Being outside is a privilege and with that comes responsibility to do something positive on its behalf,” says Torrey Udall (International Business, ’13). “If you give someone the opportunity to spend time in the outdoors, they’ll realize the need to protect it.”
Raised in Carbondale, Colo., by Outward Bound instructors, Udall has breathed fresh alpine air his entire life, and his family’s legacy has been shaped by the pursuit of outdoor adventure. For example, his maternal grandfather, Dick Emerson, was part of the first successful American expedition to Mount Everest in 1963. Udall says that this time spent outdoors nurtured in him a passion for another Udall family legacy: public service. His paternal grandfather, Morris “Mo” Udall, was a U.S. Representative from Arizona, and his uncles Stewart and Mark also served in the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively. Their platforms shared a common theme: conservation of natural landscapes.
“How can you protect your great escape and be part of the solution?” asks Udall. “It’s our responsibility.”
Though his conviction is clearly inspired by his family, Udall says, for him, it took root at Fort Lewis College, where he seized an opportunity to play basketball for Coach Bob Hofman, the winningest coach in FLC history.
At 6’9” tall, Udall was a powerful center for the Skyhawks, ranking among FLC’s career leaders in blocked shots. He made the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s All-Academic First Team twice and was chosen as FLC’s Student-Athlete of the Week. Udall calls his time playing for Hofman “the greatest opportunity” he’s had and something he’ll “cherish forever.”
He remembers teammates showing up to practice with goggle tans from backcountry skiing, a classic testament to FLC’s encouragement of students to build their educational journeys in the outdoors. A serious student, Udall worked hard to align his passion for outdoor adventures with his educational priorities. His coursework in environmental ethics and political science further instilled the value of natural landscapes.
“I realized that you can muse and bang your hand on the table around the morality of it, but we live in a system driven by business and business interest,” says Udall. “I was intrigued by how economic drivers impact the environment, and how we decide to protect and conserve it. So, I questioned how to reframe this from a moral argument into one of economics.”
Economic reports are one way to push businesses into taking climate action, he says. Company business models depend on the preservation of ski areas, for example, and the ability to access clean water and air. By quantifying the costs of low-snowfall years, changing climate trends will emerge in an actual dollar amount, in turn igniting businesses to fight for legislation that will protect these wild places.
Udall tackles these puzzles daily in his role as the Vice President of Development & Finance at Protect Our Winters in Boulder, Colo. He joined POW in 2016 and now manages the finances and development strategies of this nonprofit focused on transforming outdoor enthusiasts into climate advocates.
“My goal was to merge the work I was doing in business classes with climate and environmental causes,” says Udall. “It’s exciting to realize that the intersection of what I’m doing professionally now runs parallel to the ethics that were subliminally forming for me at FLC.”
Born and raised in Ignacio, Colorado, Chris deKay (American History, '93) is now the new superintendent of Ignacio School District. deKay has been with the district in various roles for the last 25 years.
Emily Johnson (Biology, '19) looks to traditional values of Indigenous peoples for lessons on how humanity should band together and reconnect with the planet for a sustainable future.
Natalie Benally (Theatre, '10) has been named a Cultural Capital Fellow by the First Peoples Fund, an organization whose mission is to honor and support First Peoples artists and culture-bearers through grants, awards, and fellowships.
Alumna Violette Cloud (Philosophy, '13) has joined the Policy Research Associates criminal justice team as a project associate. PRA is a national leader in behavioral health and research that works to create positive social change for people and communities through technical assistance, research, and training.
Alumna Kelly Koskie (Accounting, '96) has returned to the Four Corners after 15 years in the Midwest to serve as the new finance director of the City of Cortez, Colorado.
Illustrator Michaela Goade (Art, '14) became the first Native American to win the prestigious Randolph Caldecott Medal for best children’s picture story, cited for “We Are Water Protectors,” a celebration of nature and condemnation of the “black snake” Dakota Access Pipeline.