Remembering Jerry Golins, a tribute by Senator Mark Udall and Friends

Remembering Jerry Golins, a tribute by Senator Mark Udall and Friends

May 28, 2014– 

Jerry - COBS Wants You

JERRY GOLINS, Colorado Outward Bound School Director from 1980-1985, and who preceded those years with many roles within the school, passed away on May 19, 2014 after a courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was a friend and mentor to many at the Colorado Outward Bound School.

So many memories of Jerry’s impact on the school surfaced upon hearing of his passing, we wanted to share them all in a tribute to Jerry. The photos sent by his family and friends channel his energy so well.

Former COBS board member, Brown Cannon, worked closely with Jerry during his tenure as school director. Always inspired by Jerry’s passion and vision, Brown has committed a $10,000 donation to the Leadville Mountain Center, a passion of Jerry’s, in his memory. Our course prep, debrief, and meeting room at the campus, affectionately known as the “comfy couch” room, is where our instructors and students spend much of their time getting ready to head on course. COBS will be naming this the Jerry Golins Room to memorialize Jerry’s longstanding impact on the school and the Leadville Mountain Center.

You can contribute to Jerry’s legacy at Leadville by clicking here to donate. In the comment section, please write “The Jerry Golins Room” and any other comments you may have.


The following are tributes sent by his many friends:


This week, the Colorado Outward Bound School community mourns the passing of one of our own, Jerry Golins. Our hearts and prayers go out to Jerry’s family, his beloved wife Polly and his sons, Matt and Mike.

Jerry was an excellent outdoorsman, angler, climber, skier, river runner… but he was never happier than when he was teaching outside, in Mother Nature’s classroom. I know he taught those outdoor skills to his two sons, as well as thousands of COBS participants over the years. Teaching is what drew him to the Colorado Outward Bound School, but he had a larger vision for the school too. He understood that you could be a businessman and also have a mission – that having a strong bottom line empowered COBS to change the world.

Jerry mentored me, challenged me, argued with me – he would say we were debating or exchanging different points of view. And he taught me that delivering phenomenal programs goes hand-in-hand with keeping the institution fiscally healthy. When he left COBS, I had the great fortune to build on his vision.

In the latter years of his life, Jerry was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which is particularly poignant for me because my father had Parkinson’s. You need to be courageous and have a sense of humor to live with this tough disease, and Jerry fit that description to a T. He personified the Outward Bound motto: To serve, to strive, and not to yield.

When I remember Jerry, the story that makes me smile most is when he led an Outward Bound patrol to a remote set of lakes in the Ragged Mountains, where they found themselves at a creek, out of food. Jerry was an excellent fly-fisherman, but those who knew him – and were relying on him for dinner – knew that if he needed to get a fish in the pan, he was not averse to using a worm or any lure to first get that fish on the hook! This time, though, rather than catch the fish the traditional way – with a pole, a line and a hook – Jerry decided to use his bare hands to tickle the fish and provide dinner for 10 people. It was Jerry at his best – he was unconventional, he was creative and he always had his community’s interests at heart.

I know Jerry is standing right now in a high-alpine cirque, maybe Pierre Lakes Basin, with a fly rod in hand on a beautiful morning, catching cutthroat trout. We are richer for having had Jerry in our lives, and his legacy lives on in every person whose life was changed through the Colorado Outward Bound School.

-Senator Mark Udall


“I worked across the hall from Jerry for two years (1978-1979) at the Denver office (945 Pennsylvania Ave). I was the program director for standard courses, working for John Evans, while Jerry was developing and overseeing an entire suite of creative new programs for special populations.

Jerry was passionate, insightful, inventive, inquisitive, challenging, not a yes man, had a devious sense of humor from time to time, loved what he did. He had an inclusive style, delivered a great laugh. That grin in his photo is absolutely classic of Jerry during his 1970s heydays. Great memories…”

-Steve Andrews


Jerry - SS Golins“We have lost a man of great proportions, Jerry Golins.

As a citizen of this world, he was a contributor to the end. Had he not contracted Parkinson’s disease midway through his life to slow him down, who knows the magnitude of those contributions! The man was so creative and passionate. In spite of all of his physical challenges, his mind was “creating” and “dreaming of how things could be” to the very end… And without self-pity. Unbelievable.

As my boss at Outward Bound, this creativity was ever-present. He demanded of himself and all around him, 100% effort. He was a “racehorse” in spirit. His MBA from Harvard put the finishing touches on an executive meant to make major contributions to this world we live in. Few could match Jerry’s energy, resourcefulness, and wit. He gloried in his successes and openly discussed his failures.

As a friend, he was loyal and loving. He was bold — at times self-serving; but more often than not, I stood in awe of his brilliance. The unrelenting love he felt for his wife, Polly, and their sons, Mathew and Michael, was an inspiration. His sense of humor and wit were reflected in that mischievous gleam in his eyes. I believe Jerry felt he had come to the end of his useful, productive existence and thus, left this world peacefully. Jerry lived the metaphor of technical rock climbing… One step/move at a time; success is at the end of that focused effort. I picture him relaxed now, casting that rod on some pond in heaven.”

-Marlene Manown


“Thank you for the news of Jerry’s last climb.

I will always think of him sitting in meetings tossing his football up in the air and catching it as he waxed eloquently about the Outward Bound mission. He was a wonderful part of the outdoor education movement and will be deeply missed.

