that others may have thought I was exercising Board privileges — which are not a thing at Camp — by coming on campus early….) On the way over, I ran into another cubbie, whom I had never met, and he asked me a question that has stuck with me ever since. “Are you Curtis’ dad?” It caught me off guard. I was not the new Board member with an inflated sense of importance. Not the well connected alum who knew so many people in the Camp Family. Not the leader and division head of the 1980s. For this boy and almost everyone else at Camp 14 years after my time on campus ended, my significance was my relationship to our son. I thought to myself, “that is who I am” and said to the boy, “yes, I am Curtis’ dad.”

 

This week, our daughter #20904 Tori Ulin will arrive at Kiniya to prepare for her job as waterfront director. It will be Tori’s 13th season at Camp and our 20th consecutive year as Camp parents. Of all of the milestones we have passed in our relationship with Dudley and Kiniya, that is the one in which I take the greatest pride. In the boardroom, parenthood plays an enormous role. While being a parent is by no means a requirement of Board service, it is not accidental that all 19 of the current elected trustees are parents or prospective parents and 15 of us have sent kids to Kiniya or Dudley (or both camps). The parental perspective allows us to explore Camp’s challenges through the lens of different kids and different eras in our history (whenever our kids attended). It enhances our understanding of how Camp has evolved over the years and also gives us access to a constituency whose voice in the Camp Family is often muted because parents have less opportunity to communicate their thoughts directly. That indirect relationship with Camp through our kids is often also the tie that binds and on which our commitment to Camp and its future is based.

 

Critically, our role as parents drives home Camp’s core lesson. We must always put the Other Fellow First. That is a basic rule of parenting and also how it goes at Camp. As you stay longer and graduate to new roles — aide, JL, AL, leader, d-head, junior and senior staff, trustee, alum — Camp becomes less and less about me and more and more about other people. That is critical to the way we think and operate in the boardroom. And nowhere is the lesson clearer than in our roles as Camp parents. It our children’s time and our role is to work with our Directors to assure that Camp delivers “best ever” summers for them and for future generations of Kiniya and Dudley campers in our families and yours.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.22.22 - Sunday Talk

I’m thinking this morning about two of the many great leaders who have chaired our Board. #11846 Tom (“TC”) Canning was chair from 2007-09. In his first year, I served as TC’s Board Secretary. I actually met TC at the first Dudley event I ever attended —the 1975-76 reunion (now called open house) in NYC at #9106 Greg Farrell’s apartment. Later he was the junior division head when I was a junior, and he took me on a memorable 1978 woods trip where he taught me a vision of leadership that I still remember today. “Leadership,” TC said, “is seeing what needs to be done and making sure it gets done.” TC was also a mentor in my first Board term, where he modeled how to be a responsible trustee and taught the importance of committees in advancing the Board’s work in the long stretches between meetings. TC recently suffered a stroke. He is doing well, and there are many positive signs, but he still has a long road ahead to full recovery.

 

#8804 John Storey chaired the Board from 1987-1988. His daughters #14002 Jenn and #14504 Jessica were on staff when I was a leader and #13804 Matt Storey was a camper I knew well. But I did not really get to know John until I joined the Board in 2003, when he was Dudley’s director of development. John taught me much of what I know about what it means to be a trustee at Camp, including knowing the importance of a trustee’s words, so I took what I said seriously and thought before I spoke — about other perspectives, and the impact of my comments, truly putting the Other Fellow First. John and his wife #18204 Martha published the Other Fellow First magazine (then known as the CDA News) for decades and he later orchestrated Camp’s first $10 million capital campaign. He was fond of reminding us that “development is everyone’s business.” Truly, John and Martha have done more for Camp than almost any other individuals in our 137-year history. We see John less around the Westport campus these days, but he is frequently in our conversations and we know he will be just up the Dudley Road at the Storey Farm every summer, including this one.

 

TC and John embraced and carried forward Dudley’s leadership mandate — perhaps the most important thing we do; at least on par with the Camp motto. They have taught and inspired generations of leaders who followed them. And I am one of those. Most of all, both of these Camp icons led by example, showing the Board and others what it meant to lead and to appreciate the influence our words and actions might have on those around us and on the larger community at Camp and beyond. In the Hebrew tradition, these lessons are what is known as “mitzvot” — the fulfillment of commandments and gifts that cannot be paid back. They can only be paid forward to future leaders and we are doing our level best to honor that mission.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.15.22 - Sunday Talk

Your Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya Board of Trustees is meeting with key staff this weekend on campus at Camp Kiniya. Summer has come early and we are enjoying 80 degree temperatures in Colchester that make it feel even more like being at Camp. For the trustees, it has been a terrific reunion of friends. We spent Friday touring Kiniya, learning the campus and its history, experiencing the amazing improvements that we have made over the past 16 years thanks to your generosity, and exploring Kiniya’s future campus building needs and goals. #15198 Ben Cady and #25793 Monique Jones led a discussion of their work on diversity, equity and inclusion (“DEI”) in schools and how we may be able to support and improve Camp’s diversity efforts. We concluded with committee meetings in which the small groups that really advance the Board’s work had the rare opportunity to gather in person. After dinner (cooked by the legendary #20005 Gail Coleman herself!), trustees got together around the fire on the back porch of Mimi’s Lodge, passed a guitar around, and sang selections from Bob Dylan, James Taylor and others. #25223 Liz Moore led a rousing chorus of “Wish You Were Here.”

 

Saturday’s full agenda began early in the morning. #25075 Leslee Mackenzie delivered an invocation on the subject of cherishing people as individuals and avoiding the pitfalls of putting them into categories. #13804 Matt Storey and #20001 Marnie McDonagh reported on Camp’s preparation for another “best ever” summer that starts in just six weeks! #22827 Jesse Smith and #13565 Chris Rodgers led a discussion of how Camp is managing rising costs and a tight labor market and balancing our budget while also meeting our staff needs and delivering the program our campers deserve. We kicked off the Board development season — discussing the Board’s needs and who may be able to serve in the coming years. We also adopted a proposal to change our Board terms in a way that we hope will make it possible for more people in the Camp Family to consider Board service. #21013 Bear McKani and #17982 Matt McElroy closed the morning by discussing the future of the Camp Dudley Association (“CDA”), which is heading for a name change later in the year.

 

In the afternoon, we focused on our 2022 strategic initiatives, including a report from a working group on the use of gendered language at our single-sex camps. We closed with a discussion of our efforts to improve Camp’s support for the mental health needs of our campers, leaders and staff, led by the remarkable #26142 Catherine Sanderson, who chairs Amherst College’s psychology department, and a report on the development of our environmental strategy by #25416 Alice Tornquist. As we leave Colchester this afternoon, our trustees and staff wish we had more time together. We part company refreshed and inspired for the work ahead, in the true spirit of love, leadership and the Other Fellow First that defines the Camp experience.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.8.22 - Sunday Talk

It’s Mother’s Day. Today I am thinking of the Camp mothers who have sent their boys ang girls to Kiniya and Dudley over the past 137 years. They obviously vary as broadly as the campers who have come through our gates – different backgrounds, different choices about professional paths, different relationships with their kids. They are probably the most influential group of people without camp numbers in our community. And one thing they share in common is that they all chose to send their kids to Camp Kiniya or Camp Dudley and gave us all the opportunity to join the Camp Family.

 

It is a brave choice. Camp, of course, is a place where kids go to strike out on their own away from Mom and Dad, often for the first time. Mothers have to let go of kids as young as ten years of age for longer than they have ever done in the past, so the kids can spread their wings. My own mother knew how important Camp was to me, but she used to lament how long I was away and how much she missed having me home. Conversely, while my Dudley career lasted another decade (and, indeed, one could say it hasn’t ended yet…), my mother last visited me at Camp in 1981. Still she has remained an important presence in my Camp life, advising me about how to handle campers, how to work my way up through the leadership ranks, and even how to address Board governance issues and now how to manage a Board of Trustees – topics on which she has long personal experience.

 

The role of mothers at Camp today is more robust than ever. Nine of our current Trustees are mothers and many others, including our most recent past Chair, are former Board members who still work actively with Camp. In fact, the Board is currently considering changes to the length of trustee terms and our meeting schedule and other requirements, with a particular focus on enabling mothers to join our ranks, while balancing the responsibilities of work, family and Board service. On the ground at Camp, mothers continue to assume more prominent positions on Dudley’s staff and Kiniya has long been a place where mothers, from Marilyn Williams to #20001 Marnie McDonagh and many who supported them, have led all aspects of camp. Of course, mothers still play the traditional roles that have been so critical to Camp’s success – outfitting their kids for Camp, preparing them emotionally and psychologically to be away from home, sending letters full of news and support, visiting and celebrating their kids’ achievements, and, perhaps most important of all, letting us go for a few weeks every summer, so that we can come to Camp and become better people. For all that and more, we are eternally grateful for our Camp mothers and wish you all Happy Mother’s Day.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.1.22 - Sunday Talk

May is a big month for the Board of Trustees. We always meet in May — this year we’ll be at Camp Kiniya two weeks from now. In earlier times, that meeting culminated with a get together at the Director’s residence for the Kentucky Derby — at which #13081 Jack Mingle unfortunately was not dispensing advice. And at one of my favorite Board meetings, in May 2006, we approved the purchase of Camp Kiniya, which opened as part of the Dudley Family a month later.

 

May is also the month we begin identifying the new trustees we will elect to join the Board next year. #11889 Dwight Poler has described the Board nominations process as a matrix of considerations — and if Dwight thinks it is complex, you know it’s not easy! We begin by looking at what the Board is losing in the outgoing class whose terms end this year. In 2022, we are losing a public health physician who has served as camp doctor at Dudley and one of the leaders of our development and alumni relations committee, both Camp parents and strong professional women. Looking forward, we will examine the Board’s needs. Should we elect another healthcare professional in this time of unique health and safety issues? Do we need to add a minister or a trustee whose career is in the arts? How can we maintain the even balance of men and women we have worked so hard to develop? What are our other diversity priorities? Should we add more trustees who live outside the Northeast? Who are the next generation of Board leaders — perhaps those born in the late 1980s and early 1990s — and when is it right to elect them? What is the right mix of Camp alumni and folks whose connection to Camp is through their families? How will the Board support Camp’s fundraising and development goals? Those are just some of the important considerations we will discuss before we begin to identify the individuals who meet our needs and might join the Board in 2023.

 

Thankfully, in this critical work, we are led by #15198 Ben Cady, whose long career at Dudley culminated in three years as a division head (and he has remained deeply connected in the Camp Family), and Board Vice Chair #25368 Erinn Harley-Lewis, who will have kids at both our camps again this summer. Ben and Erinn have been actively engaged in Board development throughout their terms as trustees. They keenly understand that choosing the small group of people who govern our camps is one of the most important ways we have of influencing Camp’s future course and our prospects for continuing success. With the support of our Directors, former Board development chairs like myself and #12664 Ted Smith, and the involvement of the full Board, Ben and Erinn are well-prepared to begin the critical work of shaping Camp by carefully choosing the trustees who will govern our sacred institution. Here again, we are in terrific hands!

 

Much love, JU #11904

4.24.22 - Sunday Talk

During the CDA Reunion in 2006, I tried to persuade #7381 Paul Lutz to consider a return to Camp’s Board of Trustees. I cornered Paul outside MacLean Lodge and gave him my best pitch about the value he would bring to the boardroom and especially his perspective as an alumnus whose Dudley career dates back to the 1940s. Paul — it should come as no surprise — demurred. “You don’t need me back in the boardroom. Let someone else have a chance. If you want my thoughts, you know where to find me. I’m not going anywhere.” I conceded and we did not pursue Paul further, although he was true to his word about not going anywhere. He is still the most recent reunion chapel speaker, having given his latest sermon in 2019 — at age 90!

 

When I became a trustee again in 2017, I found that someone more persuasive than I had convinced #7951 Jack Kotz, whose Dudley career also began in the 1940s, to join the Board. Jack’s family has been connected to Camp for over a century. HIs grandfather was a boyhood friend of Chief Beckman’s. Jack’s son #12135 Pete Kotz was a leader with me and Pete and younger generations of the Kotz family are still at Camp today. Jack had the energy of trustees half his age and was always at the center of plans for trustee road trip adventures from South Carolina to Camp. He was also the leader of the Board’s committee that evaluated Camp’s programs and suggested possible enhancements. Jack’s nearly 60-year association with Camp gave him a unique perspective on what might (or might not) work.

