Cornell University logo Cornell University Outdoor Education

Having trouble viewing this email? View it in your browser.

Facebook Youtube Twitter Gmail
Big Red Zips!

Photo by Sarah Johnson                             November 14th, 2017 | Fall 2017 | Issue 2


In this issue:

Director's Note

The 20th Anniversary Hoffman Challenge Course

COE Instructor, Film-maker, Producer of Award-Winning Film, Being Hear

Brothers of Climbing - BOC at COE

Gaia's Camp Discovery

How The Pumpkin Got On the Tower

After 20 Years, Cornell Can Finally Bust Open Its Great Pumpkin Mystery


Director's Note


Dear Friends of COE,

We’ve been thoroughly enjoying the fall here in Ithaca, as well as celebrating a wonderful 20th Anniversary of the Hoffman Challenge Course. We’ve also been busy supporting deserving local youth out on their first campout, ever, expanding efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as celebrated COE instructor Matthew Mikkelsen's recent new film, Being Hear. In addition, we’ve reached a number of new milestones. Over the past decade, we’ve doubled the total number of total participant days from over 23,000 to nearly 47,000. Total student enrollment has jumped dramatically from 11,000 in 2006 to over 29,000 today. This year CTLC provided leadership development to over 5,400 individuals, up from 2,600 a decade ago. Overall, COE is serving many more students, offering more classes, providing much needed facility upgrades, and reaching a larger audience across Cornell. And we’re doing this with two fewer full-time positions than a decade ago. Today, COE is more broadly recognized across Cornell as an important partner, supporting the health and wellness of the University community.

Our continued success depends on the support we receive annually from our alumni community and friends. Every gift enables us to better serve students, as well as improve the overall level of programming we provide. As you consider your end of calendar year giving opportunities, we hope you’ll keep COE in mind. Consider making a gift today to help COE promote more leadership development, environmental ethic, and provide healthy, life-changing opportunities to Cornell students by clicking here

From all of us at COE, Thank You!

Lindseth Director of Cornell Outdoor Education


20th Anniversary Hoffman Challenge Course



On a crisp October Saturday morning recently, the woods of Mt Pleasant came alive. In that ‘one of a kind’ sound of children shrieking as they come racing down the zip wire, their laughter heralded the start of the Hoffman Challenge Course 20th Anniversary Celebration. Harkening back to the grand opening in 1997, the event included special guests including Robert and Janet Hoffman, Andy Noel, Athletic Director, each of the CTLC Director’s of the past 20 years, Karl Johnson, Amy Kohut, and Karel Hilversum, as well as COE staff, alumni and advisory board members. Going back twenty years, COE was led by Dan Tillemans, and he had the vision to dream big. In addition to hiring Karl Johnson to create the Cornell Team & Leadership Center (CTLC) and future challenge course, Tillemans reached out to Bob Hoffman and secured the singular gift that has sustained the Hoffman Challenge Course ever since.

Bob Hoffman took some time to share his perspectives on the impact of the course. "My wife, Janet, and I are honored and grateful for the opportunity to be here for the 20th anniversary of this Challenge Course. We feel that way because this facility has met and surpassed the most optimistic hopes for its value to the University that we had some 20 years ago when we were here for its inauguration. We always believed it would be a great addition to the University's facilities and overall educational program, but we just didn't anticipate the growth in usage and the degree to which it has become a legitimate part of the University's overall curriculum, even though that was a primary objective from the beginning.”

In the twenty years since the ribbon was first cut to open the course, CTLC has grown ten-fold. The first couple years saw over 500 participants come through the low and high ropes elements, building confidence, leadership and teamwork skills. This year, CTLC served over 5,400 participants, including a growing number of students in the many graduate programs of Cornell University. The leadership development impact of the Hoffman Challenge Course and CTLC are well recognized across Cornell University as well as across the Finger Lakes and northeast United States.

The icing on the cake, was the surprise sighting of Touchdown the Bear! Touchdown came ripping down the zip wire in a perfect finish to Bob Hoffman’s speech. "I will leave you with a piece of advice which was on a brass key ring which Dan Tillemans gave me 20 years or so ago - on one side of the small brass plate on the ring was the Cornell seal, and engraved on the other side was this: 'When you get to the top of the mountain, keep on climbing’.”


