History

The history of the evolution of Quest is really a history of ideas and the people who had the conviction and energy to bring those ideas to reality.

Background

The International Outward Bound Program, with its emphasis on teamwork, leadership and the development of human potential through challenging outdoor activities, attracted the interest of several BU administrators and faculty in the early 1970’s.

John Walker, as Assistant to the President, Steve Breset, Physical Education faculty, and Louis Mingrone, biology faculty, were instrumental in the mid 1970’s in providing that vital initial impetus that led to the establishment of the Quest Program. Together they attended the Association for Experiential Education Conference where other like minded professionals gathered to discuss the educational opportunities afforded by experiential education. The educational rational and philosophical underpinning of experiential education was embraced by this team. All they had to do now was persuade the college elders, Provost, deans and faculty chairpersons. Undoubtedly, without the continuing support of John Walker – who was able to convince President McCormick of the value of this new idea – the early efforts would most likely have foundered. It was John who came up with the name, Quest. He explained, It seemed to capture those value forming experiences that are beneficial to a student’s life at the University.

Steve Breset headed the program and steered it through 1981 when a full-time director was appointed and the program was given a permanent home in Student Life. The next important character to emerge on the scene of this fledging program was Bill Proudman who took over the reins in 1981 after Steve Breset. He was instrumental in forging a program curriculum that exemplified all the early aspirations of its founders. Bill was the right person at the right time a fortuitous event that allowed the program to grow and have an impact on the University community. Bill and students, presumably without the knowledge of some higher authorities, built office space out of what had formerly been the locker room for the University’s football team on the ground floor of Walter Simon Hall. Bill’s surreptitious creation of the office space is an example and a major point in Secretary Colin Powell’s list of leadership skills of what it sometimes takes to take on a traditional institution and create change; get it done and ask permission later.

Backing up a bit. In 1967 a small liberal arts college (Prescott College) in Arizona integrated the concepts of Outward Bound into an innovative program that replaced the traditional physical education program. The focus of the program was to develop leadership, self reliance and teamwork skills. The program, the first of its kind in the nation, received national attention from Time Magazine, CBS, NBC and ABC, and garnered the support of Dewitt Wallace, owner and founder of Readers Digest, who gave the college a large grant to further develop the program. (The founder of this program, Roy Smith, later became director of the Quest Program). This publicity attracted the attention of colleges and universities from around the country who were in interested in starting a similar program. Bloomsburg University, along with Princeton and Cornell, was one of those schools. In 1973, Roy Smith received a letter from John Walker asking if him if he would share his experiences in running the Prescott program. What is interesting about this historical morsel is that 15 years later, in 1988, Roy Smith, left Colorado and assumed directorship of the Quest Program.

By the time Roy arrived in Bloomsburg, his predecessors, the director and associate director had both moved on to other jobs and it was given to Signe Klinger – who had first participated in a Quest course two years earlier to hand over the keys and acquaint Roy with the program, its history, and the areas around Bloomsburg where courses were conducted. Signe was an invaluable link in a broken chain and was immediately promoted to Associate Director, a position she held until the birth of her first child in 1991.

In 1989, with a $10,000 start up grant from the Bloomsburg University Foundation, Roy Smith created the Corporate Institute as an adjunct to Quest and as a major revenue generating source that became the principal underlying financial support for the Quest Program. This revenue source allowed the Quest Program to improve its equipment inventory, expand its student leadership training capabilities and undertake more ambitious international experiences. The housing of the Quest Program and the Corporate Institute under one roof was a mutually beneficial undertaking. It allowed the Corporate Institute to have immediate access to a wide range of training facilities, and for the Quest program to benefit from increased revenue and a ready access to leadership and team development ideas taking place in the corporate world

The Quest program today has grown considerably in size and in the range of courses, and extended trips abroad, that we now offer not only to students at Bloomsburg University but to an extensive list of clientele from other colleges in the region, and community organizations from around the State. Much of this growth can be attributed to the outstanding work of the associate directors, who over the years, have done sterling work in training staff and coordinating a schedule of contract courses.

Just after Roy’s retirement, he was able to give a speech. Watch this link and prepare to be captivated by the stories: http://bupmediasite.passhe.edu/Mediasite/Play/84a3ce3a9f024977bbcee255b94715611d

Executive Directors:

Brianne Oehmke 2015- Present
Brett Simpson 2009 – 2015
Roy Smith 1988- 2009
Chuck Connelly 1987-1988
William Proudman 1981-1987
Stephen Breset 1973-1981

Associate Directors:

Brett Simpson 2001 – 2009
Tony Draus 1997 -2001
Mark Wasakoski 1996-1997
Tom Burkiewicz 1992-96

Karen Michaelson 1991-92
Signe Klinger 1989 -91
Barbara Lake 1987-8
Heidi Hammel 1986-7

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