 

More recently, #8580 Bob Craft, who came to Camp in the mid-1950s, has been the Board’s senior statesman. Somebody with a sense of humor assigned me to be Bob’s mentor in his first year as a trustee in 2019. (The notion that I had something to teach him was, well….) Bob’s son #14580 Tiger Craft had been a Plebe in my cabin in 1988 and he has grandkids at both our camps. After an enormously successful career as a lawyer — another field in which he is the one who should teach me — Bob took his talents back to Camp, where he has helped to steer us through the pandemic, as part of the Board’s risk management committee, and is working with the group developing our environmental strategic plan to preserve our campuses and natural resources for future generations. Bob’s knowledge of Camp history is invaluable. In discussions of the history of people of color at Camp, Bob alone can talk about his personal friendships with early pioneers like #9111 Buddy Howard, who is the first known Black person with a camp number, or #8481 Zenro Ozawa, who came to Camp from Tokyo around the same time Bob was on campus. As we continue our focus on developing an ever more diverse group of trustees to consider the interests of the entire Camp family, the Board remains committed to generational diversity as part of that effort, so that our progress will always remain rooted in our history and we can benefit from the perspectives of our elder statesmen and stateswomen who have lived the traditions that we cherish and seek to preserve and improve.

 

Much love, JU #11904

4.17.22 - Sunday Talk

Two weeks ago I got a text from fellow trustee #26245 Liz Kirkpatrick that read simply, “[#7405] Willie Schmidt is smiling down on you!” I had gotten the notion that Camp might be able to do something to help displaced kids in the US and around the world and Liz’s email was a response to a note I had sent her to explore the idea. Liz remembered Willie’s belief in the healing power of Camp and his efforts to expand our reach to benefit kids and families in need, who often came from faraway places and found a home at Dudley.

 

Earlier this winter, on the morning of my first Board meeting as Chair, #13820 Marcus Chioffi texted me a photograph of the two of us with Willie in 2007. In his inimitable style, Marcus wrote, “Just don’t screw this up. We’re watching.” Of course, I didn’t need to be reminded. After I stopped laughing at Marcus’ text, I paused to reflect. As he and Liz noted, in everything our Board does, Willie is always just behind our right shoulder. In our cub season, #10874 Doug and #10875 Steve Schmidt convinced my friend #11903 Geoff Whelan to pose for a “brothers” photograph (which Willie used to take of all brothers who were at Camp each year) with #11804 Rhen Alderman, who was not Geoff’s brother, although they looked a lot alike. Willie took no notice as they came up for their photo and announced them as “the Alderman boys!” That moment made us realize that Camp was a place where even an 11 year-old cubbie could play a joke on the Director and it would bind us to the community, which thrives on good humor. When Willie found out about the joke, he loved it.

 

Willie’s vision was far reaching. He fully embraced #20001 Marnie McDonagh and Camp Kiniya when they became part of the Camp Family in 2006. The dream of Camp Dudley for girls was one he had shared for many years — another example of that broad, inclusive spirit that Liz Kirkpatrick remembers. Willie and #16000 Lois Schmidt actually invited trustee #15293 JJ Alexander to live with them for his high school years because they (rightly) thought they could make a difference in his life. And when I was a new trustee in 2003, I had the audacity (that’s one word for it…) to suggest that Camp consider building an extreme sports center. The Board laughed it off, but I later learned that Willie had made the same suggestion, in yet another effort to reach a new generation of campers. The photo that Marcus sent me in February is from Willie’s final chapel address at Kiniya and it was the last time I ever saw him. I knew then that he would continue to inspire me and many others at Camp for years to come. Even now, when I often have to explain who Willie was to the generations of campers who have come to Dudley and Kiniya since he retired 28 years ago, Willie’s sense of humor, knowledge of history, tireless work ethic, belief in the power of Camp, and commitment to reach kids and families who have not been included in our programs, resonate loudly in my life and in everything our Board does. His spirit is alive and well at Camp.

 

Much love, JU #11904

4.10.22 - Sunday Talk

A year ago, the YMCA closed three Hudson Valley summer camps that had supported kids from underserved neighborhoods in New York City for over a century. The decision was announced just two months before camp started. #13804 Matt Storey promptly reached out to Camp Dudley’s former director #9398 Wheaton Griffin, who had been involved with the camps that closed in recent years, to explore how we could help the more than 1,000 kids whose summer plans had been upended. While one of them ultimately attended Dudley last year, we still wondered what more we could do for the other campers.

 

Two days before our last Board meeting, war broke out in Ukraine. Among the many images that flickered across my screen was a video of elementary school kids filing into a bomb shelter and sitting on a high shelf or berth while they awaited the all clear. I was left to consider where those kids will be this July and August – whether they will have summer programs like Kiniya and Dudley that give them hope and let them have fun after that awful experience. Once again, I asked, “what can Camp do to help?”

 

These events highlight the challenge of defining Camp’s role as a leader in the broader camping community and our obligations to kids and families who will probably never come to Kiniya or Dudley. It’s a discussion that dates back many years, which is hardly surprising at camps whose very mission is to “enabl[e] boys and girls to live lives characterized by devotion to others.” Of course, we are focused first and foremost on our camps and the Camp Family. And a significant part of Camp’s work consists of raising leaders and people of character who will make a major difference for kids in need and their families throughout the country and around the world. But does that fulfill Camp’s leadership imperative? And what is the extent of our obligation to assure that kids in need have summer opportunities, at our camps or elsewhere, which offer hope for the future and the chance to just be kids? These are difficult questions with no easy answers. Looking forward, the Board will be working with our Directors to develop meaningful strategies to address them, even as we remain keenly focused on our primary obligations to Kiniya and Dudley and our campers. I can’t tell you what our approach will be yet, but I can confirm that, as in all things we do at Camp, it will be rooted in love, leadership and the Other Fellow First.

 

Much love, JU #11904

4.3.22 - Sunday Talk

In the summer of 1949, Joe DiMaggio and the Yankees edged out Boston in a wild pennant race and went on to defeat Brooklyn in the World Series. Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic of China. And, on the shores of Lake Champlain, Camp Dudley formed its alumni association. The Camp Dudley Association (“CDA”) began as a forum for Dudley alums to gather and reminisce, provide support for the Board (then known as the Camp Dudley Committee), share Dudley’s news, promote and recruit for Camp, and organize a summer reunion on campus. #310 Chief Beckman, who had retired as Director only two years earlier, was the CDA’s first Secretary, and his contemporary #410 Ed Austin (whose great grandson #13758 Jake Rutter runs Dudley’s outdoors program today) was the first President. The CDA immediately took over publishing Camp’s newsletter, which became known as the “CDA News.” It also hosted an annual meeting and banquet in New York City and the CDA reunion began that first year when 140 alumni and friends came to Camp for a weekend in late August. In 1959, the CDA named chapel icon Rev. James Lee Ellenwood, who had passed away earlier that year, as its first “Man of the Year” (now “Person of the Year”) — Camp’s highest honor.

 

While the original CDA was separate from Camp Dudley, it has become more a part of Camp over the years. Today the CDA’s officers sit as non-voting members of our Board, bringing the voice of the alumni community to our discussions. The Board, in turn, elects the CDA’s officers and many of them have later served as trustees. Camp has taken over publishing our alumni news, now known as “The Other Fellow First” magazine, but the CDA still organizes the August reunion at Camp (which we REALLY hope to resume this year!) and supports other events, including the Leaders’ Luncheon and the Kiniya Tea. In recent years, the CDA has become a voice for younger alumni and, significantly, alumnae — that is, young women who spent their camping careers at Kiniya. More women have been recognized as “Person of the Year,” including two of the last three individual honorees. And #19231 Kari McKinley became the CDA’s first woman officer in 2018 and first woman president in 2020. The CDA has since changed its leadership structure to have co-presidents, one from Kiniya and one from Dudley and additional changes are coming, likely including a name change reflecting the organization’s ties to both our camps.

 

Today’s CDA leadership truly reflects the best of our younger generation of alumni. Co-presidents #21013 Sarah (“Bear”) McKani (formerly McDonough) and #17982 Matt (“Rooster”) McElroy both had long careers at Camp and come from Camp families. Both are successful professionals who bring their talents and expertise from the worlds of law and finance to our boardroom, where they have become essential voices. And both have strong connections to Camp’s alumni in their late 20s and early 30s who will lead this community in the years ahead. Bear and Rooster have deep love and respect for Kiniya and Dudley and their traditions (Bear, you may recall, actually wrote the Kiniya Hymn “‘Neath the Pines”), but they also appreciate the need for Camp to adapt as we move forward into a post-pandemic era and embrace a Camp Family with even greater representation from Kiniya that is becoming ever more diverse in many ways. So, here’s to the future. We’re in great hands!

 

Much love, JU #11904

3.27.22 - Sunday Talk

Service on the Camp Board has been a huge part of my life. And I have served on the Board for a long time. I first joined in 2003 and have served for 11 of the past 20 years. Do you know who has served longer? #20001 Marnie McDonagh has served for the past 17 years and #13804 Matt Storey has served continuously for the past 13 years and also served a year and a half in 2008-09. You may ask, “aren’t they our Directors?” Of course, they are! Under Camp’s bylaws, the Directors also sit as non-voting members of the Board of Trustees. They are both the Board’s only employees and our fellow trustees.

 

What does that mean for Camp? It means the Board and our Directors have an amazing partnership that allows Camp to benefit even more both from Marnie and Matt and from our trustees. In addition to running Camp, assuring that we are oversubscribed and under budget, and delivering another “best ever” summer that is true to our motto and mission, the Directors are central to the Board’s strategic efforts to build an even better future at Dudley and Kiniya. They contribute their visions about, e.g., how to improve our campuses, develop our programs, keep Camp affordable, and assure diversity, equity and inclusion. And they provide essential information about what is actually happening at Camp that allows the Board’s decisions to be grounded in Camp’s current reality.

 

Camp is the winner in this arrangement. We get the benefit of our Directors’ leadership in both current management and future strategy and our Board is more informed and able to have more meaningful discussions and make better decisions. And the Directors interact directly with our Board and benefit from our expertise and oversight. As Board Chair and a long-sitting trustee, it is a treasure for me to find Marnie and Matt in the boardroom every time I return. Just like the rest of you, their presence is a big part of what makes camp “Camp” for me. But more than that, their participation as trustees on our Board is critical to our success. Quite literally, we could not do our jobs without them. It is one more reason to be grateful for both of our Directors.

 

Much love, JU #11904

3.20.22 - Sunday Talk

Billy Berger is probably the most influential person you’ve never heard of in Camp history. He was Camp Dudley’s director for one season in 1907. Charged by the YMCA with finding a permanent home for Camp and a leader to build its future, the irrepressible Berger engineered the purchase of the Roe farm, which is still Dudley’s campus today, and hired Chief Beckman, who served as director for 40 years and defined Camp as we know it. Berger had a vision for the Westport campus that began with a small capital campaign to fund the construction of Dudley’s “Lodge,” a precursor to Beckman Hall, which sat in the same location and also served as the dining hall. In short, Berger had a big year!

 

A decade later in Colchester, Vermont, a young woman from New Jersey named Helen Van Buren –another enormously influential person who is little known to many at Camp– rented the Winnisquam Orchards on Lake Champlain and opened the summer camp that would become Camp Kiniya. In 1925, she convinced skeptical bank officers to lend her the funds to purchase the next door McNall Farm, where Kiniya’s campus remains today. Like Billy Berger, “Miss VB” had a vision. She oversaw the construction of camper cabins, a dining hall, the office and welcome center, the original Lodge (theater), and a music practice cabin (among other buildings) and, of course, planted Kiniya’s famous pines (as in “’Neath the Pines”) with her own two hands.

 

Today, Camp’s leadership continues to explore visions for the development of our campuses in ways that will benefit future generations. In recent years, Kiniya replaced its dining hall and built a new Lodge, arts and crafts center and several camper cabins. Dudley, for its part, added the Hank Poler Leadership Barn and dramatically expanded the campus with the purchase of the Frisbie Farm. Looking forward, the Board is focused on supporting our Directors’ visions for Camp’s future. #13565 Chris Rodgers leads our strategic initiative on capital projects planning. Chris’ team is working with our Directors to develop long-range plans for both campuses and considering, among other projects, Kiniya’s need for staff housing, the possibility of building an alumnae house on the Colchester campus (like MacLean Lodge at Dudley), and what will be needed to support Dudley’s programming on the Frisbie Farm. It is a time to dream big and then to plan carefully and realistically to assure that Camp can realize its dreams for the future “boys [and girls] through the years.”

 

Much love, JU #11904

3.13.22 - Sunday Talk

At at time when many Dudley and Kiniya campers, leaders and staff have endured great disruption in their lives and are seemingly under greater stress than at any point in the past, we are very fortunate to have a nationally-known psychologist leading our strategic efforts to support our community’s mental health and healthcare needs. #26142 Catherine Sanderson chairs the psychology department at Amherst College. She joined our Board in 2021. Last month, Catherine spoke to the Board about mental health in teens and young adults — that is, young people the ages of our campers, leaders and much of the staff. Some of the facts she presented pose important challenges for Camp, as we emerge from the pandemic. In recent studies, parents report new or worsening mental health issues in more than 20% of teen boys and more than 30% of teen girls. For their part, young adults reported higher levels of emotional distress during the pandemic than any other group, with fully two thirds saying the suffer medium or high levels of distress. And social media has increased pressures on young people to live up to images of their peers thriving that are often unrealistic.

