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
“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,”
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
“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.”