Baylor Prof Awarded TOEA's Highest Honor

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The Texas Outdoor Education Association honored Dr. Norman L. "Buddy" Gilchrest (left) with the John Fortner Outstanding Educator Award. Fortner, TOEA's first president and co-founder of the organization, is on the right.
April 26, 2007

The Texas Outdoor Education Association has honored Dr. Norman L. "Buddy" Gilchrest, professor emeritus of health, human performance and recreation at Baylor University, with its top award - the John Fortner Outstanding Educator Award - presented during TOEA's Annual Conference at Leakey's H.E. Butt Foundation Camp.

TOEA has been the leader in the state of Texas in the field of outdoor education since 1979, training teachers and others to help students learn essential elements and critical thinking skills in an outdoor environment.

The Outstanding Educator Award was created in honor of Fortner, TOEA's first president and co-founder of the organization, who along with Gilchrest and a handful of others believed in merging a love for the outdoors and experiential learning. The award honors an educator who has worked tirelessly to promote the mission of TOEA, said Julie Singleton, current TOEA president.

"We are all honored just being in the presence of Buddy," Singleton said. "He has accomplished so much in the field of outdoor education, and his leadership has inspired so many people over the years."

A founding member of TOEA, Gilchrest served as president-elect, president and past president from 1984-86. Gilchrest has been married 28 years to another former TOEA President, his wife, Tresa. He has served on the boards of numerous other professional organizations, including the Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, and the American Association for Leisure and Recreation.

"When people tell you you've done well, you appreciate it," Gilchrest said. "If I could go back and do it all over, I'd do the same thing."

His greatest passion - "outside of (his wife) Tresa" - is mountain climbing. He was the 16th person to climb every mountain 14,000 feet or higher in the continental United States. Gilchrest also has hiked all 17 major trails in the Grand Canyon and ridden a bicycle from Alaska to Florida.

A professor at Baylor for 32 years, Gilchrest has specialized in adventure activities and psychology. He loves to hear his students ask him, "How do you get to do something so fun and get paid for it?"

"Students really profit from outdoor education," he said. "You give kids something that may change their direction, the intensity in which they view things."

Carol King, a former TOEA president and one of Gilchrest's students at Baylor, called him "a real role model."

"Buddy is a person who lives what he preaches, and lives every day to the fullest," King said. "His dedication to the field of outdoor education is truly heartfelt. He walks what he talks, and for him, every day is an adventure."

The next TOEA Conference is slated for Oct. 5-7 in Leakey. For more information, visit

Formed in 1979, the Texas Outdoor Education Association is an organization of individuals and groups with a common interest in outdoor education working toward the attainment of an appreciation, understanding and wise use of the total environment by all people. TOEA's motto is "Making the World Our Classroom." Each year on the first weekend of October, educators and youth leaders from across the state gather in the Hill Country near Leakey, Texas at the H.E. Butt Foundation Camp for TOEA's annual conference, where they learn unique, practical hands-on activities for the outdoors that can be used with students of all ages and learning levels.

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