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American Alpine Club Announces New Executive Committee and Board of Directors


—American Alpine Club Announces New Executive Committee and Board of Directors—

New Board will Support the Club’s Mission and Five-year Plan

The American Alpine Club is pleased to announce its new President, Executive Committee, and Board of Directors. AAC members voted on the new Board slate at the AAC Annual Meeting in Boston on March 2, 2012 and via online voting.

Charlie Sassara of Anchorage, Alaska will lead this new team of volunteers as the AAC’s new President. “My vision is to challenge the AAC to grow, to welcome, attract, and nurture all whom enjoy climbing and the mountains, and to extend that love/drive/ambition via a local community driven focus,” Sassara wrote in an email. “I challenge us to become a club in which its members find relevance throughout a lifetime. I challenge us to redefine our image from that of men in jackets smoking cigars, drinking brandy, and reliving history. I challenge us to find our voice, the voice of American climbing. Still about the coolest activity many of us have ever engaged. This, in short, is my vision for the AAC. I hope that you will join me in the next adventure.”

The new makeup of the Board was carefully considered, and selections were made based on the stunning qualifications of the candidates, regardless of their prior affiliation to the Club.

The new Board Members join the Club one year into the Club’s ambitious Five-year Strategic Plan, which focuses on expanding benefits, connecting climbers to ever-improving informational resources, and delivering Club programs locally. These new Board Members will support these goals with their diverse climbing and community service backgrounds as the Club’s outgoing volunteers have done. Those who have dedicated themselves to improve the AAC through leadership positions include Executive Committee members Steve Swenson (President), Bruce Franks (Vice President), and Jack Tackle (Treasurer); and Board Directors Ellen Lapham, Eric Simonson, Pete Takeda, Roanne Miller, and Rob BonDurant. The club would like to extend a thank you to these outgoing Board Members for their exemplary volunteer service.

Charlie Sassara has just joined the American Alpine Club as President—but his long previous service to the Club as Treasurer and as a Board member was marked by both the David Sowles Memorial Award in 2003 and the Angelo Heilprin Citation in 2009. Charlie is Alaskan born and bred—essentially self-taught. Early climbs were extended solos in the local Chugach Range along unnamed ridges and unclimbed faces. He’s still an active climber after 35 years, with over 20 expeditions to the Alaska, Chugach, Hayes and Wrangell/Saint Elias, Himalayan, and Patagonian ranges.

Charlie has 25 years of project management and business development experience with an emphasis on government contracting and construction with Arctic Slope Regional, Cook Inlet Regional, and Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation subsidiaries. He also has 15 years of experience in working with adaptive elements of organizational culture, teamwork, and economic development. He secured approval of the first mentor/protégé venture under the Small Business Administration, performed startups of various business and ventures, including UIC’s Cape Simpson Industrial Port on the North Slope of Alaska.

In the climbing world, he’s known for both being one of the founders of the Alaska Rock Gym—with its commitment to the Alaskan climbing community—and for his notable first ascents and sailing accomplishments. 

Vice President Mark Kroese has been exploring the high and wild for more than 35 years. He started climbing at the impressionable age of 15, and has been lucky climb in some of the world's most celebrated ranges. The climbing lifestyle has taken Mark to diverse and exotic locales, including Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, Yosemite, The Alps, The Dolomites, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Newfoundland, British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories.
Mark finds his center at the confluence of mountain adventure, storytelling, and environmental stewardship. In other words: he lives to climb in spectacular places, share his adventures with digital media, and make sure these places are preserved for future generations. 

Mark's professional experiences have focused on technology and business, including 19 years with Microsoft Corporation, and six years pursuing entrepreneurial passions. Mark served on the Board of Directors of the Access Fund from 1999 to 2004. He is the author of Fifty Favorite Climbs (Mountaineers Books, 2001). Mark has served on board of the American Alpine Club since 2007 and is a Director for the Harbers Foundation (harbersfoundation.org). He is the father of two grown children, Daniel and Nicole, and lives in Bellevue, WA with his wife, Mary.

Secretary Doug Walker has been a climber for more than 40 years. He started climbing in the Southeast in 1970 and became more seriously engaged when he moved to Seattle in 1972. Doug has been able to climb in most parts of the U.S., many parts of Canada, Alaska, Europe, New Zealand, Africa, and Nepal. Doug has a serious commitment to conservation of mountain landscapes and promotion of the climbing way of life. In his professional life he co-founded and managed a mid-sized world-wide software company for 25 years. Doug served as a Director of REI for 12 years and was Chair of REI from 2005–08. As an REI Director, he played an important role in addressing the “fixed anchor” crisis in 1998. Currently, Doug is the Chair of the Wilderness Society and has served as a Director for the American Alpine Club and the Conservation Lands Foundation and is an Advisory Council Member for NPCA and the Land Trust Alliance. In his spare time, Doug volunteers as a climbing instructor for the YMCA’s BOLD program and actively enjoys climbing with his grown daughter and many friends.

Treasurer Paul Gagner absolutely loves the outdoors and climbing—rock, ice, mountains, dry tooling, big walls, and bouldering. Plastic, sport, and alpine— whatever the discipline, he loves it and does it all. Paul's been fortunate to have spent the last 35 years traveling the world, climbing and doing FAs, from Patagonia to the Himalaya, and Alaska to Baffin Island, though he is particularly inspired by the walls of Yosemite and the deserts of the Southwest. Paul loves to mentor and inspire kids and adults alike to get outside and experience the outdoors, and in the summer is frequently found taking first-timers out camping and top-roping.

