News Items - Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education
Big 4 Award Winners Announced
AORE Announces Big 4 Award Winners at the 2015 Annual Conference

Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education Announces Big 4 Award Winners at the 2015 Annual Conference

ANN ARBOR, MICH. – December 15, 2015 – On the evening of November 20, 2015, at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel in Atlanta, GA, over 650 conference attendees along with the Board of Directors, Committee members and AORE staff congratulated four winners of the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE) Big 4 Awards. Chosen for their leadership and work in the field of outdoor recreation and education, including their significant and lasting impact, these members were applauded by their colleagues, their staff and their friends as they took the stage to receive their award. These awards, the Jim Rennie Leadership Award, the Bill March Student Achievement Award and the David J. Webb Program Excellence Award and the Patsy Kott Service Award memorialize four leaders in the outdoor recreation and education field. AORE is proud to announce the 2015 Big 4 Award Winners:

Tim Mertz - The Jim Rennie Leadership Award
Tim has made significant contributions at the Board level for the AORE from 2008-2011; as a Director at Large, Vice President and President. Mertz coordinated the AORE’s first ever Industry Summit on Wilderness Medicine. He helped develop the infrastructure to hire and employ the AORE’s first Executive Director. His work leveraging AORE resources and assets to help develop and further the Strategic Planning, Business Operations, Fiscal Management and Budget analysis has positioned the AORE as "the premier organization dedicated to serving the needs of recreation and education professionals in non-profit settings.”

Tim Mertz joined the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation as the Director of Recreational Sports on April 1, 2012. He oversees department’s recreational operations that provide extensive opportunities that are available to MIT students and staff as well as the local community.

Prior to that Mertz served as the Assistant Director for University Recreation at the University of Wisconsin – Stout. There he supervised a comprehensive campus recreation department that included programs in outdoor adventure, health & fitness, intramural and club sports programs and aquatics. Mertz administered and prepared the annual operating budget for the recreation program at UW-Stout, recruited and trained full-time professional staff and oversaw the scheduling of the recreational programming there. UW-Stout opened the first 24/7 fitness facility in the UW system during Mertz’s tenure as well.

Mertz is a 2002 graduate of Southern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in recreation. He did his graduate work at SIU, receiving his Masters in physical education in 2005. Mertz worked as a graduate assistant in the Student Recreation Center at Southern Illinois University while there and also has experience as a backcountry guide in Alaska.

Quotes from his colleagues throughout the association:

“I have worked with few people in my life who have been as effective at getting things done as Tim Mertz. His service to the AORE has been far above and beyond anything that might have been initially expected of him.”

“There are few professionals that have contributed so much that has altered the course of an organization like AORE. Tim Mertz, has become one who has consistently stood behind his word, has initiated difficult conversations and led by example rather than words. I am very proud of him and have enjoyed watching his career develop over the last 15 years.”

Casey Dunphy – The Bill March Student Achievement Award
Casey is a graduate of Florida State University (FSU) where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Editing, Writing, and Media in Spring of 2014. In her time there Casey began her outdoor career working for Campus Recreation in 2011 as a Trip Leader but quickly took on more leadership roles throughout the department such as Supervisor, Head Trip Leader, and Marketing Representative.

Casey currently serves as Clemson University’s Graduate Assistant for CORE while pursuing her Masters degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. She is responsible for overseeing the planning of CORE's adventure trip schedule each semester, training staff, managing program risks, and other responsibilities associated with leadership of a collegiate outdoor recreation program.

Casey has served in many capacities throughout the AORE. She has been an active member on the Student Development committee, currently serves as an AORE ambassador, and most recently stepped in as the interim Student Representative on the Board of Directors.

“Casey’s positive energy and can do attitude make her a pleasure to work with. She is a natural leader and truly leads by example.”

“Casey is one of those students who probably changed my life far more than I changed hers. Casey is a leader without needing to be in the front of the room. She brings people together naturally. She celebrates others’ successes and makes those around her feel loved and important.”

“Casey exemplifies excellence and commitment. In herself. To the Association. To students and learners everywhere. Coast to coast to people of all ages. She is a teacher, a learner, a volunteer, and a leader. Most importantly she is an inspiration. She has impacted so many lives for the better.... from college freshman on their first OP trip experience to the students she counsels at Camp Manito-wish in the summers.”

“Her energy and enthusiasm for not just outdoor education / recreation, but for life, is contagious to all who come into contact with her.”

“I cannot possibly list all the reasons that Casey Dunphy is deserving of this award… She’s touched the lives of students and professionals ranging from Florida to Oregon.”

