Educator Lowell Whiteman dies at 83

Legacy of school's founder lives on

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— One of Routt County's leading educators and most dynamic personalities, Lowell Whiteman, died Saturday at his home in Phoenix, Ariz. He was 83.

Whiteman's daughter, Lissa Claussen, said her father died of complications from a long bout with emphysema. His wife, Sonia, was with him when he died.

Whiteman founded a summer camp in Strawberry Park in 1946 that grew into a coed college preparatory school, the Whiteman School, a decade later. Lowell Whiteman was on the board of trustees at the time of his death, and his school is still thriving. Enrollment today is 95 students, including both day and boarding students.

The school still adheres to Whiteman's enthusiasm for a rigorous academic program balanced with outdoor adventure and international travel. It has provided a strong academic base for many young athletes pursuing competitive skiing at the national and international levels.

"The idea," Whiteman once said, "is to give young people so much wholesome adventure so much of the time for so long that they have sufficient opportunity to grow and mature."

Whiteman was born Feb. 7, 1918, in Hayden, the son of northwest Colorado pioneers. College preparatory schools were part of his own experience growing up; Whiteman attended the Norton School for Boys, a private boarding school in Claremont, Calif.

He went on to earn his B.A. from Pomona College and graduated from the United States Naval Reserve Midshipman School at Columbia University and was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

During World War II, he was a deck officer and participated in five invasions in the Mediterranean Theater. Whiteman received a Navy commendation for an amphibious landing on the island of Elba.

Whiteman was a staff member at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp, also in Strawberry Park, both before and after World War II. He attended the American Theater Wing in New York, and studied acting under Lee Strasberg and dance with Hanya Holm. He also pursued post graduate work in education at the University of Colorado.

His talent as an actor translated into a career as a radio announcer and actor for Columbia Broadcasting System in Hollywood.

Claussen said it was her father's dream to return from the war to Routt County, and his mother presented him with the 80 acres for the school in upper Strawberry Park as a gift upon his return.

He helped to build the first log building of the camp by hand, and cut a dashing figure leading a string of campers on horseback into the mountains.

Although Whiteman School was always foremost in his thoughts, Claussen said her father had a drive for travel and adventure.

He spent nearly 20 years in Ecuador, where he was director general of Colegio Americano de Guayaquil and Colegio Americano de Quito. For three years, he served as U.S. Ambassador to the Fulbright Commission in Ecuador.

His adventures including taking part in an expedition in the upper Amazon to visit head-shrinking Jibero Indians. He also built a 42-foot ketch and sailed it from Ecuador to Mexico with one of his sons.

The family is planning a memorial gathering for Lowell Whiteman at 5 p.m., May 27, at the Lowell Whiteman School.

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