Paul has spent his career working in senior leadership positions with authentic brands in the outdoor industry—from The North Face to Sierra Designs and Gregory Packs. He serves, or has served, on several Boards from the Outdoor Industry Association, Donate-A-Pack Foundation, USA Climbing, QIO Systems, and the American Alpine Club (since 2006). Paul lives in Boulder, Colorado—“the center of the climbing universe”—with his lovely wife Victoria, daughter Katherine (7 years old), dog, and two cats. He's the only male in the household.

Director Karen Daubert has over 15 years of experience in environmental, trail, and open space policy, advocacy, and funding. She serves as Executive Director of the Washington Trails Association, the largest state trails organization in the nation. As Founding Director of the Seattle Parks Foundation, she led the organization from a start-up to one that is recognized as a national leader in parks philanthropy and advocacy. As a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, her focus was on real property and parks issues. As Board Member of the National Parks Alliance, she worked closely with fellow members on issues of national importance. Karen is experienced in working closely with members, management teams, the public, elected officials, and agencies, and she believes strongly in team building. She is a passionate climber who enjoys talking about the joys of the mountains to anyone who will listen.  

Director Brad Brooks is, in his words, "A native of southern California, I grew up in Idaho and spent my childhood exploring the mountains and deserts of my adopted state. I went to college on a soccer scholarship to the College of Idaho where I majored in environmental studies with a focus in politics and economics. I later went on to receive my Masters in Business Administration.

“The outdoors have always been an inspiration to me, but it wasn't until after my undergraduate studies that climbing became a true passion in my life. My passion for climbing is only matched by my love for the outdoors and the value it adds to society, which is why I have chosen to work full time as a conservationist. I started working for The Wilderness Society in 2006, and I currently serve as the Deputy Regional Director for our Idaho program, where I have helped to lead several successful policy and legislative campaigns.

“I have been involved in non-profit management, board development, and climbing access issues for several years. I am a founding Board Member of the Idaho Trails Association, and I currently serve on the Board of the Boise Climbers Alliance. When I'm not climbing I enjoy traveling with my wife around the globe looking for new cultures, experiences, and of course, new rock."

Director John Heilprin is chief correspondent for The Associated Press in Geneva, Switzerland, and has reported from 15 nations in Europe, Asia, and Africa, including four trips with the U.N. secretary-general. Since joining AP in 2000, he also covered the U.N. in New York and environment beat in Washington. Before that he spent 11 years reporting for newspapers in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Utah. He grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and got a history degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he started climbing with Bruce Miller in the early 1980s. He took the NOLS instructors course, got his EMT and, after graduation, worked year-round as a mountaineering instructor for Colorado Outward Bound School. He went on climbing trips throughout the Rockies, West Coast, Alaska Range, Alps, and Himalaya. In 2000, he attempted K2’s North Ridge with an American expedition. He lives in Bern with his Swiss wife and two young sons. He has inherited a narwhal tusk and barometer given to AAC founder Angelo Heilprin more than a century ago by polar explorer Robert Peary.

Director Rebecca Schild says, "As a native of Boulder, Colorado, the mountains have become a central part of my life. After taking a course in the Himalayas with NOLS during a year off before college, I resolved that I wanted to pursue a career in outdoor education. Coupling my academic pursuits with the experience necessary to work for NOLS, I began climbing at Colorado College among a cohort of exceptionally talented and driven climbers. Adventuring in the outdoors has shaped my identity and guided my academic, career, and personal pursuits. As an avid climber and conservationist, I pursued both a career in outdoor education alongside a graduate degree in Environmental Management from Duke University. I now make my home as the Environmental Center Director of Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO with my husband, dog Bridger, and orange tabby Reno."

Director Matt Culberson has been an itinerant educator and climber/guide for more than 30 years. Matt enjoys moving in the out of doors-up, down, horizontal-climbing, back country skiing, and trail running—and of course, enjoys becoming immersed in good literature and rich discussions. Matt currently is on the Board of PNAIS, Board of Utah HealthCare Institute, and serves as ethicist on three medical ethics committees. Culberson is the Head of the McGillis School in Salt Lake City, UT.

Director Mary Hsue says,As a Pacific Northwest native I have enjoyed the natural beauty of the region. However, I did not fully appreciate what the mountains and waters had to offer until 16 years ago when I decided to explore the alpine lakes region for fly fishing. Since then, I have hiked and snowshoed many trails in the Alpine Lakes, climbed Mt. Rainier, and ascended numerous alpine rock-climbing routes in the North Cascades.

“I currently serve as Director of Development & Communications for The Mountaineers, the foremost outdoor education, recreation, and conservation organization in the Pacific Northwest. I also serve on the board of the Washington Climbers Coalition and have eight years of marketing and communications experience and over six years non-profit experience focused on fundraising, message development, Board relations, and donor engagement.”

The American Alpine Club is proud to announce these exciting changes to its Board of Directors and looks forward to the coming years with these stellar individuals.

About The American Alpine Club
The American Alpine Club provides knowledge and inspiration, conservation and advocacy, and logistical support for the climbing community. The AAC advocates for American climbers domestically and around the world; provides grants and volunteer opportunities to protect and conserve the places we climb; hosts local and national climbing festivals and events; publishes two of the world’s most sought-after climbing annuals, the American Alpine Journal and Accidents in North American Mountaineering; cares for the world’s leading climbing library and country’s leading mountaineering museum; manages the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch as part of a larger lodging network for climbers; and annually gives $80,000+ toward climbing, conservation, and research grants to adventurers who travel the world. Learn about additional programs and become a member at americanalpineclub.org. Join the AAC’s online community at facebook.com/americanalpineclub.