The 2016 Halsey Gulick Award:
Presented to Tim Ellis
Originally appeared in Maine Summer Camps' Award Presentation Program on June 10th, 2016.
Visionary. Innovator. Educator. Idealist. In his tenure at Chewonki, Tim Ellis was all of these, blurring the lines between the recreation of camp and learning in the classroom. Tim saw each and every interaction and experience at Chewonki - be it in winter, spring, summer or fall, indoors or outdoors - as a teachable moment. While formally retiring from Chewonki in 1991, Tim's legacy remains as influential as ever, making him a deserving recipient of the 2016 Halsey Gulick Award.
Not many in the camping world first arrived at their camp in a bassinet, but legend has it that this is how Tim's Chewonki career began in 1938. Tim's childhood summers were spent at Chewonki as the son of the head counselor, and eventually Tim forged his own path as a camper and counselor.
By the time Tim took over as camp director in 1965, Chewonki was already steeped in 50 years of camping traditions. Tim was the first employee of the newly formed Chewonki Foundation, the non-profit entity that purchased Chewonki from founding owner and director Clarence Allen. From this point forward, Tim began to leave his mark, matching the rapid pace of cultural change in our country with his own bold vision for Chewonki's future. Tim viewed every moment of camp as an educational opportunity. Mealtimes were not just a time for physical nourishment, but also a time for deliverate community development. Sunday Services evolved from one-sided sermons to interactive community discussions, providing equal voice to 10-year-olds and the camp director.
With Chewonki now a non-profit, Tim's charge was to find ways to share Chewonki with more children, both during the summer and the school year. The early 1970s saw constant evolution for Chewonki under Tim's leadership. New funds were raised for scholarships and program innovation. Traditional summer camp programs expanded into extended wilderness trip expeditions, allowing older campers to push beyond the comforts of camp life and experience the joys and challenges of the wilds of Maine. Tim realized that summer camps, rich in land and infrastructure, held tremendous value for educational experiences during the school year. In the fall of '71, Tim pioneered the first residential school program at Chewonki for a group of eight-grade students. Imagine a 10-day fall program at Chewonki with your eighth-grade class. Tim was the visionary that made this happen.
While Tim's drive and focus at Chewonki were legendary, he also believed in the value of a strong camping industry for the good of all. Tim willingly shared his experiences with other camps as the made the transition to non-profit status. Tim also served as president of the Maine Youth Camping Foundation from 1989 to 1991, giving of his time and experience for the good of all Maine camps.
There is so much to Tim Ellis, the person. Tim drew great strength from his family. His wife Margaret was the perfect camp partner, far more equal visionary and teacher than her formal role of camp nurse and gardener might suggest. Tim graced many a campfire and Sunday Service with his banjo playing and captivating stories. He took his role as financial steward of a not-for-profit seriously, always looking for a deal. Legend has it that camp bunks were secured from a military surplus for free and attempts were made to cajole restaurants into waiving the meals tax for end-of-season staff parties, because after all Chewonki was a non-profit.
Stories about Tim always have a common theme: a belief in everyone's inherent potential balanced with firm expectations, and the conviction that with the right design, more learning could occur in one summer of camp than an entire year of school. As we look to a future where the camps of Maine have tremendous opportunity to partner with schools, we celebrate the leadership of Tim Ellis with the 2016 Halsey Gulick Award.
The Halsey Gulick Award was first presented in 1982 by the newly formed Maine Youth Camping Association to recognize those people who have distinguished themselves by giving unselfishly of their time, energy, and resources to improve organized youth camping in Maine.
Recipients are selected by their colleagues in camping for their record of public services to the camping movement.