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White to lead Alpine Club of Canada

New executive director 'exactly what the club needs'



By Lynn Martel

When Lawrence White fully takes over the position of Alpine Club of Canada executive director in early May from Bruce Keith, who is retiring after 12 years in the role, he’ll look forward to the challenge of trying to attract a broader membership demographic to the 100-year-old non-profit organization.

And White believes his own youth should go a long way in letting the public know the ACC is not a staid or hardcore-focussed group.

“My primary goal is to continue along with the work Bruce has initiated already, and to soak up as much as I can from the leadership of the club, gain from their mentorship,” said White, 33.

“My next goal is to find ways to appeal to another demographic — a younger crowd who is reluctant to get involved in clubs and charities. I hope I can show them that I’m young, I volunteer and lead trips and I’m involved at the club’s section level. I hope the public will see there are other people out there in senior roles who are still active and involved in the club. If the public went to meetings, they might see the variety the club has to offer — that we runs trips with everything from snowshoeing to mountain bike rides to advanced mountaineering.”

White joined the ACC while living in Vancouver in 1999, when he was 25, and his interest was immediately piqued.

“It was an outdoor recreation organization I wanted to get involved with,” White said. “I felt it was a club I could gain knowledge from. I wanted to get involved in the outdoor mountaineering community, and I found the ACC on-line.”

With a population of over two million, Vancouver has just 600 ACC members, a fact that can make finding partners for mountaineering activities challenging, he said. The Internet, however, offers great possibilities, he added.

“There’s not much presence there, that’s something I’d like to change,” White said.

In 2000, while studying tourism management at Capilano College in North Vancouver, White accepted a three-month student practicum position with the club at its Canmore head office.

“It seemed like a natural progression, wanting to learn more about the non-profit environment, and the ACC and what it did,” White said.

When a full time position became available not long afterward, White quickly accepted the club’s offer and moved to Canmore. His partner, Corina Strim, followed, relocating her business, Music Magic, teaching music to children and adults.

Now after five years with the ACC, White said he feels the timing is perfect for him to take on the executive director role.

“I felt the timing was appropriate,” White said. “I’ve been employed by the club in all areas in the five years that I’ve been here. I came in at entry level, then middle management, then up to senior management. And I looked at it as, if not now, then when? And right now, the environment of the club is very attractive. If it was in disarray of any kind, or if there was any sense of instability, I would have thought twice about it. But the volunteer base is so strong, and we have an incredibly supportive executive committee. I think from the club’s perspective the change will be relatively seamless, with the excellent support structure and networks already in place. I think that speaks volumes about Bruce’s leadership, too.”

Passing his desk on, Keith said he too felt White is the right person at the right time.

“Lawrence is exactly what the club needs in an executive director,” Keith said. “An ability to see the big picture, together with a willingness to roll up his sleeves and get the job done. The ACC is fortunate to have him. I think he’s got all the qualities and potential the club needs as it enters its second century. Great energy, new ideas, great sense of humour and commitment.”

That energy and commitment is a two-way street, White said, something he aims to impart to younger mountain enthusiasts who seem reluctant or disinterested in joining clubs or volunteering their time and skills.

“Maybe they just don’t realize how much you can get out of belonging to an organization and volunteering — especially one that does such cool things,” White said. “You really can get a lot out of the ACC, depending on what you put into it. I’ve put a lot in, and I know you can get a lot out of it. The challenge is appealing to a broader demographic. There are no easy solutions, but the electronic media offers lots of potential. I have no magic bullet, I just hope people in that demographic can look to me as a role model — as a professional, a volunteer and a mountaineer.”