A Look Back: Rory Gawler ’05

Note: Most of this blog provides a voice for current students, trip leaders, and directorate members to share their perspective.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some thoughts from Dartmouth alumni on their own experience with DOC Trips.  As a 77 year old program, Trips changes, grows, and evolves each year – but many of the same traditions and feelings remain.  Enjoy!

A Look Back: Rory Gawler ’05

Rory Gawler ’05 currently serves as the assistant director of Dartmouth’s Outdoor Programs Office, which advises and supports the DOC. 

My own experience as a trippee on DOC First-Year Trips was largely unremarkable, except for the start date: September 10th, 2001.

As we set up camp for the night of the second day of the trip, two friends of my trip leaders came to surprise us. It was not a well-planned or thought out surprise visit, but not particularly intrusive either. They mentioned, off-hand, that some kind of bombing had occurred but they didn’t know any of the details. We didn’t think much of it.

The next morning when we approached the trailhead to begin our hike, a member of the College’s Outdoor Programs Office (the administrative folks who work with DOC Trips) was waiting for us to tell us what had happened on 9/11.  What we then learned, and what was perhaps the most significant part of my first-year trip experience, was that the entire DOC Trips organization had stepped up and come together remarkably during this very trying time.

They had called every parent of every trippee and made sure that people knew we were safe. They also had messages for any students whose parents or family were potentially in danger. The decision had been made to carry on with the program in an effort to show the people who committed those atrocities that we would not back down, to “go shopping” in the words of our president at the time.

As I spent a great deal of time around the DOC organization over the subsequent ten years, I came to see the enormous amount of work that goes into a program like DOC First-Year Trips. Literally hundreds of people selflessly devoting hundreds of volunteer hours to ensure that every incoming student has aa positive an experience as possible.

Rory led five and a a half DOC First Year Trips as an undergraduate and staff member.

But why? Perhaps it is because the older students had had such positive experiences themselves; perhaps it is because first-year students at Dartmouth, unlike in the movies, are appreciated and valued (by the way – with so many organizations on campus, new members are a hot commodity); perhaps it is simply a great way to make meaningful connections to other interesting human beings in a low-pressure environment.

Regardless, it has been an honor and a privilege to be involved with the program for as long as I have. As a Trip Leader (5 and a half trips!) and as a mentor and advisor to the program, I have seen passion and dedication that are sadly rare in the rest of the “real” world. As virtually every speaker that incoming students will hear says, hopefully we can all take some of the passion that drives DOC Trips into our daily lives.

For me, every year when the fall rolls around and my office environment develops a bit of a festive atmosphere through First-Year Trips, I look back on my predecessor’s program notes from DOC Trips 2001, which I found in her office when I assumed it. The perseverance of that group of people inspires me, even 11 years later. The energy of the students working towards their goals infuses me with life that my 30-year body can seldom produce on its own accord and memories of the relationships I have grown during DOC Trips brings the kind of warmth that only that kind of friendship can.

In sum, I look forward to seeing you, class of 2016. Welcome to Dartmouth.

Rory Gawler, a member of the Class of 2005, is originally from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, but now lives in Lebanon, NH. He was a developmental psychology major, with a French minor and got a master’s degree in education in 2008. He now serves as the assistant director of the Outdoor Programs Office and as an advisor to the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC). 

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