“The purpose of Davidson Outdoors (DO) shall be to promote and increase awareness and appreciation for nature by providing outdoor and other recreational activities as well as programs that further the educational objectives of Davidson College while encouraging the growth of personal qualities such as leadership, self-reliance, confidence, and initiative, and to enrich the Davidson College Community by creating an open atmosphere for all…” [Davidson Outdoors Constitution]
“[S]eeing the green of the woods rather than the green of the library carpet can do wonders for the soul.” [Susan Bean ’06 qtd.in Hunter “Davidson Outdoors”]
Davidson Outdoors began in the 1970s as a humble Union Board committee. This committee was later named the Davidson Outing Club was formed and was primarily an equipment rental service. Ed Daugherty ’85 was the Union Board Chair of the Davidson Outing Club.
In 1984, a combined effort from Daugherty and the Residence Life Office (RLO) brought about the creation of the first Davidson Outdoors Odyssey trip for incoming freshmen. The first trip lasted only three days and claimed 13 participants.
The outdoors program at Davidson College continued to grow from a small student service into something bigger. Full-time staff leaders in the late 1980s and early 1990s included Gerald Hutchinson and Greg Sheppard. Sheppard’s greatest contribution was the training of student trip leaders; Sheppard imagined a day when “student trip leaders [would] lead a majority of trips.”
In 1992, Ed Daugherty returned to Davidson College to become the director of Davidson Outdoors (DO). Helping Daugherty develop DO was Mike Goode, the Director of Operations for the College Union; in 1999, Goode became the DO Assistant Director.
Thanks to the hard work of many, DO increased in popularity and prominence. When the Alvarez College Union was dedicated in 2001, Davidson Outdoors had a brand new facility inside (including a 22-ft climbing wall). By 2002, over 300 hundred students a year participated in DO activities.
Also in 2002, DO re-established the Red Bike program. Though over the years the color has changed from red to yellow, the program’s principle remains the same: the bikes are free for anyone to use, anytime, anywhere on campus. In exchange, the Davidson College community works together to maintain the bikes. This bike program is always difficult to maintain due to bike losses and damages, but it is a treasured part of Davidson College’s culture.
DO offers a wide variety of services: trips, freshman Odyssey, the Challenge Course, the climbing wall, and classes (such as the Wilderness Leadership Course, Wilderness Advanced First Aid, and CPR). Though the Wilderness Leadership Skills course is required for trip leaders, like all classes it is open to all interested students. Students who have completed the WLS course are eligible to vote in DO elections and run for an officer position.
In 2004 alone, the Challenge Course attracted over 650 participants. Because of this popularity, a new addition (a Full Alpine Tower) was added to the challenge course the next year; this addition allows students to climb up to 55 feet off the ground.
Trips have included climbing, biking, rafting, canoeing, spelunking, hang-gliding, and more. They take place at a variety of locations, including the Rio Grande, Capers Island, and the Outer Banks. Arguably, DO’s most famous trip is their yearly spring-break canoe trip in the Everglades.
By the 20th century, the organization of DO involved several types of people. Firstly, there are participants of DO’s activities and events. “Trip Leaders” are students who have taken the Wilderness Leadership Skills course, van driving course, and Wilderness advanced first aid. “Challenge Course Facilitors” have passed challenge-course training course and are allowed lead groups through the Challenge Course. Student Employees work in the DO’s Union facility alongside one or more Staff Members (who are responsible for overseeing the entire program). Finally, the “Executive Council” consists of the staff members, the student DO president, student DO VP, and up to three more students. This team works together to create and enjoy the multitude of Davidson Outdoors activities.
Consitution. Record Group 6/3.5. Davidson Outdoors (DO) – Records, 1987-. Davidson College Archives, Davidson College, NC.
“Faculty and Staff Database.” Davidson College Archives. Davidson College. 22 April 2009. <http://library.davidson.edu/archivesdb/facstaff.asp>.
Finding aid. Record Group 6/3.5. Davidson Outdoors (DO) – Records, 1987-. Davidson College Archives, Davidson College, NC.
Giduz, Bill. “Addition to Tower Opens New Horizons for Student Climbers.” Davidson News and Events. Davidson College. <www.davidson.edu>.
Hunter, Katie. “Davidson Outdoors promotes trips for peace of mind.” Davidsonian. 25 February 2006.
Stricker, Kristen. “Sheppard Leads Students to Outdoor Opportunities.” Davidsonian. 15 April 1991: 9.
Syme, John. “Get Out There!” Davidson Journal. Summer 2002: 4-12.
Author: Tammy Ivins
Cite as: Ivins, Tammy. “Davidson Outdoors” Davidson Encyclopedia 2009. https://digitalprojects.davidson.edu/omeka/s/encyclopedia/page/davidson-outdoors