 

Many of us think of Camp as a haven and we were so happy to be able to reopen in 2021 and give our campers and leaders the Dudley and Kiniya experiences and time away from home that they craved. But campers obviously cannot check their stress at the gates and Camp provided more mental health support last summer than ever before. Some of that was driven by the effects of the pandemic and some resulted from broader social trends and a greater willingness among younger folks to address mental health issues openly. Regardless, the research Catherine shared tells us this is a need that is only likely to increase in coming years.

 

For all these reasons, Catherine is chairing the Board’s 2022 strategic initiative on mental health and healthcare delivery. We have begun by identifying the challenges Camp confronts and cataloging our efforts to meet them in recent summers, including the amazing work of #22046 Mollie Farnham Stratton, who has served as Camp’s social worker and supported young people at both Kiniya and Dudley; #22830 Anita Johnson, who works with campers and families as they adjust to Camp life; our leaders, whose training includes how to meet all of their campers’ needs, including emotional and mental health; and, of course, our Directors. Camp is adding new counseling resources at both Dudley and Kiniya for the 2022 season. And thankfully, we have Catherine guiding the Board’s effort to develop a comprehensive strategy, so that our Directors have what they need to navigate this evolving terrain and make sure Dudley and Kiniya kids are well cared for and able to have fun at Camp and focus on the life lessons about character, leadership and service that make our camps so special.

 

Much love, JU #11904

3.6.22 - Sunday Talk

In the summer of 2019, I sat in Witherbee Hall and watched then-Board Chair #22898 Whitney Phelps and incoming CDA president #19231 Kari McKinley present Camp’s Person of the Year award to #15305 Sheila Kapper, who was head nurse at Camp Dudley for 30 years. That moment, when we saw women assume all three of the most revered positions in our alumni community, was a long time in coming. In fact, it took 99 years before Dudley even issued Camp numbers to women regularly. Hymn sing icon #10475 Ellie Edwards and director’s assistant #10698 Helen Moak received numbers in the late 1960s, and it appears legendary Camp secretary Martha Ellenwood was next. In 1983 she refused her own number and adopted her late husband Jud’s number with a “-W” suffix (presumably for “wife”) – so her number was #4606-W. That summer, Camp began issuing numbers to all women staffers. The first group to receive regular Camp numbers included Olympian #13295 Leslie Milne (1984 bronze medal in field hockey), Martha’s successor #13300 Pat Allen, and three of the Coyne sisters—#13281 Carol, #13288 Tracy and #13302 Mary.

 

After the Camp number barrier fell, women began to assume positions of even greater importance at Camp. In 1968, Ruth Marshall had been the first woman recognized as the CDA’s person of the year. #18178 Joan McKeown won the award in 1993 and it went to #16000 Lois Schmidt the following year. In 2018, Camp Kiniya’s founder, Helen Van Buren, became the first woman to win in her own right, and Sheila was the second in 2019. In 2020, the CDA itself finally got a woman president, when Kari took the job. Meanwhile, #17400 Betsy Griffith, who was head of the Madeira School in Virginia, became the first woman to join Camp’s Board in 1998. In the ensuing decades, our Board has become equally balanced between men and women and Whitney became the first woman chair in 2019.

 

Of course, we are now entering our seventeenth summer operating an entire camp for young women and girls in Colchester, Vermont. Our first woman director, #20001 Marnie McDonagh, is delivering on Camp’s motto and mission for a generation of Kiniya girls who will lead Camp into a future that has already arrived. Under their leadership, we will continue to assure that women are celebrated in our community and that all people in the Camp Family are on equal footing, regardless of gender. It has been a long journey and we are still climbing.

 

Much love, JU #11904

2.27.22 - Sunday Talk

Here is a photo of three guys who left home at fifteen and never moved back. #15293 JJ Alexander grew up in the Bronx and came to Camp Dudley as a senior in 1990. The following summer, instead of returning home from Camp at the end of the season, he moved in with #7405 Willie and #16000 Lois Schmidt and finished high school in Westport. JJ later moved back to the New York area and his daughter now attends Camp Kiniya. #25737 Shiro Nogaki grew up in Japan. He came to the United States as an exchange student at Greenwich High School in Connecticut, stayed to attend the University of Vermont, and went on to a successful career in finance. Shiro and his wife have sent three kids to Dudley and Kiniya. As for me, I grew up in Manhattan and came to Camp Dudley in 1976. After the 1981 season, I went to boarding school in Massachusetts, followed by college in New England and then moved to Southern California, where our family still lives. All four of our kids attended Dudley and Kiniya and we have been Camp parents for 20 consecutive years. All these years later, this Jewish kid from Manhattan, Japanese kid from Tokyo, and Caribbean kid from Trinidad are forging deep personal bonds as we work together to support the camps we love so dearly on the Board of Trustees. It’s a classic Camp story.

 

Shiro is leading our finance committee, drawing on his background in banking and investment. JJ joined the Board this year and is working with our development and alumni relations committee and has emerged as a leader in our strategic efforts on environmental sustainability, which is a focus of his work for Con Ed in New York. I am engaging with all of our Board’s committees and initiatives in my first few months as chair, relying on my professional background as a litigator and long experience on the Board. Our friendship and camaraderie makes our work as trustees more collaborative, more effective, and more fun. And the diversity in this group, and in the Board as a whole, helps our discussions to address the interests of the entire Camp Family.

 

This weekend, the Board of Trustees met for the first time in 2022. It is so awesome to be able to gather in person, after nearly two years of remote meetings on Zoom. As one trustee put it, “I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much, but also was so inspired.” We opened with an invocation from #26245 Liz Kirkpatrick on a theme of coming together as friends, in a selfless and positive spirit, to serve Dudley and Kiniya. The Board heard reports on Camp’s planning for another “best ever” summer in 2022. We approved Camp’s budget for the year and discussed the fundraising and development strategy. We spent the afternoon in spirited discussion of our strategic initiatives. The Board has the opportunity to be aspirational this year and to plan for the future on core topics including keeping camp affordable for working families, preserving our natural resources, addressing the evolving healthcare and mental health needs of our campers, leaders and staff, planning for future building and capital projects, and implementing the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan that we published last fall. All that work will keep us very busy over the year ahead as we work with our Directors as a diverse team of friends to plan for a robust future at both our camps.

 

Much love, JU #11904

2.20.22 - Sunday Talk

#9111 Cleveland “Buddy” Howard was the first known Black person with a camp number at Camp Dudley. He joined the music staff in 1956 and stayed until 1959. Dr. Howard later earned a Ph.D. in music and was a professor at the University of New Hampshire. The first Black camper was #9778 Calvin Chapman, who was a cub in 1961. His brother #10047 Phillip joined him in 1963, making them the first Black family to send more than one camper to Dudley. #10057 Sam Amukun was the first Black leader in 1962. He was a sprinter at Colgate University and competed in the 1960 and 1964 Olympics. In 1966, #9918 Simeon Moss, who was later a university spokesperson at Cornell, became the first Black aide, and #10055 Drew Hatcher, whose father was the first Black person to serve in the White House press office, became the first Black JL.

 

These are some of the early learnings of Camp’s “Alumni of Color Project,” which the Board commissioned in 2020, partly in response to a call from a group of young alumni to explore and tell the history of Black people at Camp. A dedicated group reviewed every cabin, staff and half-season camper photo in every Camp Dudley “Last Whistle” as part of a larger effort to identify every Black person (and ultimately every person of color) who ever came to Camp. The idea was that if we were to tell the history of Black people (and other people of color) at Camp, we first needed to know whose stories we were telling. The process can be imprecise – old photographs reveal only so much and Camp’s yearbooks date back only to 1938 and do not cover our first 53 seasons. We know from other records that Black people worked on Dudley’s staff as early as the 1890s and #3102 Yoshio Osawa, who later ran Japan’s Toho film studio, came to Camp around 1920, but there was no Last Whistle in those days. Moving forward, we appreciate that there are far deeper lessons to be learned as Camp’s alumni of color describe their experiences at Dudley and Kiniya. It is also clear that we will need a historian to take on the job of synthesizing and telling these stories. Still, the Alumni of Color Project’s research has been a critical first step.

 

Of course, telling Camp’s Black history is only one aspect of the Board’s work on implementing our October 2021 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (“DEI”) Action Plan. Under the leadership of #25793 Monique Jones, who focuses professionally on DEI in schools, the Board and our Directors are moving forward together with every aspect of that plan – from reviewing and revising Camp’s policies and procedures through a DEI lens to increasing diversity among our campers, leadership and staff, and Board of Trustees to assuring that our camps and our alumni activities are welcoming and affirming environments for the ever more diverse community that is the Dudley and Kiniya Family. In all this work, there will be tough stories to learn from and great successes to celebrate. Camp has made a lot of progress in its DEI efforts and we are not finished!

 

Much love, JU #11904

 

P.S.: For those who want to explore further, you can learn more about Camp’s DEI Action Plan using the link below.

2.13.22 - Sunday Talk

To a Dudley boy I never had the privilege of meeting:

 

I got word Sunday evening that you died in a snowmobile accident last weekend.  Awful was the first word that came to me.  Tragic.  Heartbreaking.  Unbelievably sad.  Devastating.  These were some of the words used by friends in the Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya Family when they learned the news.  Before anything else that we do or that we are, at Camp or beyond, most of those folks are parents.  Some of our kids are in their 30s and 40s, some are just babies, and some are 16 years old, as you were.  And we felt your loss deeply.  I know I did.

 

Because we never had the privilege of meeting, I asked people at Camp and in the Westport community about you.  They said you were a soccer player – a goalkeeper with great promise – and you played for our friend Evan George.  I feel sure I must have seen you practicing with his BVCS Griffins team on Dudley’s upper fields last fall.  You also played basketball and made such an impression on one of your coaches that he said he felt a piece of him died with you.  You were a classic car buff, like your grandfather, with a knowledge of vintage cars far beyond most kids your age.  And a “sneaker head,” as one person put it.  I wonder how many pairs you owned and what styles.  You were an animal lover.  The first photo of you in the local newspaper shows you holding a dog and your family asked that donations in your honor be made to the local society for the prevention of cruelty to animals.  And, of course, what connected us to you most directly was that you were a Dudley boy – one of us.  Perhaps I also saw you when I spent the afternoon on the Coach Ben Nelson basketball courts one day in the summer of 2019.

 

One of your coaches spoke about how you made a point to let him know how much you loved him whenever you saw him.  That story made me believe that you had a pretty good read on who we are and what we value at Camp Dudley – love and looking out for the other fellow.  I hope you and your family will know that you made a difference here.  You were at Camp for only one summer, but you are remembered well, especially by those with connections in Westport and the surrounding area.  Please also know that you will always be one of the “boys through the years” at Dudley – a long line of more than 27,000 people (actually including both boys and girls) who have come to Camp since it began in 1885.  Your memory, both as an individual Dudley boy and as part of that eternal heritage, inspires literally everything we do at Camp.  I only wish we could do more to bring peace to your family, your friends and your community.

 

Much love, JU #11904

2.6.22 - Sunday Talk

In the fall of 1975, #11903 Geoff Whelan and I were in the market for a summer camp to attend the following year. The camp we had attended in New Hampshire closed when the owners decided to retire. Geoff’s mother identified a handful of camps and Camp Dudley quickly rose to the top of the list. We loved the people we met at the New York City reunion (as the open houses were called in those days), hosted by #9106 Greg and Cathy Farrell, and especially the irrepressible #7405 Willie Schimdt, who sold us on Camp in the same way he convinced so many others. But unbeknownst to us, another factor was at play that made a major difference in our parents’ decision to send us to Camp — cost. In 1976, Dudley charged just $900 for a camper to attend full-season. If the season were the length it is today, when campers usually come for one of Camp’s two sessions, the prorated price would have been about $350. That affordable price made all the difference. We came to Camp Dudley the next summer and the rest is history.

 

Camp’s history is rooted in delivering meaningful summer programming at a reasonable price. In announcing Camp’s move to Westport, New York for the 1891 season, Sumner Dudley told parents the tuition would remain $1 for two weeks (or so it appears on an old document that is tough to read). By 1902 the Camp tuition was still just $2 for eight weeks — a lot more camp for a similar price. And that low price persisted. In 1928, Camp’s tuition for eight weeks was $150. And tuition remained essentially flat, adjusted for inflation, for nearly 60 years. The eight-week tuition was $300 in 1948 and still just over $900 in 1978. Beginning in the late 1980s, camp’s costs and its price increased significantly, to the point where one-session tuition surpassed $6,000. While this price is in line with or below what our competitors charge and Camp has worked hard to limit tuition growth, the Board and our Directors became increasingly concerned with keeping camp affordable for all families.

