BU Alumni Web

Sargent Camp Revives

A nonprofit will manage the wilderness retreat; BU retains ownership

| From BU Today | By Chris Berdik

The Sargent Center for Outdoor Education will be renamed Nature’s Classroom at Sargent Center. BU will retain ownership of the land, while Nature's Classroom will run the facility.

Boston University’s Sargent Center for Outdoor Education (SCOE), threatened with closure because of the University’s budget shortfall, will live on.

As of September 2009, the wilderness retreat in Hancock, N.H., will be operated by Nature’s Classroom, a Charlton, Mass.–based nonprofit that offers residential environmental education programs for children in grades 4 through 8 at 13 locations in the Northeast. Details are still under negotiation, but BU and Nature’s Classroom signed a letter of intent last week and both sides express confidence that a lease will be signed within weeks.

“I’ve been an admiring competitor of the Sargent Center for years,” says John Santos, director of Nature’s Classroom. “I think BU will be putting us in charge of something they’ve been doing quite well.”

BU acquired the 700-acre property in 1932 for a Sargent College teacher training program. The center later came under the purview of BU’s Metropolitan College. With room for 200 overnight guests in cabins, dormitories, and canvas “yurt villages,” the center offers an environmental education program for middle school students around the region, hosting approximately 3,000 schoolchildren each year. The summer outdoor Adventure Camp draws an average of 600 children ages 10 through 17.

The center has also served as an educational and retreat space for BU’s Schools of Management and Education, and has hosted the Residence Life and Orientation and Off-Campus Services offices, the Boston University Scholars, Upward Bound, and the summer Common Ground orientation course for new students. Universities and corporations have held retreats at the facility.

The site also is a research base for many BU faculty, particularly in natural sciences. For instance, Thomas Kunz, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of biology and director of the Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, has been researching bats at the center for decades.

Earlier this year, the University said it could no longer afford to operate the SCOE and would shut it down on August 31, laying off 15 employees. A hail of protests met the decision. “A very short sighted move on the part of the university,” read one of many comments in response to a Bostonia story announcing the plans.

This spring, University officials began exploring other options, which led to the pending agreement with Nature’s Classroom. Under the proposed terms of a $1 lease, renewable after 19 months, BU would maintain ownership of the land while Nature’s Classroom would operate the facility beginning September 1, assume the cost of staffing, maintain the camp, and charge user fees. The property will be renamed Nature’s Classroom at Sargent Center.

“We’re going to maintain as much continuity as possible,” says Santos, who emphasizes that he intends to continue offering as many of BU’s programs as possible. “We want this place to be very, very busy,” he says. The only major change will be that the camp will close during the winter.

“I think this is a great solution to a difficult problem,” says Kunz, who will continue his bat research on the site.

Most of the SCOE’s 15 permanent employees will still be laid off (effective August 31), but Nature’s Classroom may rehire some as program managers. “We’ll maintain as many of the administrators and personnel as is practical,” says Santos. BU will retain the center’s assistant conference coordinator, Paul Hutchinson, to conduct on-campus team building and orientation programs. The center’s director, Robert Rubendall, will stay through September to help in the transition.

“This is an opportunity to keep this important site alive, to keep kids coming through here, and to have an operating facility for BU” says Rubendall. “It’s a very optimistic and gallant proposal by Nature’s Classroom to keep it going.”

“I’m very pleased that the Sargent Center, as both a physical entity and a provider of outdoor environmental education, is going to continue to exist,” says Jay Halfond, dean of MET. “It’s just so important that we maintain this unique natural habitat for learning.”

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On 10 June 2010 at 9:35 PM, Elizabeth Obel Fouke (SAR'66) wrote:

I'm so glad to hear that Sargent Camp is still being used. I have such wonderful memories of being there as a student and also being there several years working as waterfront instructor. Can't wait to go back some day just to visit!

On 21 July 2009 at 9:07 AM, Ann Sousa Riley (CAS'94,CGS'92) wrote:

Thank goodness BU thought outside the box for this one. Sargent Camp is great. I was most fortunate to partake in their team building and orientation programs during my years at BU as part of the original PEN Players training. Best memories ever. I am smiling knowing that it stays part of BU.

On 12 July 2009 at 8:05 PM, Cecile Goff (SED'61) wrote:

Delighted that a solution has been arrived at with Nature's Classroom and it will be utilized as a natural learning environment. I remember going there for freshman orientation and it is a very beautiful, peaceful environment. I hope that opportunities for Alum will be available.

On 10 July 2009 at 8:38 PM, Ernie Christensen (CBS'58) wrote:

While I am very happy the location was not sold. I'm amazed that Sargent Camp administrators could not run the place at a break-even basis and had to turn it over to some outfit that has the management skills to make it work. Good luck to them and three hits with a wet noodle on past administrators who failed in their mission to produce a program which was not a drag on the university budget.