James Madison University (JMU) - The David J Webb Program Excellence Award
The Adventure Program at James Madison University (JMU) was officially founded in 1996 with the opening of the student University Recreation Center (UREC). UREC’s mission is to promote and advance healthy lifestyles through educational programs, participation opportunities, and support services. The qualified staff is committed to excellence and responsive to the developmental needs of participants. The JMU Adventure Program embraces its role in the bigger picture of educating students within the campus recreation model through consistent utilization of Student Development Theory, Student Learning Outcomes and assessment practices.

Prior to 1996, there was a small, yet active, outdoor equipment checkout center in another building on campus. When UREC opened in 1996, equipment rentals moved to UREC and a trip program started. A climbing wall was built in 1997 and the first ropes course completed in 2001. As the university grew in the next 10 years, the program expanded rapidly and moved from 10 trips a semester to over 40. In 2013, UREC opened a new outdoor park for JMU featuring a high and low ropes course anchored by a custom Alpine Towers Odyssey Course that can put 100 people in the air at once. The other aspects of the program has have also continued to grow, and last year, UREC Adventure served over 6000 climbers, 1000 trip/workshop participants with over 700 days in the field, 3000 participants on the challenge course, and thousands of items being rented. The level of participation in the program has prompted construction of a second climbing wall, a bouldering gym, a cycle center, and a 3600 square foot rental center slated to open Summer 2016.

Guy deBrun and Sasha Griffith graciously accepted this award on behalf of the JMU Adventure Program and want to recognize the years of dedicated work from those who came before them, our supportive administration at JMU, and all of the students who have Motivated Madison into Motion through working in the program through the years.

Silvia Chan – The Patsy Kott Service Award
Silvia Chan currently serves the University of Connecticut as Senior Associate Director, a role whose specifics are spent on the day-to-day operation of facilities, far removed from the mountains, rivers, crags and forests that form the crux of an outdoor professional’s world. In her career, she has worked in the intramural, operations and business areas of campus recreation but organically discovered outdoor programming as both a participant and a volunteer. Through her participation and volunteerism with the UConn Outdoors program Silvia found a connection with our wild places, herself, and most significantly, with the outdoor professionals she met during cooperative programming experiences.

Silvia has been integral to the development of AORE’s Presenter Relations Committee (PRC), chairing it from 2008-2014. She has streamlined many of the processes and grew the committee from just a few people to several professionals from across the country. This has helped elevate the quality in presentations and has set a standard for other committees within AORE to follow.

“[With] …attendance to almost every national conference since Pocatello [2001]. It is my uneducated belief she may be the only facilities professional in history to attend an outdoor programmers conference in the double digits! I have tried to explain this to fellow recreation professionals who wonder why she would take vacation time and pay out of pocket to attend a conference with little to do with her professional area. I can only tell them the truth, she loves the people of this association and believes in the work outdoor professional do every day.”

“Volunteering by definition is “willingly offering yourself in service.” I believe Silvia embodies this principle.”

“Silvia has been one of THE MOST IMPORTANT VOLUNTEERS the AORE has been fortunate to have in recent history.”

“Silvia has given so much to this organization--she is a role model, a mentor, a leader, and an amazing person; who has absolutely had an impact on the organization and its mission, and so deserving of this recognition.”

“Silvia has been instrumental in providing consistently high-quality selfless support for the AORE through her service on the Presenter Relations Committee. Her leadership in reviewing, selecting, notifying and working with presenters for many years has been vital for our association to provide high quality presentations — this is the core of our association.”


A special thanks is extended to our sponsors whose support for these awards are invaluable.

Marmot – Marmot is an award-winning, globally distributed brand of high-performance, technical clothing, apparel and equipment. Since 1974, Marmot products have been worn by climbers, skiers, mountaineers and adventurers world-wide. Marmot works with professional mountain guides, world-class athletes and expeditions—pushing the limits of product innovation and technology—pioneering what is possible in the most extreme environments on earth.

Osprey – Osprey’s mission is to create innovative high performance gear that reflects their love of adventure and their devotion to the outdoors. They succeed when they meet the demanding expectation of their most discerning customers and they are proud to use their packs. About AORE: The mission of AORE is to provide opportunities for professionals and students in the field of outdoor recreation and education to exchange information, promote the preservation and conservation of the natural environment, and address issues common to college, university, community, military, and other not-for-profit outdoor recreation and education programs.

About AORE
The mission of the Association is to provide opportunities for professionals and students in the field of outdoor recreation and education to exchange information, promote the preservation and conservation of the natural environment, and address issues common to college, university, community, military, and other not-for-profit outdoor recreation and education programs. Visit us at

Published: 12/15/15