COE Instructor, Film-maker, Producer of Award-Winning Film, Being Hear


Congratulations to COE instructor Matthew Mikkelsen for this special and relevant film which has toured widely around the USA in various film festivals. His film, Being Hear, has been selected for recognition at numerous film festivals including Banff, Big Sky, San Francisco, Mountain Film, and Wild and Scenic, to name a few.

For most of his life, Gordon Hempton has been in pursuit of nature’s myriad and multi-faceted soundscapes as an Emmy-winning acoustic ecologist. During that time, he has become a master of a skill that is inarguably a dying art: listening. In Being Hear he shares insights on the constant and nuanced communications of nature, the alarming extinction of places unaffected by human activity, the way quiet can open our eyes to the larger picture and the benefits of simply paying attention to place. Silence, as he puts it, “is the think tank of the soul.”

Check out the video


Brothers of Climbing - BOC at COE


COE hosted The Brothers of Climbing (BOC) at the Lindseth Climbing Center. We invited them to both climb and talk about their perspectives around diversity and inclusion. BOC is a diverse group of climbers, based out of NYC. They’ve been climbing together since 2009 when co-founders David Glace and Mikhail Martin met at Brooklyn Boulders. Their mission is all about increasing diversity in rock climbing and the outdoors by creating more opportunities for inclusion and representation. In the process, they want to bring the community together. In their words, “We want to see people of color experience a higher level of comfort in the outdoors."

We hear all too often that “Black people don’t climb.” It’s time to end that misnomer. It’s an essential conversation, and one that all of us at COE have been thinking about a lot. The opportunity to meet David Glace and Pieter Cooper came about through our own BOC member and CTLC coordinator, Marcus Brooks reaching out and inviting them up. Joined by COE students, advisory board members and staff, after a relaxed climbing session we sat down to talk. Our goal is to be part of changing that narrative, and increase involvement and access to all our programming to anyone. Here at COE we’re emphasizing 'Any person, any outdoor activity.’ And on that note, we've invited David, Pieter, Mikhail, and all of BOC to return several times over this year, to help us expand the conversation to include more students, and more of the Cornell and Ithaca community. We invite anyone interested to reach out and get involved.

Take a minute to read more of their story


COE Joins Effort to Support Local Youth and Gaia’s Summer Camp Discovery



Photos by Ithaca Children's Garden

The call came in requesting 25 tents and 50 sleeping bags in support of local kids going on their first ever campout. Only one problem, all our gear was going to be tied up with Outdoor Odyssey coming up in early August. Quick thinking and a tweak to the calendar, and the campout adventure was on. COE donated the use of tents, sleeping pads, flashlights and sleeping bags to join in with other great community resources in support of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, or GIAC. The pictures tell the tale.

Read more here


How The Pumpkin Got On The Tower


Written by Farhad Manjoo '00, Former Cornell Sun Editor in Chief

The Fall of 1997 at Cornell was a season of incredible mystery. Somehow, someway, someone secured a pumpkin at the top of the clock tower, one of the most ingenious pranks of Cornell history. As students wondered and investigations occured, the culprit remained unrevealed for years. Now, ten years later, we finally have some insight as to how it was possible.

Click here to uncover the mystery.


After 20 Years, Cornell Can Finally Bust Open Its Great Pumpkin Mystery

In 1997, someone speared a massive pumpkin on the spire atop of Cornell's McGraw Tower ... 173 feet in the air. No one knew who. No one knew why. And no one knew how. In fact, for a while, no one even knew — for sure — if it was a pumpkin. Suspicions grew as the gourd lingered on, month after month. But some students figured that one out with the help of a drill attached to a remote-controlled weather balloon, which captured a sample (seriously.)

Read more here


Phillips Outdoor Program Center
B01 Bartels Hall, Campus Road
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853

607-255-6183 | Team and Leadership: 254-7474
Climbing Wall: 254-8255 | Gear: 255-1807