 

In 2018, the Board launched the Keeping Camp Affordable initiative, which we call “KCA.” We studied trends in the price of Camp and in tuition as a percentage of household income, which both showed significant growth over the past three decades. And we committed ourselves to develop strategies to lower Camp’s tuition so that all families can afford to send their kids to Dudley or Kiniya. The first step was Camp’s adoption of a tiered pricing system. Instead of one tuition, Camp now offers five tuition tiers that parents can choose based on what makes sense for their families. Last summer, nearly 300 campers took advantage of the opportunity to choose a tuition other than the top tier. Camp was full and it thrived financially. For 2022, Camp is offering a tuition tier at $2950, which is less than my wife and I paid to send our son to Dudley as a cub twenty years ago. Yes, we actually lowered the tuition that much. The Board, for its part, remains committed to KCA and to developing long-range strategies to enable Camp to continue offering tuition options that working families can afford. Another of our key strategic initiatives for 2022, led by #14571 Pete Groves, is focused on how we will keep camp affordable for decades to come and how we will fund the strategies we devise. After all, affordability is not just something we care about at Camp. It is an essential part of our history and who we are.

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.30.22 - Sunday Talk

I had a text exchange with #13804 Matt Storey last summer after Camp purchased the Frisbie Farm property. He told me about the huge undeveloped spaces that provided great opportunities for outdoor activities and getting back to nature. “What will you do with it?” I asked. “Bring back the cubbie swamp walk,” he suggested. That cubbie swamp walk was a pivotal moment in my cub season in 1976. Under the leadership of #10248 Cam Plowden, half the cub division waded through waist-deep muddy water and pretended to be muskrats on a day hike they called an “acclimatization.” I didn’t even know what that word meant. And, as a New York City kid with little experience in the woods, I was WAY out of my comfort zone. 46 years later I still remember it as a message that I had a lot to learn in this new place and a door that Camp opened for me to a (sometimes pretty challenging) relationship with nature that I might otherwise have missed.

 

One of our Board’s key initiatives for 2022 focuses on environmental strategy. We have only just begun to discuss what our focus will be. Under the leadership of #25416 Alice Tornquist, the Board is exploring everything from how we conduct outdoor education to the effects of changes in Lake Champlain on Camp’s programs. From managing the trees and plantings on both campuses to controlling Camp’s water use, energy use and carbon footprint. From sustainable food sources to making responsible use of the Frisbie Farm Campus. And, yes, whether to bring back the cubbie swamp walk. We start from a good place. Dudley and Kiniya are already very environmentally friendly places — among other things, we grow food on campus at both camps, we mill our own lumber for construction work, and we have a thoughtful outdoors program that helps to connect campers with nature.

 

The Board intends to be purposeful in creating environmental strategies for Camp that build on our history of respect for the environment and allow us to emerge as a national leader on sustainability within the camping world. We know that natural resources are, as Teddy Roosevelt put it, a sacred heritage we hold in trust for future generations. At Dudley and Kiniya, we mean to embrace and protect our natural environment, both at Camp and in the larger world. It’s challenging and heady stuff — all in a day’s work for Camp’s Board as we develop long range strategies for the benefit of Camp’s next 27,000 campers and beyond.

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.23.22 - Sunday Talk

Last week the Camp Board’s Executive Committee met in Southern California to discuss our strategic priorities for 2022 and how we will work together to make Camp the best it can be. It was a carefully planned meeting that involved repeated rapid testing and confirmed triple vaccination by all participants. And the 77-degree temperatures allowed us to meet and conduct all activities outdoors. The result was a productive time and warm reunion with Board Vice Chair #25368 Erinn Harley-Lewis, Treasurer #13565 Chris Rodgers, and Secretary #12664 Ted Smith. Because it was a Camp meeting, we began with an invocation, and the theme was “why not me?”

 

We first discussed Camp history. Chief Beckman, we agreed, was probably Camp’s most influential figure. He opened the Dudley campus in his first season as director in 1908 and built most of the familiar buildings that still stand over the next 40 years. Chief also introduced core Camp traditions like the Camp Motto, leadership training, the daily schedule, and our athletics, overnight hiking and drama and music programs. But we recognized that there were other leaders from Camp’s early days who could well have become the central figure that Chief became. Sumner Dudley, who founded camp, was a pioneer in American camping. He established Camp’s first permanent home in New Jersey and later moved Dudley to Lake Champlain for the first time. If he had not died in 1897, at the age of 43, it could be Mr. Dudley’s vision that shaped Camp. George Peck, who came to Camp in its first season and was camper #1, became director in 1897. He expanded Camp to more than 225 campers, established regular business operations and instituted the 8-week camp season. He was a fixture at Camp, as a visitor, until the 1940s. If he did not have to return to his year-round business in 1903, it could be George Peck that we remember. Finally, the irrepressible Billy Berger, who was director for only one season, committed himself to giving Dudley a permanent home and finding a long-term director to guide Camp for generations. He succeeded spectacularly, overseeing the purchase of the current campus and hiring Chief as his successor. If Billy Berger were more focused on his own advancement at Camp, it might be him we remember.

 

As we considered the possibility of a world in which someone other than Chief Beckman became Dudley’s central historical figure, it led us to ask more basic questions. Why not me? Maybe none of us will serve as Dudley’s or Kiniya’s director or institute programs that become core aspects of Camp. And we obviously did not come to Camp at a formative moment when many basic decisions were still being made. But much like Sumner Dudley, George Peck and Billy Berger, we have the opportunity to make important decisions that keep Camp strong and help it become an even greater place in the future. And why not you? What do you imagine yourself doing to improve Camp Dudley or Camp Kiniya or the lives of the people in the Camp Family? Will you be a leader, a division head, a future director, influential alum or board member. Will you start a new program, identify a new campus, hire a visionary leader, or improve Camp’s financial security? If Camp’s history teaches anything, it is that we need the contributions of a wide range of people. So why not me? And why not you?

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.16.22 - Sunday Talk

The 2022 Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya Board of Trustees met for the first time this past Wednesday. It was a New Year’s kickoff on Zoom with a packed agenda. We welcomed four new trustees and introduced the Board’s strategic initiatives for the year. Most importantly, we accomplished our first major goal of 2022. The Board voted unanimously to retire all of Camp’s outstanding loans and to restore Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya to zero debt for the first time in more than 15 years. As a result, Camp will no longer carry a debt service burden and can use funds that would have gone to paying down loans to reinvest in our people, our programs and our facilities.

 

Our debts were incurred to support visionary investments that changed the course of Camp. We took a mortgage loan to purchase Camp Kiniya in 2006 and launch our summer programming for girls. We took construction loans to build the Coleman Dining Hall in 2017 and Mimi’s Lodge in 2019, giving Kiniya’s campus the same core buildings (a dining hall and an auditorium) that anchor the Dudley campus. And we entered into another mortgage loan to purchase the home of Kiniya’s former owners, Jack and Marilyn Williams, which is located on the Kiniya campus, after they both died in 2014. Thanks to the enormous generosity of the Camp Family, we raised the money to pay for each of these projects. The loans allowed us to realize our vision for girls camping sooner, knowing that your contributions would ultimately allow us to pay them off promptly. Wednesday was the day that finally happened.

 

The retirement of Camp’s debt is the result of great financial management by #13804 Matt Storey, #20001 Marnie McDonagh, #10932 JR Scanlon, #17600 Fred Guffey and #22827 Jesse Smith, among others. It is also a tribute to the success of Camp’s development team under #10555 Dave Langston, #19542 Dawn Gay, #8804 John Storey and #15900 Bonnie Vaughn. And we stand on the shoulders of remarkable Board leadership from the likes of #12152 Charlie Johnson, IV, #11846 Tom Canning, #11889 Dwight Poler, #10643 Matt Quigley, #22898 Whitney Phelps and #12764 Chris Perry, who had the financial acumen and confidence in this institution to borrow strategically and enable Camp to realize its dreams, while always assuring that we were secure and in the black. And they accomplished all this even after the pandemic forced us to cancel our summer programs and take in zero tuition dollars in 2020.

 

Over the years, the Board’s discussions on this subject have truly brought out the best in all of us. We had different views about whether Camp should incur debt. As one of the “debt hawks” on Camp’s Board, I have always been very reluctant to approve borrowing. My views are based in our conservative history with respect to loans. Prior to 2006, Camp had only taken on debt once — in 1968 when we agreed to purchase the Westport campus from the YMCA for $140,000 payable over 30 years. But I was persuaded by others with long experience in finance and management that, in order to make a generational opportunity like Camp Dudley at Kiniya happen, we could take out another mortgage loan to buy a second campus in Colchester, so long as we had a plan to raise the funds to pay it back. And given our successes in the Building for the Future capital campaign, some of those same leaders persuaded me that we could take on short term loans to fund key buildings on the Kiniya campus, secure in the knowledge that we would repay them soon. On Wednesday, the tables turned and we “debt hawks” had our day, assuring that Camp made good on its commitment to eliminate these loans in the short term. Over the course of 15 years, our Board, Directors and finance and fundraising teams worked together, listened to one another, realized a dream, paid for it, and restored Camp to its historic position of zero debt. It is a moment for us all to be very proud of what we have accomplished as a Camp Family and a great way to start the year.

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.9.22 - Sunday Talk

If anyone on Camp’s Board of Trustees fulfills the image held by some in our community that Board members are special people, it is my friend Erinn Harley-Lewis. Erinn is probably the hardest working lawyer I know. You can call her at any hour of the day and find her on her computer at what used to be her dining table. Erinn lived in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean before settling in the DC area. She was a teacher and trustee at a school in Kenya. Erinn and her husband have three awesome kids, two of whom were at Camp last summer. She made a viral video of her younger daughter imitating Kamala Harris that got nearly 750,000 views on Twitter alone and was so popular that the Vice President herself commented on it. Erinn also has emerged as a leader in Camp’s Boardroom. She joined the executive committee in just her second year on the Board, led our 2021 task force on diversity, equity and inclusion, and wrote the DEI action plan that we published in October. And now she is our first woman Vice Chair of the Board. That’s pretty special. 

Of course, one of the purposes of these Sunday Talks is to demystify Camp’s Board. And if anyone can do that, it’s also Erinn. She was still very new to Camp when she joined the Board. She had been a Camp parent for only two years. But if you have been around Dudley and Kiniya, you know that we are pretty good at giving talented people jobs they may not feel quite ready to handle and helping them thrive. It happens on the Board in just the same way it does at Camp. And Erinn is a great example. She went from new Camp parent to Board Vice Chair in five years! And her path is a model for how folks with less experience at Camp can become very influential trustees, if they want to make the commitment. I hope a wide range of people in the Camp Family will see themselves in Erinn and become inspired to serve on the Board.

 

At a personal level, my experience with Erinn drives home one of the most important points about Board service. It is another stage in a Dudley or Kiniya lifetime and it carries many of the familiar benefits of Camp. I have been fortunate enough to make several lifelong friends while serving on Camp’s Board — people I did not know before we served together and who are now part of my inner circle. Sound familiar? Erinn Harley-Lewis is definitely one of those. When I think of her, I can’t help hoping that many of you will have the chance I had to make new friends later in life as you work together with them to support the camps we love so well. 

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.2.22 - Sunday Talk

Some of you who were around in the summer of 1988 may remember it as the “summer of love” — a theme cooked up by yours truly and my old friend #12082 Patrick Butler. It started as a joke. We thought it would be funny to announce a “love of the day” at breakfast and have everyone at Camp tell that person “I love you” all day long, whenever they saw them. What evolved was anything but a joke. The theme became transformational. For people who were named “love of the day,” it was amazing to be told “I love you” repeatedly, all day, by everyone you saw. I know. I was one of them late that summer and the experience could sometimes leave you speechless. And it went beyond that. In subtle ways, the summer theme brought out the best in our community — encouraging us all to declare our love for one another openly. Even the toughest and unlikeliest of people were willing to say it out loud.

 

The emergence of the 1988 “summer of love” theme is such an essential Camp story. What started as a joke took on a life of its own and became a meaningful way to build people up, to express who we are, and to strengthen our community. It reminds me of a quotation that was posted on the wall of Edie cabin at Camp Kiniya one summer, which reads “watch carefully, the magic that occurs when you give someone just enough comfort to be themselves.” (h/t #21303 Ellie Whelan) I paraphrased that quotation as part of a talk I gave about Camp a few weeks ago, at the Rotary Club in San Marino, California. Camp, I told them (with the 1988 summer theme firmly in my mind), is about love. And it is an amazing thing to see the magic that occurs when people are part of a community where they know they are loved for who they are.

 

Today, I begin one of the adventures of a lifetime, serving as Chair of Camp’s Board of Trustees. Camp is working on big plans in the coming years, including for how we will use the Frisbie Farm property, how we will keep Camp’s tuition affordable, and how we will make our camps affirming and inclusive places for a wide range of people. We also face major challenges, including how we will navigate the pandemic and its aftermath, how we will adapt to changes in the climate and environment, and how we will meet the evolving health care needs of our community. I can’t tell you today how all that will work out. But I can promise you that our Board’s work on every issue will be rooted in love — for one another, for all members of the Camp Family, for Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya and for the larger community we lead and serve. After all, as we said back in ’88, love is what Camp is all about.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.29.22 - Sunday Talk

In the summer of 2003, we sent our son #18756 Curtis Ulin to Camp Dudley for his cub season. It was a big year for us — Curtis’ first year at Camp and my first year on the Board. On the final Saturday morning of the season, I strolled down to Cub Alley to find Curtis, unaware that parents were not supposed to arrive until after rest period. (I now cringe at the thought that others may have thought I was exercising Board privileges — which are not a thing at Camp — by coming on campus early….) On the way over, I ran into another cubbie, whom I had never met, and he asked me a question that has stuck with me ever since. “Are you Curtis’ dad?” It caught me off guard. I was not the new Board member with an inflated sense of importance. Not the well connected alum who knew so many people in the Camp Family. Not the leader and division head of the 1980s. For this boy and almost everyone else at Camp 14 years after my time on campus ended, my significance was my relationship to our son. I thought to myself, “that is who I am” and said to the boy, “yes, I am Curtis’ dad.”

