Thanks to training supported by first-ever ORC director

Last fall, while hiking the Grand Canyon, WSU students Alana Duvall and Johannah Ludwig saw another hiker hunched over on the side of the trail.

From a distance, the woman looked like she might be taking a break from the strenuous ascent, but when they reached her, it was clear she was in distress.

Duvall and Ludwig, both skilled adventure facilitators, were leading five other students on a WSU Outdoor Recreation Center (ORC) backpacking trip (pictured above), and they immediately put into action the wilderness first aid training they learned at the ORC.

Their swift assessment helped the woman get the medical attention she desperately needed.

They directed the woman’s companion to call search and rescue; then, along with the other WSU hikers, moved her to a location that was accessible by helicopter. After the search and rescue team transported her to a hospital, she received treatment for dehydration, a torn ligament, and a concussion, and the woman was soon on her way to recovery.

Read the full WSU Insider story about how they put their life-saving skills into action.

“Though we were relieved for her,” said Ludwig, a pre-health major, “it was also exciting to be a part of something I had studied and practiced for.”

First-ever ORC director helps make wilderness training possible

Ludwig and Duvall credit the successful outcome of this encounter to the extensive training they received through the ORC. To make these trainings more affordable to WSU adventure facilitators, the ORC offers scholarships to help defer the costs.

Chris Tepfer, ’73, first director of the ORC, speaking at the the 2021 50th anniversary celebration.

In fact, a refresher course Ludwig took prior to their Grand Canyon trip was just one of many such courses she has been able to take thanks to a scholarship fund created by Christopher Tapfer (’73, Rec.)

Tapfer is an avid outdoorsman, lifelong hiker, alpine skier, and rock climber. As a WSU student, he taught skiing for the physical education department and led hiking trips for the then newly established (1971) Outdoor Activities Program, now the ORC.

Having distinguished himself as an outdoor leader, WSU hired him as the first full-time director of the ORC. Later he served as associate director of University Recreation until 1992, then moved onto the business and finance department in the Office of Emergency Management, retiring in 2011.

“After I retired, I no longer had the close connection with the students, and I missed it very much,” Tapfer said. In the fall of 2021, as the 50th anniversary of the ORC approached, he saw an opportunity to restore that connection.

He decided to establish a scholarship—called the Christopher Tapfer ORC Student Employment Development Fund—offering scholarships to student leaders at the ORC to expand their outdoor skills and prepare them to share that knowledge with other students.

As one of the beneficiaries of this scholarship, Ludwig has been able to gain certifications relevant to her work, such as the Wilderness First Aid certification, which was 100% funded by the Tapfer fund and she was also able to take a rock-climbing instructor course through the American Mountain Guide Association.

Ludwig has now received her Wilderness First Responder certification and was just approved to take a certification exam with the American Alpine Institute, which will enable her to co-lead rock-climbing programs at the ORC.

“During my decades  of work and involvement with the ORC, many students received advanced training, but they had to pay for it themselves—and that was a burden I wanted to eliminate,” said Tapfer. “The fund is doing exactly as I hoped, assisting student employees gain the training experiences like those Johannah has been able to get.”

That training just underscores for Ludwig that one should never forget that the wilderness is a force to be reckoned with. Because of the courses Tapfer’s gift made possible, she is “prepared and confident when engaged and helping people while in the backcountry.”


Click here to donate to the Christopher Tapfer ORC Student Employment Development Fund.