Philip Otis Environmental Authors Program

"We have the ability to transform humanity from its destructive past into a humanity which views our environment as sacred space." Philip J. Otis

A passion for the outdoors dominated the life of Blake alumnus Phil Otis. As a teenager he took courses at the rigorous National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming, where he learned mountaineering, natural history, and wilderness survival skills. After graduating from Blake in 1991, Phil chose to study environmental science at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. His senior thesis, entitled "Consider the Lilies: Toward a Theology for the Earth," synthesized his love of nature and a conviction that religious faith could be a powerful force in protecting the environment. Phil's life was exemplary of this belief.

In the summer before his final term at Bates, Otis won a coveted position as a student ranger at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington. When a call came in on August 12, 1995 that an injured climber was stranded on Emmons Glacier, Otis and a colleague—both experienced glacier climbers trained in search and rescue techniques—volunteered to ascend the mountain to assist. The two young rangers, strapped together in proper climbing form, fell together to their deaths before reaching their destination.

In 1997, Otis's mother and stepfather, Northrop and Blake alumni Margaret and Angus Wurtele, made contributions to Blake, Bates College, and the National Outdoor Leadership School in Phil's name. Their donations to Blake contributed to the school's endowment, funded the renovation of a central student courtyard at the Upper School, and set up a fund to implement and maintain the Environmental Authors Program.

Since its establishment, the program promotes environmental literacy at the school through two primary components: a biannual visit from a distinguished author whose work involves environmental themes; and book groups and grant allocations to encourage new curriculum and professional development among faculty and staff. Philip Otis's bravery and his commitment to the exploration and protection of nature's wonders inspire us in that work.

For more information about the Philip Otis Environmental Authors Program, please contact Lisa Sackreiter at