 

This week, our daughter #20904 Tori Ulin will arrive at Kiniya to prepare for her job as waterfront director. It will be Tori’s 13th season at Camp and our 20th consecutive year as Camp parents. Of all of the milestones we have passed in our relationship with Dudley and Kiniya, that is the one in which I take the greatest pride. In the boardroom, parenthood plays an enormous role. While being a parent is by no means a requirement of Board service, it is not accidental that all 19 of the current elected trustees are parents or prospective parents and 15 of us have sent kids to Kiniya or Dudley (or both camps). The parental perspective allows us to explore Camp’s challenges through the lens of different kids and different eras in our history (whenever our kids attended). It enhances our understanding of how Camp has evolved over the years and also gives us access to a constituency whose voice in the Camp Family is often muted because parents have less opportunity to communicate their thoughts directly. That indirect relationship with Camp through our kids is often also the tie that binds and on which our commitment to Camp and its future is based.

 

Critically, our role as parents drives home Camp’s core lesson. We must always put the Other Fellow First. That is a basic rule of parenting and also how it goes at Camp. As you stay longer and graduate to new roles — aide, JL, AL, leader, d-head, junior and senior staff, trustee, alum — Camp becomes less and less about me and more and more about other people. That is critical to the way we think and operate in the boardroom. And nowhere is the lesson clearer than in our roles as Camp parents. It our children’s time and our role is to work with our Directors to assure that Camp delivers “best ever” summers for them and for future generations of Kiniya and Dudley campers in our families and yours.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.22.22 - Sunday Talk

I’m thinking this morning about two of the many great leaders who have chaired our Board. #11846 Tom (“TC”) Canning was chair from 2007-09. In his first year, I served as TC’s Board Secretary. I actually met TC at the first Dudley event I ever attended —the 1975-76 reunion (now called open house) in NYC at #9106 Greg Farrell’s apartment. Later he was the junior division head when I was a junior, and he took me on a memorable 1978 woods trip where he taught me a vision of leadership that I still remember today. “Leadership,” TC said, “is seeing what needs to be done and making sure it gets done.” TC was also a mentor in my first Board term, where he modeled how to be a responsible trustee and taught the importance of committees in advancing the Board’s work in the long stretches between meetings. TC recently suffered a stroke. He is doing well, and there are many positive signs, but he still has a long road ahead to full recovery.

 

#8804 John Storey chaired the Board from 1987-1988. His daughters #14002 Jenn and #14504 Jessica were on staff when I was a leader and #13804 Matt Storey was a camper I knew well. But I did not really get to know John until I joined the Board in 2003, when he was Dudley’s director of development. John taught me much of what I know about what it means to be a trustee at Camp, including knowing the importance of a trustee’s words, so I took what I said seriously and thought before I spoke — about other perspectives, and the impact of my comments, truly putting the Other Fellow First. John and his wife #18204 Martha published the Other Fellow First magazine (then known as the CDA News) for decades and he later orchestrated Camp’s first $10 million capital campaign. He was fond of reminding us that “development is everyone’s business.” Truly, John and Martha have done more for Camp than almost any other individuals in our 137-year history. We see John less around the Westport campus these days, but he is frequently in our conversations and we know he will be just up the Dudley Road at the Storey Farm every summer, including this one.

 

TC and John embraced and carried forward Dudley’s leadership mandate — perhaps the most important thing we do; at least on par with the Camp motto. They have taught and inspired generations of leaders who followed them. And I am one of those. Most of all, both of these Camp icons led by example, showing the Board and others what it meant to lead and to appreciate the influence our words and actions might have on those around us and on the larger community at Camp and beyond. In the Hebrew tradition, these lessons are what is known as “mitzvot” — the fulfillment of commandments and gifts that cannot be paid back. They can only be paid forward to future leaders and we are doing our level best to honor that mission.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.15.22 - Sunday Talk

Your Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya Board of Trustees is meeting with key staff this weekend on campus at Camp Kiniya. Summer has come early and we are enjoying 80 degree temperatures in Colchester that make it feel even more like being at Camp. For the trustees, it has been a terrific reunion of friends. We spent Friday touring Kiniya, learning the campus and its history, experiencing the amazing improvements that we have made over the past 16 years thanks to your generosity, and exploring Kiniya’s future campus building needs and goals. #15198 Ben Cady and #25793 Monique Jones led a discussion of their work on diversity, equity and inclusion (“DEI”) in schools and how we may be able to support and improve Camp’s diversity efforts. We concluded with committee meetings in which the small groups that really advance the Board’s work had the rare opportunity to gather in person. After dinner (cooked by the legendary #20005 Gail Coleman herself!), trustees got together around the fire on the back porch of Mimi’s Lodge, passed a guitar around, and sang selections from Bob Dylan, James Taylor and others. #25223 Liz Moore led a rousing chorus of “Wish You Were Here.”

 

Saturday’s full agenda began early in the morning. #25075 Leslee Mackenzie delivered an invocation on the subject of cherishing people as individuals and avoiding the pitfalls of putting them into categories. #13804 Matt Storey and #20001 Marnie McDonagh reported on Camp’s preparation for another “best ever” summer that starts in just six weeks! #22827 Jesse Smith and #13565 Chris Rodgers led a discussion of how Camp is managing rising costs and a tight labor market and balancing our budget while also meeting our staff needs and delivering the program our campers deserve. We kicked off the Board development season — discussing the Board’s needs and who may be able to serve in the coming years. We also adopted a proposal to change our Board terms in a way that we hope will make it possible for more people in the Camp Family to consider Board service. #21013 Bear McKani and #17982 Matt McElroy closed the morning by discussing the future of the Camp Dudley Association (“CDA”), which is heading for a name change later in the year.

 

In the afternoon, we focused on our 2022 strategic initiatives, including a report from a working group on the use of gendered language at our single-sex camps. We closed with a discussion of our efforts to improve Camp’s support for the mental health needs of our campers, leaders and staff, led by the remarkable #26142 Catherine Sanderson, who chairs Amherst College’s psychology department, and a report on the development of our environmental strategy by #25416 Alice Tornquist. As we leave Colchester this afternoon, our trustees and staff wish we had more time together. We part company refreshed and inspired for the work ahead, in the true spirit of love, leadership and the Other Fellow First that defines the Camp experience.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.8.22 - Sunday Talk

It’s Mother’s Day. Today I am thinking of the Camp mothers who have sent their boys ang girls to Kiniya and Dudley over the past 137 years. They obviously vary as broadly as the campers who have come through our gates – different backgrounds, different choices about professional paths, different relationships with their kids. They are probably the most influential group of people without camp numbers in our community. And one thing they share in common is that they all chose to send their kids to Camp Kiniya or Camp Dudley and gave us all the opportunity to join the Camp Family.

 

It is a brave choice. Camp, of course, is a place where kids go to strike out on their own away from Mom and Dad, often for the first time. Mothers have to let go of kids as young as ten years of age for longer than they have ever done in the past, so the kids can spread their wings. My own mother knew how important Camp was to me, but she used to lament how long I was away and how much she missed having me home. Conversely, while my Dudley career lasted another decade (and, indeed, one could say it hasn’t ended yet…), my mother last visited me at Camp in 1981. Still she has remained an important presence in my Camp life, advising me about how to handle campers, how to work my way up through the leadership ranks, and even how to address Board governance issues and now how to manage a Board of Trustees – topics on which she has long personal experience.

 

The role of mothers at Camp today is more robust than ever. Nine of our current Trustees are mothers and many others, including our most recent past Chair, are former Board members who still work actively with Camp. In fact, the Board is currently considering changes to the length of trustee terms and our meeting schedule and other requirements, with a particular focus on enabling mothers to join our ranks, while balancing the responsibilities of work, family and Board service. On the ground at Camp, mothers continue to assume more prominent positions on Dudley’s staff and Kiniya has long been a place where mothers, from Marilyn Williams to #20001 Marnie McDonagh and many who supported them, have led all aspects of camp. Of course, mothers still play the traditional roles that have been so critical to Camp’s success – outfitting their kids for Camp, preparing them emotionally and psychologically to be away from home, sending letters full of news and support, visiting and celebrating their kids’ achievements, and, perhaps most important of all, letting us go for a few weeks every summer, so that we can come to Camp and become better people. For all that and more, we are eternally grateful for our Camp mothers and wish you all Happy Mother’s Day.

 

Much love, JU #11904

5.1.22 - Sunday Talk

May is a big month for the Board of Trustees. We always meet in May — this year we’ll be at Camp Kiniya two weeks from now. In earlier times, that meeting culminated with a get together at the Director’s residence for the Kentucky Derby — at which #13081 Jack Mingle unfortunately was not dispensing advice. And at one of my favorite Board meetings, in May 2006, we approved the purchase of Camp Kiniya, which opened as part of the Dudley Family a month later.

 

May is also the month we begin identifying the new trustees we will elect to join the Board next year. #11889 Dwight Poler has described the Board nominations process as a matrix of considerations — and if Dwight thinks it is complex, you know it’s not easy! We begin by looking at what the Board is losing in the outgoing class whose terms end this year. In 2022, we are losing a public health physician who has served as camp doctor at Dudley and one of the leaders of our development and alumni relations committee, both Camp parents and strong professional women. Looking forward, we will examine the Board’s needs. Should we elect another healthcare professional in this time of unique health and safety issues? Do we need to add a minister or a trustee whose career is in the arts? How can we maintain the even balance of men and women we have worked so hard to develop? What are our other diversity priorities? Should we add more trustees who live outside the Northeast? Who are the next generation of Board leaders — perhaps those born in the late 1980s and early 1990s — and when is it right to elect them? What is the right mix of Camp alumni and folks whose connection to Camp is through their families? How will the Board support Camp’s fundraising and development goals? Those are just some of the important considerations we will discuss before we begin to identify the individuals who meet our needs and might join the Board in 2023.

 

Thankfully, in this critical work, we are led by #15198 Ben Cady, whose long career at Dudley culminated in three years as a division head (and he has remained deeply connected in the Camp Family), and Board Vice Chair #25368 Erinn Harley-Lewis, who will have kids at both our camps again this summer. Ben and Erinn have been actively engaged in Board development throughout their terms as trustees. They keenly understand that choosing the small group of people who govern our camps is one of the most important ways we have of influencing Camp’s future course and our prospects for continuing success. With the support of our Directors, former Board development chairs like myself and #12664 Ted Smith, and the involvement of the full Board, Ben and Erinn are well-prepared to begin the critical work of shaping Camp by carefully choosing the trustees who will govern our sacred institution. Here again, we are in terrific hands!

 

Much love, JU #11904

4.24.22 - Sunday Talk

During the CDA Reunion in 2006, I tried to persuade #7381 Paul Lutz to consider a return to Camp’s Board of Trustees. I cornered Paul outside MacLean Lodge and gave him my best pitch about the value he would bring to the boardroom and especially his perspective as an alumnus whose Dudley career dates back to the 1940s. Paul — it should come as no surprise — demurred. “You don’t need me back in the boardroom. Let someone else have a chance. If you want my thoughts, you know where to find me. I’m not going anywhere.” I conceded and we did not pursue Paul further, although he was true to his word about not going anywhere. He is still the most recent reunion chapel speaker, having given his latest sermon in 2019 — at age 90!

 

When I became a trustee again in 2017, I found that someone more persuasive than I had convinced #7951 Jack Kotz, whose Dudley career also began in the 1940s, to join the Board. Jack’s family has been connected to Camp for over a century. HIs grandfather was a boyhood friend of Chief Beckman’s. Jack’s son #12135 Pete Kotz was a leader with me and Pete and younger generations of the Kotz family are still at Camp today. Jack had the energy of trustees half his age and was always at the center of plans for trustee road trip adventures from South Carolina to Camp. He was also the leader of the Board’s committee that evaluated Camp’s programs and suggested possible enhancements. Jack’s nearly 60-year association with Camp gave him a unique perspective on what might (or might not) work.