Jerry showed us all how to live 70 of Tennyson’s Ulysses.”

-Jesse King


“Thinking of Jerry brings a big smile to my face. What a big personality and someone who loved COBS immensely. I used to have lunch every so often with Jerry after his diagnosis down at the Colorado Athletic Club. He was my boss in the mid-80’s and was such a huge supporter of innovation and new course models. We’d be sitting at lunch with all the business people in their coat and ties… Jerry would be gesturing wildly, so full of humor and ideas. He taught me a lot about grace and being alive, regardless of the circumstances. He had so much fire.

R.I.P. Jerry.”

-Darvin Ayre


Jerry - staff“Jerry was my first course director. I went to the Marble Base Camp 3-4 days before my first course so that I could get to know the area a bit.  I met Jerry at the base camp — everyone else was out in the field. He wanted to go fishing so he told me to go climb Meadow Mountain and to check in with him when I got back. Meadow Mountain is a fair distance from the base camp when you’re leaving midmorning. I had no idea where I was. I crawled back to base camp just as he returned from fishing. “Next time,” he said, “start earlier!”

Jerry never minced words, had a great mind and made a huge contribution to COBS as a program director as well as a director. There is one less good person with us today.”

-Gruffie Clough


“I first came to know Jerry in the spring of 1976 when I was serving in the Colorado House of Representatives and as Chairman of the Joint Budget Committee. Jerry came to us with the idea of setting up an Outward Bound-like program for youth offenders, a terrific idea because so many of these kids were languishing in detention without learning any skills or discipline or sense of the outdoors. We immediately and unanimously supported it, largely because of Jerry, his personality and leadership.

Shortly thereafter I was asked to be a board member of COBS and then participated on the search committee that selected him as Director because we were as impressed by his vision for the school as I had been earlier when he came to the legislature and hired him. That was a great decision for COBS.

A few years later when I became Chairman, we would have Executive Committee meetings at a long table in an upstairs room at the Pennsylvania Street office. Although Jerry always seemed indestructible to me, I became concerned about his health and asked him why he kept twitching his neck. He said that it was just an old football injury but, looking back now, that was clearly the beginning of this terrible onset of Parkinson’s. However even if Jerry had known what was coming, I doubt that he would have told me. He was one of the bravest humans I’ve ever known, was always focused on his mission, on Polly and on his friends – never himself.

Sometime later after his condition became public, we went on a COBS climb of Capitol Peak and Jerry, to my surprise, joined us. I can still picture him coming down a snowfield, wobbly but determined. The only thing keeping him going was his extraordinary willpower. That was probably his last climb and one of the last times I saw this extraordinary and courageous man.”

-Morgan Smith


Jerry - Mountain“Thank you for sharing this news with us. Jerry and I were “classmates” on C-67T (a 32-day Teacher’s Practicum that changed both our lives)… There’s one less good guy in the world today. I say climb on!”

-Ron Gager


“Besides the interactions of School Director with we Board members, he and I shared personal times together… Climbing the Crestone Needle, planning the “Get out the Lead in Leadville” invitational weekend Myra and I sponsored with 30 odd friends, plus suggesting and helping plan my 50th birthday adventure into the Barranca del Cobre with 12 pals… For eighteen days of hiking and climbing in and out of those several formidable canyons. Wonderful memories, and I (along with his many friends) will still think of him often… And send a prayer his way.”

-Frank Isenhart


Current Colorado Outward Bound School executive director, Peter O’Neil, reached out to Jerry in the week before his death to let Jerry know the impact that he had on his life. His timing was fortunate. The following is Peter’s note to Jerry:

Hi Jerry,

I wanted to touch base with you and give you an update on your beloved Colorado Outward Bound School. I have attached two documents that I think you will find interesting and enlightening, and which should give you a good understanding of the health of the school. The first is the 2013 audit, which also highlights 2012. The second is the first draft of our Annual Report, what we are calling our 2013 Impact Report. 

I also wanted to say it again, thank you. As I am sure you will remember, back in the late 70’s and early 80’s you were a mentor and a friend to me. You encouraged me, you coached me, and if you recall, you even wrote one of my recommendations that I am certain was instrumental in my being accepted into the Stanford Business School. And after I graduated with my MBA, it was you who really encouraged me to apply for the ED position at COBS, which Mark Udall ultimately got. With 20-20 hindsight, I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have those decades of experience that I have now.

Thank God that Bill Stanfill continued to prod me, veritably hound me, and would not take “no” as an answer from me. Tomorrow, May 17th, marks my second year anniversary in my role as Executive Director here at COBS. It is hard to believe that it has only been two years. It seems like sooooo much longer. Under your tenure as ED, I had stuck around COBS for 10 years. So these two years are minuscule by comparison to my previous time with COBS. These last two years have been two of the most meaningful years of my professional career. To be part of the team that has brought COBS back from the very edge of disaster, and helped it rise from the ashes, truly feels like a life’s calling. I feel as if I have been preparing for this job for my whole life. I wake up every morning hoping that I’m doing it justice.

So Jerry, I want you to know that COBS is in good hands, and I will continue to steward the school in a manner that I hope would make you proud. There is an enormous team of dedicated and committed people whose love and expertise I have to call upon every day to help me with this endeavor and I feel truly blessed.

I think about you often . . . .