A Tribute to a Great Leader

AT Staff29 Sep, 2013

I was at a retirement party for a good friend and mentor last week. Frank Bell, the director of Camp Mondamin (one of the nation’s oldest and best summer camps) has retired after 41 years of inspiring leadership and stewardship. I joined many fellow alumni to wish him well, celebrate his many achievements and share our appreciation for the influence he has had on our lives.


I was a 13 year old, 2nd year camper during Frank’s first summer as director, and I have had the pleasure of watching him grow into his job and adroitly lead his fine organization for over 40 years. I know he shared a similar pleasure watching me (and thousands of others) grow up. I am one of several summer camp, school and industry leaders who got their start under Frank Bell’s tutelage. I believe Frank’s greatest strength has been his consistency. Though he will eagerly entertain others’ opinions, and listen attentively, you always knew where he stood and what he and his Camp stood for. He respected us enough to let us challenge him and we respected him enough to accept his decisions when they were different from what we wanted them to be. For youth trying to determine who they would become and eager to argue every nuance (an integral part of growing up), it was refreshing and reassuring to have a leader who we could count on to do the right thing for all the right reasons, even when it was hard and unpopular.

A consistent theme folks shared at the tribute was that Mondamin was the place where they honed their moral compass. It was that place for me too. Upon reflection, this makes complete sense. A family and school can set the tone, but independence is best learned at camp. The power of nature, outdoor challenges and great role models collide at an impressionable time in life. When not distracted by homework, sports, and parents, discussions with powerful mentors late at night, around a camp fire under a starry sky have the power to change lives. Especially when you are lucky enough to have mentors who are sharp enough to ask the right questions and mature enough to allow folks to draw their own conclusions.

Watergate and Vietnam were the historical events that dominated my adolescence. At a time when the institution of government had betrayed our trust, it was reassuring to have a family, a school and a camp that I could believe in and trust to do the right thing. Kids today are growing up even more disillusioned. We have watched institution after institution and role model after role model fail over the past two decades. We  are unified only in our cynicism as it seems that there are fewer people and institutions our children can look up to and count on to consistently do the right thing.  Role models play a critical part in character development.  If kids have fewer strong role models, are we reducing the chances of raising a generation of kids who will do the right thing when others aren’t looking?

You get grades (and take tests) for English, Science and Math and receive medals, trophies and accolades for success in sport, but often little is mentioned of one’s character. I often wonder what this means for our children, especially when research confirms the correlation between character and success.

I’d like to tip my hat to Frank Bell and Camp Mondamin. This is where I and countless others built and forged our character, resilience, determination, optimism and sense of self while making lifelong friends in the process. Many of the values Adventure Treks espouses were learned first at Camp Mondamin.
I hope Adventure Treks will be for your child, what Frank Bell and Camp Mondamin was for me: A source of stability and timeless values, that helps young people find their place in the world, discover their strengths and define their character.

Thank you, Frank for your leadership and mentorship. You have made a huge difference!


View All Posts