Return to Blog

Celebrating 80 Years - Building Character in the Wild, 1972, Colorado Outward Bound School

Tags: #Celebrating80Years

Fellows at Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range, 2016


#Celebrating80Years: 2017 marked 80 years of working with Colorado’s nonprofits as they seek to strengthen their communities. Throughout 2018, we will be looking back on this history of the outstanding organizations and the people the Trustees have had the opportunity to support. On the blog you will find a history of the Foundation’s grant making and a representative organization from every year since our founding in 1937.


Every year, members of El Pomar’s Fellowship program participate in a weeklong Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS) course, where they are given the opportunity to reflect on the philosophy and practice of leadership in the unique context of the wilderness. Over 200 have participated in Outward Bound since the 1990’s, but the Foundation’s connection to the organization dates back to 1967 when COBS received its first grant from El Pomar. From the horrors of Central Europe in the 1930s to the wonders of the natural world around us, Outward Bound’s educational philosophy has embraced the key values of integrity, excellence, “and above all else, compassion” for students around the world for more than 80 years.



OB life magazine.JPG
LIFE Magazine, 1964

Grantee Spotlight: Colorado Outward Bound School

Outward Bound was born from the inspirational story of its founder, Kurt Hahn. Born into the Jewish faith in Germany during the late nineteenth century, Hahn founded the Schule Schloss Salem (School of Salem Castle) in 1920 and emphasized respect for the individual as a key component of his educational philosophy. When the Nazi regime came to power, Hahn fled Germany in 1933 and moved to Britain, where he started the Gordonstoun School. In 1939, when World War II broke out, leaders of the British Royal Navy realized that many of their sailors were not adequately trained for the rigors of sailing during wartime. As a result, Hahn founded a third school based on a philosophy that training through challenge produced greater impact than training for challenges. The intent of the school was to foster “physical fitness, enterprise, tenacity and compassion among British youth.” The school was named Outward Bound, in homage to the Blue Peter, a nautical symbol which signifies a ship leaving harbor. Today, the original core values and experiential philosophy are exemplified in Outward Bound courses worldwide.

21 years after Kurt Hahn started the legacy of Outward Bound, Josh Miner brought the organization to the USA for the first time, with the establishment of a base camp in Marble, Colorado. The Marble base camp was the start of the Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS), as it exists today, with two additional basecamps located in Leadville and Moab, Utah. The courses that COBS operates today range from mountaineering expeditions in Colorado to rafting trips in Southern Utah to leadership experiences in Alaska and Ecuador. Since COBS started, ten other Outward Bound schools have begun across the United States, all with a common purpose “To Serve, To Strive, and Not to Yield.”

OB 2013.JPG
Fellows in Utah, 2013

Since 1967, El Pomar has granted over $2 million to the Colorado Outward Bound School. In 1972, El Pomar made a $100,000 grant to fund scholarships for students to go on COBS courses. Perhaps even more intriguing, is the long-standing partnership between COBS and the El Pomar’s Fellowship program. Each summer, shortly after the arrival of the new class of Fellows, the two current Fellowship classes embark on a weeklong Outward Bound expedition, alternating between backpacking trips in the Colorado Rockies and rafting trips through Cataract Canyon in Southern Utah. This is an experience that Fellows look forward to each year, as it provides them with a unique opportunity to build the Fellowship team and develop and utilize leadership skills outside of the professional environment. Later this summer, 17 Fellows will backpack through the Uncompahgre Wilderness in Southern Colorado.



El Pomar in 1972:

El Pomar made 28 grants to 24 different organizations totaling $1.3 million. The largest grant recipients in 1942 included: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, St. Mary’s High School, Penrose Hospital, Colorado Outward Bound School, YMCA of Metropolitan Denver, and Colorado College.

Outside of the Colorado Springs and Denver metropolitan areas, the Foundation also granted to the YMCA of Pueblo, the Longmont Community Hospital Association, the Boulder Community Hospital Foundation, the Buena Vista Public Library, and St. Mary-Corwin Health Foundation in Pueblo.


Images from Colorado Outward Bound School and El Pomar's collections

Spotlight by Matt Nuñez