Update: Jim Hostetler died on On March 20. The Bucknell Magazine staff extends its deepest condolences to his family. Those wishing to share personal notes of sympathy and remembrance are encouraged to visit the University's In Memoriam site. Donations in his memory may be made to the James D. Hostetler Outdoor Education & Leadership Fund via the University's giving page or by mail to 301 Market St., Suite 2, Lewisburg, PA 17837, Attention: Gift Processing. Checks should be made payable to Bucknell University.
My brother Myles ’67 and I grew up on a 300-acre farm in Plum Borough, Pa., where we raised corn and oats to feed our cows, horses and chickens. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time outdoors learning together to appreciate the outdoor environment and what it could teach us. After graduation we both went into our family business of construction and property management.
Myles passed away much too soon — 10 years ago — after serving on the Bucknell Board of Trustees. Through his board work, Myles met and became friends with Jim Hostetler, who retired in 2015 as Bucknell's director of construction and design. Jim also was a staff volunteer who helped develop the Outdoor Education & Leadership (OEL) program within Student Affairs. The OEL program was a new incarnation of the old Bucknell Outing Club, which was started in 1960. As students, Myles and I were both members of the affiliated Ski Club.
Because of our common interests in outdoor education and construction, Myles and I embraced Jim's vision of what OEL could become and the positive effect it could have on the Bucknell student experience. We worked with Jim on the development of the Landing on the Susquehanna River as he cultivated the Bucknell Wilderness Experience (BuckWild) preorientation program and facilitated international trips, weekend excursions, bike and equipment rentals and service opportunities for students. His networking, knowledge, leadership and mentoring were key components in the program's continued success.
Jim realized that the Forest D. Brown Conference Center, located about eight miles from campus in Cowan, Pa., would provide a perfect setting to bring students and others together for valuable leadership and team-building experiences. CLIMBucknell — a multielement system consisting of a climbing tower with a zip-line, a 10-element high rope course and a low-element team-building course — was also part of his vision.
With the completion of these elements at Cowan, Jim brought together a diverse group of students that he trained as course operators. Hundreds of students benefited from his personal mentoring and specific training to operate the course used by Bucknell's students as well as outside groups who were seeking leadership and team-building skills.
The vision that Myles and I shared with Jim is that you learn best by doing. Relating to nature and the outdoors is a spiritual need. The social and leadership skills learned in these settings will remain with participants for the rest of their lives. Jim left his legacy; he touched many aspects of this campus, from facilities and the outdoor program to his lasting positive impact on students.
It is with great affection and honor that I am creating the James D. Hostetler Outdoor Education & Leadership Fund to celebrate Jim's role as the founding volunteer of this program. This fund will serve as a permanent honor for Jim, who has served as a tireless volunteer for outdoor education for the last 26 years. He has worked with many of Bucknell's presidents, provosts and faculty to solidify the program's place at Bucknell and is affectionately known as "El Jefe" (the chief) to students and alumni who share the same dream of continuing the OEL program's success.