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August 1995: A tragic death, a hopeful legacy

On Aug. 12, 1995, student park ranger Philip Otis ’95 and another ranger set out to rescue an injured climber on Mount Rainier. In freezing rain, about 200 feet from the man, they slipped and fell to their deaths. A broken crampon was later found at the site. At the time of his death, Otis’ spiritual and environmental beliefs were already intertwined, if not fully formed. His thesis had explored a theology of living in harmony with the environment, without, as the Bible says, “toil nor spin.” In the decade since his death, Otis’ ideas have found diverse expression at Bates. In 1996, a family gift in his memory established the Philip J. Otis Endowment to give students and faculty the chance to “study and reflect upon new and innovative ways to understand, appreciate, and express our interdependencies with the earth.”