On 8 July 2009 at 10:33 PM, Grace Klein-MacPhee (CAS'61, GRS'69) wrote:

My husband, John MacPhee, was a science teacher there for a year in 1964-65. He took the middle school classes out into the field and taught them natural history and woodland skills. One of his best illustrations was hitting a dead tree with a stick and having the flying squirrels come out and glide. Not only did the kids love to see the squirrels, they learned the importance of letting some dead wood stand

On 8 July 2009 at 4:35 PM, Ginny Johnson (SAR'47) wrote:

Hip Hip Hooray! Felt kind of sad when I read the old campground was being let go. Have lots of fond memories from my college days there and visited just two or three years ago with a college classmate. The people we visisted with were pretty surprised when we told them the year of our graduation. Sincerely, Ginny Johnson

On 8 July 2009 at 1:26 PM, Barbara Gowitzke Waddell (SAR'55) wrote:

This facility holds many lovely memories for those of us who were fortunate enough to experience Sargent Camp and all that it has to offer. When I returned as a faculty member from 1962-1968, the richness of the natural surroundings provided an even more compelling reason for preserving this facility. I am just delighted to hear that 'Nature's Classroom' is prepared to play this most important role so that the facility can be shared with so many other people. Kudos for a happy solution!

On 8 July 2009 at 12:28 PM, chris gnoinski (SAR'69) wrote:

Thrilled to hear our camp will remain open! Just recently attended my 40th reunion & discussed the closing with my classmates. Won't it be great to e-mail with this news!!!

On 8 July 2009 at 12:12 PM, Irene Kengris Jackmauh (PAL'53) wrote:

I am so pleased to read that Sargent Camp will be used as a Nature's Classroom. I have very fond memories of spending a week each year (1965-1969) at the Alumni Camp with my family. To this day, my two sons speak of those wonderful family weeks spent with Mom and Dad. (Dad died two years ago) Our daughter was born in 1970 so she was not lucky enough to be part of meeting all those great alums and their families. Boston University marches on!!!

On 8 July 2009 at 10:01 AM, Anonymous (CAS'84) wrote:

I am glad that this solution worked out for all. However, I am hoping that the BU Alumni could go there for low cost weekend retreats. It would be wonderful if it could be opened part of the time for that. Great work on finding a solution that serves all purposes.

On 8 July 2009 at 9:09 AM, Kathy Wilson Quigg (SAR'71) wrote:

Sargent camp and other BU physical activity programs are truly responsible for me feeling so well at 60! Keep it going so it can help others learn and be physically fit.

On 8 July 2009 at 8:29 AM, John Bowman (GSM'85) wrote:

I am delighted to learn the camp will survive. It is a wonderful resource that defies accurate monetary evaluation but provides great benefit to all who use it.

On 7 July 2009 at 9:40 PM, Mary Harada (SAR'57) wrote:

I am delighted to learn that the university has found a way to maintain Sargent Camp. For those of us at Sargent in the days when college started at the camp and we spent a minimum of one summer session there, we cherish our memories of that splendid place. It would have been a tremendously shortsighted thing for the university to sell the camp because of temporary fiscal problems. This seems to be a good short term solution.

On 7 July 2009 at 9:28 PM, Anonymous (SAR'70) wrote:

Thank you Nature's Classroom! We're behind you!

On 7 July 2009 at 8:34 PM, Ann Ballantyne (SAR'57) wrote:

Hurrah and thank God

On 7 July 2009 at 7:02 PM, Alice Pyle LaMarche (SAR'66) wrote:

As a 1966 graduate of Sargent College, I am so happy to hear the camp will still be productive. I have many fond memories of my time there. Best of luck to "Adventure Camp".

On 7 July 2009 at 6:44 PM, Raymond Cook (ENG'62) wrote:

Is this the same location where the Winter Carnival was held back in the 1958 - 1962 time period? I was on the planning group for a couple of years. Remember a nice little hill with a single rope tow.

On 7 July 2009 at 6:27 PM, Ron Katter (LAW'85) wrote:

Although I had wanted to attend several BU alumni family winter camps at Sargent Camp, my first and only visit was this past summer. My wife, Karen Katter (Karen Lager BU CAS '83), daughter and I stopped by while visiting another summer camp in New Hampshire. Sargent was beautiful. The woods, lake and rustic cabins were idyllic. I was sorry to learn that BU was giving it up but am very glad to hear that Bostonia's reader's protests helped to change that. The new arrangement sounds like a win-win. Keep up the good work.

On 7 July 2009 at 4:59 PM, Ferne Hayes (SAR'66) wrote:

Many of us have fond and vivid memories of our days at Sargent Camp. I'm glad it will continue to grow and transition.

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