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Roger Loud: From math to mountain climbing

Friends & Neighbors: EVERYONE HAS

July 8, 2008
By CAPERTON TISSOT, Special to the Enterprise

Fortunate are those whose special experiences as children set them on the path to rewarding lives as adults. Roger Loud is such a person.

Memories of adventurous fun summers at his family's camp on Lake George and at Camp Treetops in Lake Placid were to eventually draw him away from city life and back to the Adirondacks. It is here, through teaching, that he has helped send hundreds of other children off to an equally good start by offering them special wilderness and classroom experiences.

Born in New York City, Roger was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, and earned a mathematics degree at Amherst College, graduating in 1956. After college, his first job was on Wall Street, where he began a promising career in banking. However, soon realizing that this career would leave little time for the mountain hiking he loved, he changed jobs.

Article Photos

Roger Loud
(Photo — Capterton Tissot)

In 1958, he left banking. In order to have his summers free for wilderness adventures, he chose to enter the field of education. Fortunately, he discovered the benefits of this field were not only the holidays, but the teaching itself. He enjoyed the children, found the work rewarding and the career a "good fit," as he explained. He was now also free to return to Camp Treetops during the summers to continue to work as a counselor and summer expedition leader.

In 1970, his best friend, Harry Eldridge, became headmaster at the North Country School (the same institution that runs Camp Treetops at its campus in the summer). He invited Roger to join the faculty as a math teacher. North Country School is a co-educational boarding school for about 90 children, grades four through nine. The school's philosophy is that children need physical as well as intellectual challenges to develop well. The school consists not only of student living accommodations, classrooms and faculty housing, but has its own organic farm. The children's responsibilities include doing farm chores, cleaning buildings and waiting tables in addition to studying.

The same philosophy prevailed at North Country as at Camp Treetops, and Roger was delighted at the chance to join the faculty.

Married by this time, he moved north with his family to live on campus. His two children attended the school, and he taught mathematics courses and wilderness skills. Moving there was clearly the right choice as Roger continued teaching at North Country for 22 years. He describes it as "a terrific place, no other place really like it."

Roger was once more a bachelor when, in 1979, his future wife, Pat, came to Lake Placid for a vacation. She knew, at once, "this is where I was meant to be!" The two of them met and were married in 1980, the year of the Lake Placid Winter Olympics. During the games, the children were sent home from the school and the buildings were used to house the U.S. Olympic Nordic team. Both Roger and Pat had an exciting winter helping out with the games; she as a nurse, treating mostly frostbitten spectators; he as coordinator of a team that successfully hand-timed the biathlon events.

He and Pat lived on campus, raising their own two children. The family was very much a part of the school, eating meals with the other students; the children doing chores and attending classes as soon as old enough.

Working at North Country during the winters and Camp Treetops during the summers, Roger developed a specialty in mountain climbing with an emphasis on map and compass reading, trip planning and trip leadership. When he first started climbing the High Peaks as a camp counselor in the 1950s, many of the peaks were trailless, the best ascents difficult to find, and the climbing rugged.

He described it as "enormously difficult. What you can do now in a day, could sometimes take three days back then. You planned bivouacs; it was a more complete experience."

Climbing all 46 peaks took much more fortitude and became an excellent learning adventure for young people. Roger was the 125th person to become a 46er. Since then, because of the many children he has led on climbing expeditions, he has climbed all 46 high peaks at least 12 times. In fact, with a bent for numbers, Roger has kept track of his climbs and can claim ascending Cascade Mountain 232 times.

He expanded his program to include summer trips for carefully selected children, to such places as the Canadian Rockies, Mount Whitney, Shasta and Rainier. Eventual trips even went to Norway and Sweden for climbing adventures. Some of the climbing as on Mount Rainier, was a far cry from the Adirondack experience. These climbs were on ice and snow, requiring crampons, headlamps and climbing ropes; quite a lesson in fortitude for 14 and 15 year-olds. Those trips "got my blood flowing twice as fast as anything we could do here," Roger reported.

From 1970 to 1982, Roger was assistant headmaster of North Country School. In 1982, he became headmaster. Though serving diligently for 10 hardworking years, he says that as headmaster he "wasn't waking up in the morning feeling it was really fun." Fundraising, phoning and administration left him little time for the teaching he enjoyed or his customary contact with students and faculty.

So, in 1992 when a position opened up for a dean of faculty and math teacher at the Northwood School, he jumped at it. Though no longer working at North Country School, Roger believes in its mission and continues to serve as a trustee.

The Northwood School with a student body of 170 children, grades nine through 12, also believes in balance between academics and sports. Here, too, the curriculum includes outdoor wilderness skills. Roger, happy to return to teaching, remained there until his retirement in 2004. It was a significant number for, in addition to hiking the 46 high peaks, he had now completed 46 years of teaching. But that moment proved not to be the end of his career.

A born teacher, he has returned to teaching math but without the extracurricular activities required of a full-time teacher.

About his teaching style, Pat frequently hears students say, "Oh, Mr. Loud is so funny!"

He is popular with the students, though in his own words he says his teaching includes a "good deal of rigor with humor." Roger characterizes his style by saying, "I firmly believe in challenging to the greatest extent possible."

Pat, cheerful and energetic, now works at Uihlein Mercy Center nursing home while Roger continues to teach. They both still climb, but prefer the lower peaks to the high ones because of knee problems. Pat speaks of the most important things in her life as the four "f" words: faith, family, friends and fun.

Between the two of them, they have four grown children, all creative spirits: David, a musical director on Broadway; Jennifer, a horse trainer and show riding teacher; Patrick, a tattoo artist and Brigit, a high school athletic trainer.

For Roger, his high moments have literally been just that; hiking the mountains whether here or in the West. "Teaching has also been a consistent pleasure. These along with family make up the tripod of my life."

How has he managed so well? "I have one firm belief in how I like to live. I take my job very seriously and never take myself seriously." Perhaps this is the ultimate lesson his students have come to understand so that whether in his classroom or on the trail, they have learned to rise to challenges and prepare for adulthood with both care and enthusiasm.



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