 

More recently, #8580 Bob Craft, who came to Camp in the mid-1950s, has been the Board’s senior statesman. Somebody with a sense of humor assigned me to be Bob’s mentor in his first year as a trustee in 2019. (The notion that I had something to teach him was, well….) Bob’s son #14580 Tiger Craft had been a Plebe in my cabin in 1988 and he has grandkids at both our camps. After an enormously successful career as a lawyer — another field in which he is the one who should teach me — Bob took his talents back to Camp, where he has helped to steer us through the pandemic, as part of the Board’s risk management committee, and is working with the group developing our environmental strategic plan to preserve our campuses and natural resources for future generations. Bob’s knowledge of Camp history is invaluable. In discussions of the history of people of color at Camp, Bob alone can talk about his personal friendships with early pioneers like #9111 Buddy Howard, who is the first known Black person with a camp number, or #8481 Zenro Ozawa, who came to Camp from Tokyo around the same time Bob was on campus. As we continue our focus on developing an ever more diverse group of trustees to consider the interests of the entire Camp family, the Board remains committed to generational diversity as part of that effort, so that our progress will always remain rooted in our history and we can benefit from the perspectives of our elder statesmen and stateswomen who have lived the traditions that we cherish and seek to preserve and improve.

 

Much love, JU #11904

4.17.22 - Sunday Talk

Two weeks ago I got a text from fellow trustee #26245 Liz Kirkpatrick that read simply, “[#7405] Willie Schmidt is smiling down on you!” I had gotten the notion that Camp might be able to do something to help displaced kids in the US and around the world and Liz’s email was a response to a note I had sent her to explore the idea. Liz remembered Willie’s belief in the healing power of Camp and his efforts to expand our reach to benefit kids and families in need, who often came from faraway places and found a home at Dudley.

 

Earlier this winter, on the morning of my first Board meeting as Chair, #13820 Marcus Chioffi texted me a photograph of the two of us with Willie in 2007. In his inimitable style, Marcus wrote, “Just don’t screw this up. We’re watching.” Of course, I didn’t need to be reminded. After I stopped laughing at Marcus’ text, I paused to reflect. As he and Liz noted, in everything our Board does, Willie is always just behind our right shoulder. In our cub season, #10874 Doug and #10875 Steve Schmidt convinced my friend #11903 Geoff Whelan to pose for a “brothers” photograph (which Willie used to take of all brothers who were at Camp each year) with #11804 Rhen Alderman, who was not Geoff’s brother, although they looked a lot alike. Willie took no notice as they came up for their photo and announced them as “the Alderman boys!” That moment made us realize that Camp was a place where even an 11 year-old cubbie could play a joke on the Director and it would bind us to the community, which thrives on good humor. When Willie found out about the joke, he loved it.

 

Willie’s vision was far reaching. He fully embraced #20001 Marnie McDonagh and Camp Kiniya when they became part of the Camp Family in 2006. The dream of Camp Dudley for girls was one he had shared for many years — another example of that broad, inclusive spirit that Liz Kirkpatrick remembers. Willie and #16000 Lois Schmidt actually invited trustee #15293 JJ Alexander to live with them for his high school years because they (rightly) thought they could make a difference in his life. And when I was a new trustee in 2003, I had the audacity (that’s one word for it…) to suggest that Camp consider building an extreme sports center. The Board laughed it off, but I later learned that Willie had made the same suggestion, in yet another effort to reach a new generation of campers. The photo that Marcus sent me in February is from Willie’s final chapel address at Kiniya and it was the last time I ever saw him. I knew then that he would continue to inspire me and many others at Camp for years to come. Even now, when I often have to explain who Willie was to the generations of campers who have come to Dudley and Kiniya since he retired 28 years ago, Willie’s sense of humor, knowledge of history, tireless work ethic, belief in the power of Camp, and commitment to reach kids and families who have not been included in our programs, resonate loudly in my life and in everything our Board does. His spirit is alive and well at Camp.

 

Much love, JU #11904

4.10.22 - Sunday Talk

A year ago, the YMCA closed three Hudson Valley summer camps that had supported kids from underserved neighborhoods in New York City for over a century. The decision was announced just two months before camp started. #13804 Matt Storey promptly reached out to Camp Dudley’s former director #9398 Wheaton Griffin, who had been involved with the camps that closed in recent years, to explore how we could help the more than 1,000 kids whose summer plans had been upended. While one of them ultimately attended Dudley last year, we still wondered what more we could do for the other campers.

 

Two days before our last Board meeting, war broke out in Ukraine. Among the many images that flickered across my screen was a video of elementary school kids filing into a bomb shelter and sitting on a high shelf or berth while they awaited the all clear. I was left to consider where those kids will be this July and August – whether they will have summer programs like Kiniya and Dudley that give them hope and let them have fun after that awful experience. Once again, I asked, “what can Camp do to help?”

 

These events highlight the challenge of defining Camp’s role as a leader in the broader camping community and our obligations to kids and families who will probably never come to Kiniya or Dudley. It’s a discussion that dates back many years, which is hardly surprising at camps whose very mission is to “enabl[e] boys and girls to live lives characterized by devotion to others.” Of course, we are focused first and foremost on our camps and the Camp Family. And a significant part of Camp’s work consists of raising leaders and people of character who will make a major difference for kids in need and their families throughout the country and around the world. But does that fulfill Camp’s leadership imperative? And what is the extent of our obligation to assure that kids in need have summer opportunities, at our camps or elsewhere, which offer hope for the future and the chance to just be kids? These are difficult questions with no easy answers. Looking forward, the Board will be working with our Directors to develop meaningful strategies to address them, even as we remain keenly focused on our primary obligations to Kiniya and Dudley and our campers. I can’t tell you what our approach will be yet, but I can confirm that, as in all things we do at Camp, it will be rooted in love, leadership and the Other Fellow First.

 

Much love, JU #11904

4.3.22 - Sunday Talk

In the summer of 1949, Joe DiMaggio and the Yankees edged out Boston in a wild pennant race and went on to defeat Brooklyn in the World Series. Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic of China. And, on the shores of Lake Champlain, Camp Dudley formed its alumni association. The Camp Dudley Association (“CDA”) began as a forum for Dudley alums to gather and reminisce, provide support for the Board (then known as the Camp Dudley Committee), share Dudley’s news, promote and recruit for Camp, and organize a summer reunion on campus. #310 Chief Beckman, who had retired as Director only two years earlier, was the CDA’s first Secretary, and his contemporary #410 Ed Austin (whose great grandson #13758 Jake Rutter runs Dudley’s outdoors program today) was the first President. The CDA immediately took over publishing Camp’s newsletter, which became known as the “CDA News.” It also hosted an annual meeting and banquet in New York City and the CDA reunion began that first year when 140 alumni and friends came to Camp for a weekend in late August. In 1959, the CDA named chapel icon Rev. James Lee Ellenwood, who had passed away earlier that year, as its first “Man of the Year” (now “Person of the Year”) — Camp’s highest honor.

 

While the original CDA was separate from Camp Dudley, it has become more a part of Camp over the years. Today the CDA’s officers sit as non-voting members of our Board, bringing the voice of the alumni community to our discussions. The Board, in turn, elects the CDA’s officers and many of them have later served as trustees. Camp has taken over publishing our alumni news, now known as “The Other Fellow First” magazine, but the CDA still organizes the August reunion at Camp (which we REALLY hope to resume this year!) and supports other events, including the Leaders’ Luncheon and the Kiniya Tea. In recent years, the CDA has become a voice for younger alumni and, significantly, alumnae — that is, young women who spent their camping careers at Kiniya. More women have been recognized as “Person of the Year,” including two of the last three individual honorees. And #19231 Kari McKinley became the CDA’s first woman officer in 2018 and first woman president in 2020. The CDA has since changed its leadership structure to have co-presidents, one from Kiniya and one from Dudley and additional changes are coming, likely including a name change reflecting the organization’s ties to both our camps.

 

Today’s CDA leadership truly reflects the best of our younger generation of alumni. Co-presidents #21013 Sarah (“Bear”) McKani (formerly McDonough) and #17982 Matt (“Rooster”) McElroy both had long careers at Camp and come from Camp families. Both are successful professionals who bring their talents and expertise from the worlds of law and finance to our boardroom, where they have become essential voices. And both have strong connections to Camp’s alumni in their late 20s and early 30s who will lead this community in the years ahead. Bear and Rooster have deep love and respect for Kiniya and Dudley and their traditions (Bear, you may recall, actually wrote the Kiniya Hymn “‘Neath the Pines”), but they also appreciate the need for Camp to adapt as we move forward into a post-pandemic era and embrace a Camp Family with even greater representation from Kiniya that is becoming ever more diverse in many ways. So, here’s to the future. We’re in great hands!

 

Much love, JU #11904

3.27.22 - Sunday Talk

Service on the Camp Board has been a huge part of my life. And I have served on the Board for a long time. I first joined in 2003 and have served for 11 of the past 20 years. Do you know who has served longer? #20001 Marnie McDonagh has served for the past 17 years and #13804 Matt Storey has served continuously for the past 13 years and also served a year and a half in 2008-09. You may ask, “aren’t they our Directors?” Of course, they are! Under Camp’s bylaws, the Directors also sit as non-voting members of the Board of Trustees. They are both the Board’s only employees and our fellow trustees.

 

What does that mean for Camp? It means the Board and our Directors have an amazing partnership that allows Camp to benefit even more both from Marnie and Matt and from our trustees. In addition to running Camp, assuring that we are oversubscribed and under budget, and delivering another “best ever” summer that is true to our motto and mission, the Directors are central to the Board’s strategic efforts to build an even better future at Dudley and Kiniya. They contribute their visions about, e.g., how to improve our campuses, develop our programs, keep Camp affordable, and assure diversity, equity and inclusion. And they provide essential information about what is actually happening at Camp that allows the Board’s decisions to be grounded in Camp’s current reality.

 

Camp is the winner in this arrangement. We get the benefit of our Directors’ leadership in both current management and future strategy and our Board is more informed and able to have more meaningful discussions and make better decisions. And the Directors interact directly with our Board and benefit from our expertise and oversight. As Board Chair and a long-sitting trustee, it is a treasure for me to find Marnie and Matt in the boardroom every time I return. Just like the rest of you, their presence is a big part of what makes camp “Camp” for me. But more than that, their participation as trustees on our Board is critical to our success. Quite literally, we could not do our jobs without them. It is one more reason to be grateful for both of our Directors.

 

Much love, JU #11904

3.20.22 - Sunday Talk

Billy Berger is probably the most influential person you’ve never heard of in Camp history. He was Camp Dudley’s director for one season in 1907. Charged by the YMCA with finding a permanent home for Camp and a leader to build its future, the irrepressible Berger engineered the purchase of the Roe farm, which is still Dudley’s campus today, and hired Chief Beckman, who served as director for 40 years and defined Camp as we know it. Berger had a vision for the Westport campus that began with a small capital campaign to fund the construction of Dudley’s “Lodge,” a precursor to Beckman Hall, which sat in the same location and also served as the dining hall. In short, Berger had a big year!

 

A decade later in Colchester, Vermont, a young woman from New Jersey named Helen Van Buren –another enormously influential person who is little known to many at Camp– rented the Winnisquam Orchards on Lake Champlain and opened the summer camp that would become Camp Kiniya. In 1925, she convinced skeptical bank officers to lend her the funds to purchase the next door McNall Farm, where Kiniya’s campus remains today. Like Billy Berger, “Miss VB” had a vision. She oversaw the construction of camper cabins, a dining hall, the office and welcome center, the original Lodge (theater), and a music practice cabin (among other buildings) and, of course, planted Kiniya’s famous pines (as in “’Neath the Pines”) with her own two hands.

 

Today, Camp’s leadership continues to explore visions for the development of our campuses in ways that will benefit future generations. In recent years, Kiniya replaced its dining hall and built a new Lodge, arts and crafts center and several camper cabins. Dudley, for its part, added the Hank Poler Leadership Barn and dramatically expanded the campus with the purchase of the Frisbie Farm. Looking forward, the Board is focused on supporting our Directors’ visions for Camp’s future. #13565 Chris Rodgers leads our strategic initiative on capital projects planning. Chris’ team is working with our Directors to develop long-range plans for both campuses and considering, among other projects, Kiniya’s need for staff housing, the possibility of building an alumnae house on the Colchester campus (like MacLean Lodge at Dudley), and what will be needed to support Dudley’s programming on the Frisbie Farm. It is a time to dream big and then to plan carefully and realistically to assure that Camp can realize its dreams for the future “boys [and girls] through the years.”

 

Much love, JU #11904

3.13.22 - Sunday Talk

At at time when many Dudley and Kiniya campers, leaders and staff have endured great disruption in their lives and are seemingly under greater stress than at any point in the past, we are very fortunate to have a nationally-known psychologist leading our strategic efforts to support our community’s mental health and healthcare needs. #26142 Catherine Sanderson chairs the psychology department at Amherst College. She joined our Board in 2021. Last month, Catherine spoke to the Board about mental health in teens and young adults — that is, young people the ages of our campers, leaders and much of the staff. Some of the facts she presented pose important challenges for Camp, as we emerge from the pandemic. In recent studies, parents report new or worsening mental health issues in more than 20% of teen boys and more than 30% of teen girls. For their part, young adults reported higher levels of emotional distress during the pandemic than any other group, with fully two thirds saying the suffer medium or high levels of distress. And social media has increased pressures on young people to live up to images of their peers thriving that are often unrealistic.

