OPP - Allard & Casey Memorial Endowment
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In November 1995, two University of Oregon students, Michael Casey and Frank Allard, died in the Three Sisters Wilderness area during a private climb of the North Sister. At the time, Michael was enrolled in our Wilderness Survival course, while Frank had taken Wilderness Survival some time ago and had since taken several outing courses, including a week long "Glacier School". Both Frank and Michael were bright, eager to learn, and a pleasure to work with in class and in the field. They will be missed by those of us who had the privilege to be their teachers, and by their many friends and classmates.

photo of the North Sister
trio hiking

After the accident, the parents of Frank and Michael made extremely generous donations to the Outdoor Pursuits Program, the Outdoor Program, and Lane County Search and Rescue, and the Frank L. Allard and Michael R. Casey Endowment Fund was created.

Thanks to the fund, the Outdoor Pursuits Program has been able to purchase equipment that has been critical to emergency response and student safety, significant in promoting the learning experience and instructional process in OPP courses, and vital to reducing student costs associated with participating in an OPP course.

The fund is structured to provide perpetual benefit to countless participants for years to come. Frank and Michael would be pleased, and very proud of their parents. In the spring of 1997 two oak saplings were planted on campus to commemorate Frank and Michael. The trees are now thriving, and will grace our campus for many generations. A picture of the trees taken in October 2005, is shown to the right.

Reconstruction of the Accident Events
An extensive search followed the accident, hampered by extreme winter weather conditions and near record snowfall. The University of Oregon Search and Rescue Group fielded a team of 18 skilled, fully equipped people within two hours of the first call, and other members of the group provided on-going support through the many days of the search. Many of these searchers were friends and classmates of Frank and Michael. Their willingness to set aside their schoolwork and other obligations, with no hesitation and often for a week for more, is a reflection of their respect and affection of Frank and Michael.

photo of commemorative oak trees
photo of the Middle and North Sisters

Unfortunately, the exceptionally severe weather made it impossible to search efficiently. Deep new snow, blizzard conditions, severe avalanche danger and near zero visibility made it impossible for search groups to locate Frank and Michael before they were buried for the season under many feet of snow. As soon as the weather cleared a careful helicopter search revealed no signs or clues, and only deep snow accumulations and spontaneously occurring avalanches.

We may never know what actually happened during their climb of the North Sister, though some evidence was recovered after the winter snows had melted.

It's most likely that when Frank and Michael climbed the North Sister it was a bright and beautiful, but very cold and windy day. By mid-day, when they would have been descending, the wind was strong enough to knock a person over, and the steep snow patch at the top of the west face that they would have had to cross would have solidified into hard ice. A simple mistake on the snowfield could have been disastrous, and almost certainly accounts for the fact that their bodies were found at the foot of the west face. We'll all carry with us our own special memories of Michael and Frank. Death ends lives but not relationships, and through these memories we'll all continue to relate to them and to benefit from knowing them.

sunset photo

We have been reminded of the awesome power of nature, and more importantly we have been reminded that we are not immortal. These lessons are gifts from Frank and Michael. May we all value these gifts and apply them thoughtfully as we live out our relationships with the wilderness, and with one another.

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