In answer to “What Role for Blairstown?” (Campus Notebook, April 6, 2011): Blairstown epitomizes “Princeton in the nation’s service.” Just as the Student Volunteers Council was for me, Blairstown is about service, stewardship, and personal challenge. Princeton should continue the center’s status as a support organization and expand its potential in creative ways: Why not the Bass Lake Conferences on social issues?
First for me, Blairstown was the site of Episcopal Church retreats and Outdoor Action. When I completed Hurricane Island Outward Bound, John Danielson challenged me to become a leader with a remarkable group of Princeton students in creating an adventure program for urban youth as reconstruction began on the facilities, including a solar bathhouse. As we completed our training, we understood the challenges ahead, that Princeton-Blairstown Center represents service and challenge on many levels. We “leaders” composed a poem, the first letters of which spell “Together Challenged” (Trust Openly Group Everyone Together Helping Enriching Reaching, Consider How Awareness Lifts Life Enveloping New Growth Endlessly Diverse).
Such experiential adventure and education is Blairstown for countless youths, but especially for the many Princeton students who serve as leaders for the summer program, as participants or leaders for Outdoor Action, and as participants in departmental or spiritual retreats. After my master’s program, I was challenged to return to Blairstown to work with incoming director Ev Pinneo ’48, who is a key role model in the courage he and his family expressed by moving from a beloved home and comfortable careers to take on this service and challenge. Under his leadership we sought to make the site accessible year round to the University community, as well as to school groups and to the communities we served with the summer program.