 

Many of us think of Camp as a haven and we were so happy to be able to reopen in 2021 and give our campers and leaders the Dudley and Kiniya experiences and time away from home that they craved. But campers obviously cannot check their stress at the gates and Camp provided more mental health support last summer than ever before. Some of that was driven by the effects of the pandemic and some resulted from broader social trends and a greater willingness among younger folks to address mental health issues openly. Regardless, the research Catherine shared tells us this is a need that is only likely to increase in coming years.

 

For all these reasons, Catherine is chairing the Board’s 2022 strategic initiative on mental health and healthcare delivery. We have begun by identifying the challenges Camp confronts and cataloging our efforts to meet them in recent summers, including the amazing work of #22046 Mollie Farnham Stratton, who has served as Camp’s social worker and supported young people at both Kiniya and Dudley; #22830 Anita Johnson, who works with campers and families as they adjust to Camp life; our leaders, whose training includes how to meet all of their campers’ needs, including emotional and mental health; and, of course, our Directors. Camp is adding new counseling resources at both Dudley and Kiniya for the 2022 season. And thankfully, we have Catherine guiding the Board’s effort to develop a comprehensive strategy, so that our Directors have what they need to navigate this evolving terrain and make sure Dudley and Kiniya kids are well cared for and able to have fun at Camp and focus on the life lessons about character, leadership and service that make our camps so special.

 

Much love, JU #11904

3.6.22 - Sunday Talk

In the summer of 2019, I sat in Witherbee Hall and watched then-Board Chair #22898 Whitney Phelps and incoming CDA president #19231 Kari McKinley present Camp’s Person of the Year award to #15305 Sheila Kapper, who was head nurse at Camp Dudley for 30 years. That moment, when we saw women assume all three of the most revered positions in our alumni community, was a long time in coming. In fact, it took 99 years before Dudley even issued Camp numbers to women regularly. Hymn sing icon #10475 Ellie Edwards and director’s assistant #10698 Helen Moak received numbers in the late 1960s, and it appears legendary Camp secretary Martha Ellenwood was next. In 1983 she refused her own number and adopted her late husband Jud’s number with a “-W” suffix (presumably for “wife”) – so her number was #4606-W. That summer, Camp began issuing numbers to all women staffers. The first group to receive regular Camp numbers included Olympian #13295 Leslie Milne (1984 bronze medal in field hockey), Martha’s successor #13300 Pat Allen, and three of the Coyne sisters—#13281 Carol, #13288 Tracy and #13302 Mary.

 

After the Camp number barrier fell, women began to assume positions of even greater importance at Camp. In 1968, Ruth Marshall had been the first woman recognized as the CDA’s person of the year. #18178 Joan McKeown won the award in 1993 and it went to #16000 Lois Schmidt the following year. In 2018, Camp Kiniya’s founder, Helen Van Buren, became the first woman to win in her own right, and Sheila was the second in 2019. In 2020, the CDA itself finally got a woman president, when Kari took the job. Meanwhile, #17400 Betsy Griffith, who was head of the Madeira School in Virginia, became the first woman to join Camp’s Board in 1998. In the ensuing decades, our Board has become equally balanced between men and women and Whitney became the first woman chair in 2019.

 

Of course, we are now entering our seventeenth summer operating an entire camp for young women and girls in Colchester, Vermont. Our first woman director, #20001 Marnie McDonagh, is delivering on Camp’s motto and mission for a generation of Kiniya girls who will lead Camp into a future that has already arrived. Under their leadership, we will continue to assure that women are celebrated in our community and that all people in the Camp Family are on equal footing, regardless of gender. It has been a long journey and we are still climbing.

 

Much love, JU #11904

2.27.22 - Sunday Talk

Here is a photo of three guys who left home at fifteen and never moved back. #15293 JJ Alexander grew up in the Bronx and came to Camp Dudley as a senior in 1990. The following summer, instead of returning home from Camp at the end of the season, he moved in with #7405 Willie and #16000 Lois Schmidt and finished high school in Westport. JJ later moved back to the New York area and his daughter now attends Camp Kiniya. #25737 Shiro Nogaki grew up in Japan. He came to the United States as an exchange student at Greenwich High School in Connecticut, stayed to attend the University of Vermont, and went on to a successful career in finance. Shiro and his wife have sent three kids to Dudley and Kiniya. As for me, I grew up in Manhattan and came to Camp Dudley in 1976. After the 1981 season, I went to boarding school in Massachusetts, followed by college in New England and then moved to Southern California, where our family still lives. All four of our kids attended Dudley and Kiniya and we have been Camp parents for 20 consecutive years. All these years later, this Jewish kid from Manhattan, Japanese kid from Tokyo, and Caribbean kid from Trinidad are forging deep personal bonds as we work together to support the camps we love so dearly on the Board of Trustees. It’s a classic Camp story.

 

Shiro is leading our finance committee, drawing on his background in banking and investment. JJ joined the Board this year and is working with our development and alumni relations committee and has emerged as a leader in our strategic efforts on environmental sustainability, which is a focus of his work for Con Ed in New York. I am engaging with all of our Board’s committees and initiatives in my first few months as chair, relying on my professional background as a litigator and long experience on the Board. Our friendship and camaraderie makes our work as trustees more collaborative, more effective, and more fun. And the diversity in this group, and in the Board as a whole, helps our discussions to address the interests of the entire Camp Family.

 

This weekend, the Board of Trustees met for the first time in 2022. It is so awesome to be able to gather in person, after nearly two years of remote meetings on Zoom. As one trustee put it, “I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much, but also was so inspired.” We opened with an invocation from #26245 Liz Kirkpatrick on a theme of coming together as friends, in a selfless and positive spirit, to serve Dudley and Kiniya. The Board heard reports on Camp’s planning for another “best ever” summer in 2022. We approved Camp’s budget for the year and discussed the fundraising and development strategy. We spent the afternoon in spirited discussion of our strategic initiatives. The Board has the opportunity to be aspirational this year and to plan for the future on core topics including keeping camp affordable for working families, preserving our natural resources, addressing the evolving healthcare and mental health needs of our campers, leaders and staff, planning for future building and capital projects, and implementing the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan that we published last fall. All that work will keep us very busy over the year ahead as we work with our Directors as a diverse team of friends to plan for a robust future at both our camps.

 

Much love, JU #11904

2.20.22 - Sunday Talk

#9111 Cleveland “Buddy” Howard was the first known Black person with a camp number at Camp Dudley. He joined the music staff in 1956 and stayed until 1959. Dr. Howard later earned a Ph.D. in music and was a professor at the University of New Hampshire. The first Black camper was #9778 Calvin Chapman, who was a cub in 1961. His brother #10047 Phillip joined him in 1963, making them the first Black family to send more than one camper to Dudley. #10057 Sam Amukun was the first Black leader in 1962. He was a sprinter at Colgate University and competed in the 1960 and 1964 Olympics. In 1966, #9918 Simeon Moss, who was later a university spokesperson at Cornell, became the first Black aide, and #10055 Drew Hatcher, whose father was the first Black person to serve in the White House press office, became the first Black JL.

 

These are some of the early learnings of Camp’s “Alumni of Color Project,” which the Board commissioned in 2020, partly in response to a call from a group of young alumni to explore and tell the history of Black people at Camp. A dedicated group reviewed every cabin, staff and half-season camper photo in every Camp Dudley “Last Whistle” as part of a larger effort to identify every Black person (and ultimately every person of color) who ever came to Camp. The idea was that if we were to tell the history of Black people (and other people of color) at Camp, we first needed to know whose stories we were telling. The process can be imprecise – old photographs reveal only so much and Camp’s yearbooks date back only to 1938 and do not cover our first 53 seasons. We know from other records that Black people worked on Dudley’s staff as early as the 1890s and #3102 Yoshio Osawa, who later ran Japan’s Toho film studio, came to Camp around 1920, but there was no Last Whistle in those days. Moving forward, we appreciate that there are far deeper lessons to be learned as Camp’s alumni of color describe their experiences at Dudley and Kiniya. It is also clear that we will need a historian to take on the job of synthesizing and telling these stories. Still, the Alumni of Color Project’s research has been a critical first step.

 

Of course, telling Camp’s Black history is only one aspect of the Board’s work on implementing our October 2021 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (“DEI”) Action Plan. Under the leadership of #25793 Monique Jones, who focuses professionally on DEI in schools, the Board and our Directors are moving forward together with every aspect of that plan – from reviewing and revising Camp’s policies and procedures through a DEI lens to increasing diversity among our campers, leadership and staff, and Board of Trustees to assuring that our camps and our alumni activities are welcoming and affirming environments for the ever more diverse community that is the Dudley and Kiniya Family. In all this work, there will be tough stories to learn from and great successes to celebrate. Camp has made a lot of progress in its DEI efforts and we are not finished!

 

Much love, JU #11904

 

P.S.: For those who want to explore further, you can learn more about Camp’s DEI Action Plan using the link below.

2.13.22 - Sunday Talk

To a Dudley boy I never had the privilege of meeting:

 

I got word Sunday evening that you died in a snowmobile accident last weekend.  Awful was the first word that came to me.  Tragic.  Heartbreaking.  Unbelievably sad.  Devastating.  These were some of the words used by friends in the Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya Family when they learned the news.  Before anything else that we do or that we are, at Camp or beyond, most of those folks are parents.  Some of our kids are in their 30s and 40s, some are just babies, and some are 16 years old, as you were.  And we felt your loss deeply.  I know I did.

 

Because we never had the privilege of meeting, I asked people at Camp and in the Westport community about you.  They said you were a soccer player – a goalkeeper with great promise – and you played for our friend Evan George.  I feel sure I must have seen you practicing with his BVCS Griffins team on Dudley’s upper fields last fall.  You also played basketball and made such an impression on one of your coaches that he said he felt a piece of him died with you.  You were a classic car buff, like your grandfather, with a knowledge of vintage cars far beyond most kids your age.  And a “sneaker head,” as one person put it.  I wonder how many pairs you owned and what styles.  You were an animal lover.  The first photo of you in the local newspaper shows you holding a dog and your family asked that donations in your honor be made to the local society for the prevention of cruelty to animals.  And, of course, what connected us to you most directly was that you were a Dudley boy – one of us.  Perhaps I also saw you when I spent the afternoon on the Coach Ben Nelson basketball courts one day in the summer of 2019.

 

One of your coaches spoke about how you made a point to let him know how much you loved him whenever you saw him.  That story made me believe that you had a pretty good read on who we are and what we value at Camp Dudley – love and looking out for the other fellow.  I hope you and your family will know that you made a difference here.  You were at Camp for only one summer, but you are remembered well, especially by those with connections in Westport and the surrounding area.  Please also know that you will always be one of the “boys through the years” at Dudley – a long line of more than 27,000 people (actually including both boys and girls) who have come to Camp since it began in 1885.  Your memory, both as an individual Dudley boy and as part of that eternal heritage, inspires literally everything we do at Camp.  I only wish we could do more to bring peace to your family, your friends and your community.

 

Much love, JU #11904

2.6.22 - Sunday Talk

In the fall of 1975, #11903 Geoff Whelan and I were in the market for a summer camp to attend the following year. The camp we had attended in New Hampshire closed when the owners decided to retire. Geoff’s mother identified a handful of camps and Camp Dudley quickly rose to the top of the list. We loved the people we met at the New York City reunion (as the open houses were called in those days), hosted by #9106 Greg and Cathy Farrell, and especially the irrepressible #7405 Willie Schimdt, who sold us on Camp in the same way he convinced so many others. But unbeknownst to us, another factor was at play that made a major difference in our parents’ decision to send us to Camp — cost. In 1976, Dudley charged just $900 for a camper to attend full-season. If the season were the length it is today, when campers usually come for one of Camp’s two sessions, the prorated price would have been about $350. That affordable price made all the difference. We came to Camp Dudley the next summer and the rest is history.

 

Camp’s history is rooted in delivering meaningful summer programming at a reasonable price. In announcing Camp’s move to Westport, New York for the 1891 season, Sumner Dudley told parents the tuition would remain $1 for two weeks (or so it appears on an old document that is tough to read). By 1902 the Camp tuition was still just $2 for eight weeks — a lot more camp for a similar price. And that low price persisted. In 1928, Camp’s tuition for eight weeks was $150. And tuition remained essentially flat, adjusted for inflation, for nearly 60 years. The eight-week tuition was $300 in 1948 and still just over $900 in 1978. Beginning in the late 1980s, camp’s costs and its price increased significantly, to the point where one-session tuition surpassed $6,000. While this price is in line with or below what our competitors charge and Camp has worked hard to limit tuition growth, the Board and our Directors became increasingly concerned with keeping camp affordable for all families.

