Cheers to 85 years

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As winter’s grasp began to tighten on a weekend in mid-November, OWAA members Jason Jenkins, Matt Miller, Mike Walker, Paul Queneau, Brett Prettyman, Katie McKalip, Lisa Densmore, Mark Freeman and Mark Taylor joined OWAA staff at headquarters in Missoula, Mont., for an intensive weekend of strategic planning. The committee engineered a plan to take our organization through 2015, and into the final stretch toward 100 years of existence.
A final draft of the 2012-15 strategic plan will be handed off to the full Board of Directors for passage at the Feb. 11 winter board meeting. Pending approval, the details of the plan will be printed in the March edition of Outdoors Unlimited.
What astonishes me about this feat is that this particular weekend planning workshop fell in the middle of hunting season, the holy grail of many a member’s year. It was also the weekend before Thanksgiving, when they could be focusing their much-deserved attention at home with family. Instead, these OWAA members gathered from near and far to take a vested interest in the future of our organization.
But this crew of individuals is not alone. In fact, they come from a long line of volunteers that have seen this organization through our winding course in history.
In 1927, the year OWAA was “born,” The Jazz Singer became the first “talkie” film on the big screen, thus ending the reign of silent films. The Holland Tunnel opened, spanning the depths of the Hudson River. Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo trans-Atlantic flight by piloting The Spirit of St. Louis, nonstop, from New York City to Paris. And Gutzon Borglum began work on a stone monument to U.S. past presidents in the Black Hills of South Dakota called Mount Rushmore.
OWAA has had 57 presidents (plus one current) during the past 85 years since that fateful day in Chicago in 1927. Morris Ackerman and J. Hammond Brown both served multiple year terms as President. Ackerman served as president from the organization’s inception through 1929. Brown served from 1941-1946 and again from 1947-1956, also serving as the first executive director, from 1945-1955.
Ackerman, along with the other original members of OWAA, had a vision for this organization. A picture of what they wanted the Outdoor Writers Association of America to be some day. While times have changed, and today’s world would be inconceivable to Ackerman and his contemporaries, their idea — OWAA — continues on, as detailed in OWAA’s mission:
“Improving the professional skills of our members, setting the highest ethical and communications standards, encouraging public enjoyment and conservation of natural resources,and mentoring the next generation of professional outdoor communicators.”
If you’ve never done so, I encourage you to read one of OWAA’s history books, available at They’re a year-by-year historical account of the organization from 1927 through the early 1990s. Admittedly, there’s a lot of work needed to bring a book up to date and into the 21st century, but they still offer an entertaining and insightful look at the innovation of one group of men and the national organization their dedication founded.
Happy New Year! Welcome to 2012 — and OWAA’s 85th anniversary! ♦
—OWAA Executive Director Robin Giner,

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