Environmental authors program brings Dr. Kimmerer

Critically acclaimed author draws mixed results

Ben Gelb and Natalie Anderson

      The Otis Environmental Authors Program was created by Philip Otis ‘91’s family following his death in 1995. Otis was a student ranger and was participating in a rescue mission at Mount National Park. The objective of the mission was to save a man with a fractured ankle. The man, however, was 13,500 feet up the northeastern side of the mountain. At about 13,200 feet, Philip stopped to fix his equipment and fell to his death. The man they intended to save was later rescued by others.

     After graduating high school, Otis took classes at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Wyoming. The school is known to be rigorous and is well-known for its Outdoor classes. At NOLS, Otis learned about wilderness survival skills, and later moved on to attend Bates College. Quinn Kiernat ‘17, a Blake alumnus who currently attends Bates College comments, “I had heard of Philip Otis before attending Bates. I think it is cool to attend the same school that such a cool person like Otis had attended.”

     The Otis family made personal contributions to the school, which helped fund the renovation of the central student courtyard in the Upper School campus. Today, students of all grades appreciate the courtyard as it is a great place to chat, have lunch, or a play a game when the weather becomes warm. “I really enjoy the courtyard in the spring and fall,” says Gavin McDonough ‘19. “When the weather is nice, I tend to go there during my free blocks and lunch periods. I find it a great way to spend time outside and enjoy the warm weather. I am sure Philip would be very happy to see the uses of the courtyard today.”

     Funding also went towards the Environmental Authors Program. The program, thanks to the Otis family’s donations, has made impacts beyond the school community.

     Anish Aggarwal ‘18, a member of the Otis environmental steering committee, states, “I have always enjoyed seeing the wonderful beauties that mother nature has to offer. Protection of the environment is something that I consider very important to my personal life. Therefore, I think the Otis Environment Program is a really cool way to boost learning in the Blake community about the environment while simultaneously helping it.”

     As the 2018 Environmental Authors Program speaker, Dr. Robin Kimmerer sparked controversy and thought. Saji Champlin ‘19 says, “[Kimmerer] was very interesting. I enjoyed the assembly.” On the other hand, Will Becker ‘19 states “I found her ideas to be somewhat incorrect. How can a plant talk and think like a human? I also found it strange that the school decided to bring in a speaker that feels like plants have the same rights as humans.”

     Tune into Kimmerer’s insights expressed in a video interview: https://www.blakespectrum.org/blog/2018/04/23/spectrum-interview-with-robin-wall-kimmerer/