Warren Wilson College News

WWC graduate killed in Colorado avalanche

Rick Gaukel ’05 was one of the five snowboarders killed in an avalanche Saturday in Colorado.

Rick majored in outdoor leadership and lived in Estes Park, Colo. He was MVP of the Warren Wilson mountain bike team in 2005 and received the Outdoor Leadership Graduating Senior Award, which is special recognition by the Outdoor Leadership Studies Department for outstanding achievement in academics, professional practice, service and work.

Rick was an active in sharing his love for outdoor adventure education with people of all ages. He spent the summer of 2004 instructing and leading trips in the Sierra Nevada mountains with inner city youth from the Bay Area. He also instructed programming for youth in North Carolina and Colorado.

On campus, he was seen as a role model who helped to assist less experienced students to become contributing, qualified members of the profession.

His wife, Jonna, was a Vista volunteer at the Service Program Office from 2004-2007 and was active in coordinating service break trips.

ODL professor Marty O’Keefe has these memories of Rick:

Rick was full of lovin’ life and adventure and sharing that with all comers. He loved teaching and getting folks out there and knowing how to be safe and go for it at the same time. He paid attention to his craft and was always searching for ways to teach and connect with others in wonderful ways–he loved to share his passion for the outdoors and challenges.

While he was here he jumped into new activities and was willing to be a beginner, but not for long. He put his time in to gain the knowledge and experience to be considered pretty darn good at a lot of things. He came from California with an attitude of let’s do it–which helped pull others into wanting to learn more as well.

Local friends of Rick and Jonna’s will gather at Natasha and Shaun’s from 6:00-8:30 pm on Friday at 109B North Lane (on campus). Bring food (including something for the grill), drink, and stories to share.

Also, if you’d like to offer a card or note, please either bring it Friday evening or drop it off at Brian Ammons’ office in Dodge. He’ll send them all together as an expression of love and support from the Warren Wilson community.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Rick and Jonna’s families, and to the many friends and colleagues on campus grieving the untimely loss of a beloved member of our community.

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