An Ode to Kris

This week we are sharing vignettes written by OP staff members in Ode to Kris Williams, who for the last two years was second in command here in Outdoor Pursuits and the force behind Voyages. We were bummed to see him go this year and we wanted to take a second to share some of the things that made him such an integral part of our office and influential part of our lives.

Kris Cheesing. (Credit: Kris WIlliams)
Cheesing. (Credit: Kris WIliams)

Kris Williams was very much the resident Gentle Giant of the office. He’s a lodge pole pine of a man with a strikingly straight nose, which would suggest sternness. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. As a freshman, new to the program, the office, and people, I was a little scared of Kris. It wasn’t long, though, until I came to realize not only was he biggest goof in the Outdoor Pursuits office, but he also had one of the biggest hearts. Kris embodied the light-heartedness, and smoldering passion for the connectivity of the wilderness valued within the program. If he caught you spacing out during Outdoor Rec class, or a staff meeting he would grin, good-naturedly, to assure you that your secret was safe with him. Most of all, he was the kind of person who genuinely, thoroughly cared. When you walked into the office, and Kris asked you how you were doing, you knew he never expected a simple “good”, even though that concise answer would have let him get back to work faster. Kris wanted to know if you day was “inspiring”, “lackluster”, “shitty” or anything in between. He was never the kind to care merely a good enough amount, and I think that’s what I’ll miss the most.

Gwen O’ Brien ’18


The first time I met Kris I was a disoriented freshman about to go on my Voyage. I was on-edge and feeling timid being surrounded by new and unfamiliar people. I stood uncomfortably by the end of the food tables debating whether or not to ask someone about options that would suit my allergies. Kris ambled up to me and asked me good-naturedly if he could help with anything.

I said, “I can’t eat gluten and I’m not sure what to do.”  He led me to the Outdoor Pursuits Food Pull Room-which is an experience in and of itself-and pulled out a bag of gluten-free bagels without a second thought.

“Alright, how about these?” From then on we bonded over being gluten-free buddies around the office.

Chloe Mason ‘18

From left to right Kris Williams, Ted Wogan '15, Mallory Hiefield '17, Hailey Jongeward '15, Melissa Brown '17, and Anthony Hinkson '17 play team building games at a Voyage Training. (Credit: Amanda Odell)
From left to right Kris Williams, Ted Wogan ’15, Mallory Hiefield ’17, Hailey Jongeward ’15, Melissa Brown ’17, and Anthony Hinkson ’17 play team building games at a Voyage Training. (Credit: Amanda Odell)

In the winter of 2014, we found that Kris Williams, despite his size, is actually a ninja master.

Every winter, the OP staff has a retreat where we have the opportunity to bond and also learn new outdoor winter skills. This particular year, we rented a “cabin” in Trout Lake, Washington so we could play on Mt. Adams. When I say cabin, what I really mean is massive house. As a staff that is accustomed to roughing it, most of us expected the “cabin” to be so small we would sleep on the floor, packed together like sardines. When we got there, the first thing we noticed was that the house had three floors. There were enough beds, couches, and pull out couches that everyone was able to have their own place to sleep.

When you get twenty outdoor adventurers together in a giant house, the first thing they want to do is run around and play- so naturally we decided on a game of Hide and Seek. We invited the “grown ups” (the OP Directors) to play with us, and Kris took us up on the offer. After the first round, everyone that was found gathered downstairs. We were about to start the next round, but realized that Kris was missing. We had twenty college students searching two stories of a house and nobody could find Kris. We eventually had to call out that we gave up. He came walking out of one of the bedrooms that had been combed probably a hundred times.

The rest of the game followed this trend: every single round of the game, Kris was the last to be found. We all found it surprising and also heartwarming that the one person that was the farthest from their childhood was also the best at Hide and Seek. Kris attributed his skills to playing with his kids, but I think that Kris is actually a kid at heart. He has the grown up qualities of being an excellent role model, listener, and friend, but also demonstrated that no matter where you are in your grown up life, you can always make time to be playful (and school twenty college students in the art of hide and seek).

Katie Oliver ‘16

IMG_7141
Amanda Odell ’17 and Kris solving problems in the office this summer. (Credit: Tailor Dolgin)

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