 

In 2018, the Board launched the Keeping Camp Affordable initiative, which we call “KCA.” We studied trends in the price of Camp and in tuition as a percentage of household income, which both showed significant growth over the past three decades. And we committed ourselves to develop strategies to lower Camp’s tuition so that all families can afford to send their kids to Dudley or Kiniya. The first step was Camp’s adoption of a tiered pricing system. Instead of one tuition, Camp now offers five tuition tiers that parents can choose based on what makes sense for their families. Last summer, nearly 300 campers took advantage of the opportunity to choose a tuition other than the top tier. Camp was full and it thrived financially. For 2022, Camp is offering a tuition tier at $2950, which is less than my wife and I paid to send our son to Dudley as a cub twenty years ago. Yes, we actually lowered the tuition that much. The Board, for its part, remains committed to KCA and to developing long-range strategies to enable Camp to continue offering tuition options that working families can afford. Another of our key strategic initiatives for 2022, led by #14571 Pete Groves, is focused on how we will keep camp affordable for decades to come and how we will fund the strategies we devise. After all, affordability is not just something we care about at Camp. It is an essential part of our history and who we are.

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.30.22 - Sunday Talk

I had a text exchange with #13804 Matt Storey last summer after Camp purchased the Frisbie Farm property. He told me about the huge undeveloped spaces that provided great opportunities for outdoor activities and getting back to nature. “What will you do with it?” I asked. “Bring back the cubbie swamp walk,” he suggested. That cubbie swamp walk was a pivotal moment in my cub season in 1976. Under the leadership of #10248 Cam Plowden, half the cub division waded through waist-deep muddy water and pretended to be muskrats on a day hike they called an “acclimatization.” I didn’t even know what that word meant. And, as a New York City kid with little experience in the woods, I was WAY out of my comfort zone. 46 years later I still remember it as a message that I had a lot to learn in this new place and a door that Camp opened for me to a (sometimes pretty challenging) relationship with nature that I might otherwise have missed.

 

One of our Board’s key initiatives for 2022 focuses on environmental strategy. We have only just begun to discuss what our focus will be. Under the leadership of #25416 Alice Tornquist, the Board is exploring everything from how we conduct outdoor education to the effects of changes in Lake Champlain on Camp’s programs. From managing the trees and plantings on both campuses to controlling Camp’s water use, energy use and carbon footprint. From sustainable food sources to making responsible use of the Frisbie Farm Campus. And, yes, whether to bring back the cubbie swamp walk. We start from a good place. Dudley and Kiniya are already very environmentally friendly places — among other things, we grow food on campus at both camps, we mill our own lumber for construction work, and we have a thoughtful outdoors program that helps to connect campers with nature.

 

The Board intends to be purposeful in creating environmental strategies for Camp that build on our history of respect for the environment and allow us to emerge as a national leader on sustainability within the camping world. We know that natural resources are, as Teddy Roosevelt put it, a sacred heritage we hold in trust for future generations. At Dudley and Kiniya, we mean to embrace and protect our natural environment, both at Camp and in the larger world. It’s challenging and heady stuff — all in a day’s work for Camp’s Board as we develop long range strategies for the benefit of Camp’s next 27,000 campers and beyond.

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.23.22 - Sunday Talk

Last week the Camp Board’s Executive Committee met in Southern California to discuss our strategic priorities for 2022 and how we will work together to make Camp the best it can be. It was a carefully planned meeting that involved repeated rapid testing and confirmed triple vaccination by all participants. And the 77-degree temperatures allowed us to meet and conduct all activities outdoors. The result was a productive time and warm reunion with Board Vice Chair #25368 Erinn Harley-Lewis, Treasurer #13565 Chris Rodgers, and Secretary #12664 Ted Smith. Because it was a Camp meeting, we began with an invocation, and the theme was “why not me?”

 

We first discussed Camp history. Chief Beckman, we agreed, was probably Camp’s most influential figure. He opened the Dudley campus in his first season as director in 1908 and built most of the familiar buildings that still stand over the next 40 years. Chief also introduced core Camp traditions like the Camp Motto, leadership training, the daily schedule, and our athletics, overnight hiking and drama and music programs. But we recognized that there were other leaders from Camp’s early days who could well have become the central figure that Chief became. Sumner Dudley, who founded camp, was a pioneer in American camping. He established Camp’s first permanent home in New Jersey and later moved Dudley to Lake Champlain for the first time. If he had not died in 1897, at the age of 43, it could be Mr. Dudley’s vision that shaped Camp. George Peck, who came to Camp in its first season and was camper #1, became director in 1897. He expanded Camp to more than 225 campers, established regular business operations and instituted the 8-week camp season. He was a fixture at Camp, as a visitor, until the 1940s. If he did not have to return to his year-round business in 1903, it could be George Peck that we remember. Finally, the irrepressible Billy Berger, who was director for only one season, committed himself to giving Dudley a permanent home and finding a long-term director to guide Camp for generations. He succeeded spectacularly, overseeing the purchase of the current campus and hiring Chief as his successor. If Billy Berger were more focused on his own advancement at Camp, it might be him we remember.

 

As we considered the possibility of a world in which someone other than Chief Beckman became Dudley’s central historical figure, it led us to ask more basic questions. Why not me? Maybe none of us will serve as Dudley’s or Kiniya’s director or institute programs that become core aspects of Camp. And we obviously did not come to Camp at a formative moment when many basic decisions were still being made. But much like Sumner Dudley, George Peck and Billy Berger, we have the opportunity to make important decisions that keep Camp strong and help it become an even greater place in the future. And why not you? What do you imagine yourself doing to improve Camp Dudley or Camp Kiniya or the lives of the people in the Camp Family? Will you be a leader, a division head, a future director, influential alum or board member. Will you start a new program, identify a new campus, hire a visionary leader, or improve Camp’s financial security? If Camp’s history teaches anything, it is that we need the contributions of a wide range of people. So why not me? And why not you?

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.16.22 - Sunday Talk

The 2022 Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya Board of Trustees met for the first time this past Wednesday. It was a New Year’s kickoff on Zoom with a packed agenda. We welcomed four new trustees and introduced the Board’s strategic initiatives for the year. Most importantly, we accomplished our first major goal of 2022. The Board voted unanimously to retire all of Camp’s outstanding loans and to restore Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya to zero debt for the first time in more than 15 years. As a result, Camp will no longer carry a debt service burden and can use funds that would have gone to paying down loans to reinvest in our people, our programs and our facilities.

 

Our debts were incurred to support visionary investments that changed the course of Camp. We took a mortgage loan to purchase Camp Kiniya in 2006 and launch our summer programming for girls. We took construction loans to build the Coleman Dining Hall in 2017 and Mimi’s Lodge in 2019, giving Kiniya’s campus the same core buildings (a dining hall and an auditorium) that anchor the Dudley campus. And we entered into another mortgage loan to purchase the home of Kiniya’s former owners, Jack and Marilyn Williams, which is located on the Kiniya campus, after they both died in 2014. Thanks to the enormous generosity of the Camp Family, we raised the money to pay for each of these projects. The loans allowed us to realize our vision for girls camping sooner, knowing that your contributions would ultimately allow us to pay them off promptly. Wednesday was the day that finally happened.

 

The retirement of Camp’s debt is the result of great financial management by #13804 Matt Storey, #20001 Marnie McDonagh, #10932 JR Scanlon, #17600 Fred Guffey and #22827 Jesse Smith, among others. It is also a tribute to the success of Camp’s development team under #10555 Dave Langston, #19542 Dawn Gay, #8804 John Storey and #15900 Bonnie Vaughn. And we stand on the shoulders of remarkable Board leadership from the likes of #12152 Charlie Johnson, IV, #11846 Tom Canning, #11889 Dwight Poler, #10643 Matt Quigley, #22898 Whitney Phelps and #12764 Chris Perry, who had the financial acumen and confidence in this institution to borrow strategically and enable Camp to realize its dreams, while always assuring that we were secure and in the black. And they accomplished all this even after the pandemic forced us to cancel our summer programs and take in zero tuition dollars in 2020.

 

Over the years, the Board’s discussions on this subject have truly brought out the best in all of us. We had different views about whether Camp should incur debt. As one of the “debt hawks” on Camp’s Board, I have always been very reluctant to approve borrowing. My views are based in our conservative history with respect to loans. Prior to 2006, Camp had only taken on debt once — in 1968 when we agreed to purchase the Westport campus from the YMCA for $140,000 payable over 30 years. But I was persuaded by others with long experience in finance and management that, in order to make a generational opportunity like Camp Dudley at Kiniya happen, we could take out another mortgage loan to buy a second campus in Colchester, so long as we had a plan to raise the funds to pay it back. And given our successes in the Building for the Future capital campaign, some of those same leaders persuaded me that we could take on short term loans to fund key buildings on the Kiniya campus, secure in the knowledge that we would repay them soon. On Wednesday, the tables turned and we “debt hawks” had our day, assuring that Camp made good on its commitment to eliminate these loans in the short term. Over the course of 15 years, our Board, Directors and finance and fundraising teams worked together, listened to one another, realized a dream, paid for it, and restored Camp to its historic position of zero debt. It is a moment for us all to be very proud of what we have accomplished as a Camp Family and a great way to start the year.

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.9.22 - Sunday Talk

If anyone on Camp’s Board of Trustees fulfills the image held by some in our community that Board members are special people, it is my friend Erinn Harley-Lewis. Erinn is probably the hardest working lawyer I know. You can call her at any hour of the day and find her on her computer at what used to be her dining table. Erinn lived in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean before settling in the DC area. She was a teacher and trustee at a school in Kenya. Erinn and her husband have three awesome kids, two of whom were at Camp last summer. She made a viral video of her younger daughter imitating Kamala Harris that got nearly 750,000 views on Twitter alone and was so popular that the Vice President herself commented on it. Erinn also has emerged as a leader in Camp’s Boardroom. She joined the executive committee in just her second year on the Board, led our 2021 task force on diversity, equity and inclusion, and wrote the DEI action plan that we published in October. And now she is our first woman Vice Chair of the Board. That’s pretty special. 

Of course, one of the purposes of these Sunday Talks is to demystify Camp’s Board. And if anyone can do that, it’s also Erinn. She was still very new to Camp when she joined the Board. She had been a Camp parent for only two years. But if you have been around Dudley and Kiniya, you know that we are pretty good at giving talented people jobs they may not feel quite ready to handle and helping them thrive. It happens on the Board in just the same way it does at Camp. And Erinn is a great example. She went from new Camp parent to Board Vice Chair in five years! And her path is a model for how folks with less experience at Camp can become very influential trustees, if they want to make the commitment. I hope a wide range of people in the Camp Family will see themselves in Erinn and become inspired to serve on the Board.

 

At a personal level, my experience with Erinn drives home one of the most important points about Board service. It is another stage in a Dudley or Kiniya lifetime and it carries many of the familiar benefits of Camp. I have been fortunate enough to make several lifelong friends while serving on Camp’s Board — people I did not know before we served together and who are now part of my inner circle. Sound familiar? Erinn Harley-Lewis is definitely one of those. When I think of her, I can’t help hoping that many of you will have the chance I had to make new friends later in life as you work together with them to support the camps we love so well. 

 

Much love, JU #11904

1.2.22 - Sunday Talk

Some of you who were around in the summer of 1988 may remember it as the “summer of love” — a theme cooked up by yours truly and my old friend #12082 Patrick Butler. It started as a joke. We thought it would be funny to announce a “love of the day” at breakfast and have everyone at Camp tell that person “I love you” all day long, whenever they saw them. What evolved was anything but a joke. The theme became transformational. For people who were named “love of the day,” it was amazing to be told “I love you” repeatedly, all day, by everyone you saw. I know. I was one of them late that summer and the experience could sometimes leave you speechless. And it went beyond that. In subtle ways, the summer theme brought out the best in our community — encouraging us all to declare our love for one another openly. Even the toughest and unlikeliest of people were willing to say it out loud.

 

The emergence of the 1988 “summer of love” theme is such an essential Camp story. What started as a joke took on a life of its own and became a meaningful way to build people up, to express who we are, and to strengthen our community. It reminds me of a quotation that was posted on the wall of Edie cabin at Camp Kiniya one summer, which reads “watch carefully, the magic that occurs when you give someone just enough comfort to be themselves.” (h/t #21303 Ellie Whelan) I paraphrased that quotation as part of a talk I gave about Camp a few weeks ago, at the Rotary Club in San Marino, California. Camp, I told them (with the 1988 summer theme firmly in my mind), is about love. And it is an amazing thing to see the magic that occurs when people are part of a community where they know they are loved for who they are.

 

Today, I begin one of the adventures of a lifetime, serving as Chair of Camp’s Board of Trustees. Camp is working on big plans in the coming years, including for how we will use the Frisbie Farm property, how we will keep Camp’s tuition affordable, and how we will make our camps affirming and inclusive places for a wide range of people. We also face major challenges, including how we will navigate the pandemic and its aftermath, how we will adapt to changes in the climate and environment, and how we will meet the evolving health care needs of our community. I can’t tell you today how all that will work out. But I can promise you that our Board’s work on every issue will be rooted in love — for one another, for all members of the Camp Family, for Camp Dudley and Camp Kiniya and for the larger community we lead and serve. After all, as we said back in ’88, love is what Camp is all about.

 

Much love, JU #11904

#11904 John Ulin

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