School Walk Celebrates our Connection With the Natural World

2023 School Walk Students at Steep Rock Summit

October 5 turned out to be a beautiful day for our community to enjoy one of Gunn’s most beloved traditions: School Walk. Buoyed by school spirit and a shared sense of Frederick Gunn’s love of the outdoors, students, faculty, and friends navigated a new, nearly nine-mile route through Steep Rock Preserve. They traveled through the historic railroad tunnel, across the bridge over the Shepaug River, and up to Steep Rock Summit, where they enjoyed a brief respite and the incredible view of the Clamshell and Shepaug River Valley below.

Before departing campus via the Main Gate on Thursday morning, the community gathered on the Koven-Jones Glade to receive instructions from Dan Fladager, Director of Outdoor Programs, about how to stay safe on the trail. Marlon Fisher ’01, Associate Director of Next Generation Leadership, acknowledged Marley-Austell Kennedy ’25, a member of the Gunn Society Leadership Team, who created the design for this year’s commemorative red t-shirts and postcards that were mailed to current families and alumni, encouraging them to join School Walk by getting outdoors to experience the power of connecting with nature.

Head of School Emily Raudenbush Gum also spoke about the connections we share and our sense of rootedness and place. “You are the 162nd group of people to do this,” she said. “Let’s take a minute to connect with what came before us, where we are, and who you want to be.”

Her remarks were preceded by an announcement by LaDarius Drew, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, who shared for the first time a land acknowledgement for the space upon which The Frederick Gunn School currently stands. The statement is the result of work begun by a small committee in October 2022 and curated through 12 months of connection with the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington. It has received the approval of Darlene Kascak, IAIS Education Director and Storyteller, Drew said. 

“For nearly 175 years, we have been an institution that prides itself on history and the truth within it. This statement, though malleable, is us taking a stance on history, and nothing more. This statement is meant to be stated at our most formal of events, thus keeping the theme of acknowledgement in our institution,” said Drew, who shared the statement again at Advisor Lunch on October 9, which is celebrated in the United States as Indigenous People's Day.

The land acknowledgement states:

The Frederick Gunn School was established in 1850 on land that was the ancestral home of the Weantinock and Pootatuck people and their descendants, who are now recognized as the Schaghticoke. The school has long been deeply interested in the history of the land it occupies, so much so that the work of former faculty member, Dr. Edmund K. Swigart P’82, became the foundation of the Institute for American Indian Studies — also located in Washington, Connecticut. We honor the Native American history, Dr. Swigart, and our school motto —  A Good Person is Always Learning —  by continuing to learn more about the history of this land and those who inhabited it before us.

This year marked the 162nd anniversary of the first School Walk in 1861, when Mr. Gunn led 30 boys and a dozen girls on a 42-mile walk from Washington to Welch’s Point in Milford, Connecticut, where they camped in tents for 10 days. That first camping trip was repeated by  Frederick and Abigail Gunn in 1863 and 1865, and served as a precursor to the summer camps Mr. and Mrs. Gunn organized in the 1870s at Point Beautiful on Lake Waramaug. It is for these activities that the American Camp Association has recognized Mr. Gunn as the founder of recreational camping in the United States.

The school commemorates the 1861 walk every year, on a date chosen close to Mr. Gunn’s birthday, October 4. While previous routes took students from campus to Lake Waramaug or Mount Tom, in recent years, the entire school has hiked through Steep Rock, which was founded in 1925 when Gunn alumnus Ehrick Rossiter, Class of 1870, gifted 100-acres including the summit that today form the core of the preserve.

Among the alumni and current parents who joined School Walk from afar this year was Sam Stowell, Jr. '73, who went to the White Mountains with walking partner JoAnn Woods. Via Instagram, Trustee Krystalynn Schlegel ’96 shared that she took a stroll on a beautiful fall day in Fernie, British Columbia, with her long-haired dachshund, Mr. Magnificent. Charlie Cohen '63 sent in a photo from his walk in La Unión, Zacapa, Guatemala! And Charley Kellogg ’84 P’25 represented his class by hiking to the stone observation tower in Mount Tom State Park. “Missed Pam Taylor checking us in at the top,” he wrote.

In addition, Christopher Ives, who is a professor at Stonehill College and the author of Zen on the Trail: Hiking as Pilgrimage and Meditations on the Trail: A Guidebook for Self-Discovery, joined students and faculty on the walk at Steep Rock. On October 4, Ives spoke to students about the importance of being attuned to our connection with nature, and encouraged them to experience the natural world by being present in the moment, as part of the 2023-24 Speaker Series.

To view photos of this year’s School Walk, please visit our SmugMug Gallery.

Additional Images

LaDarius Drew_Land Acknowledgment

LaDarius Drew, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, introduced the school's Land Acknowledgement to the community for the first time at School Walk.

Students depart from the Main Gate_School Walk 2023

Students and faculty set out from the Main Gate.

Emily Raudenbush Gum_School Walk 2023

Head of School Emily Raudenbush Gum and her family joined faculty, staff and students on School Walk.


School Walk followed a different route through Steep Rock this year due to the Tunnel Road Bridge closure. The bridge, located near the main entrance off River Road, is in the process of being replaced by the Town of Washington. As a result, students and faculty traveled through the iconic railroad tunnel from the opposite direction!

Christopher Ives with faculty and students_School Walk 2023

Author and Speaker Series presenter Christopher Ives, second from left, joined Gunn faculty and students on this year's School Walk

Charlie Cohen '63_SchoolWalk2023

Charlie Cohen '63 sent in this photo from his walk in La Unión, Zacapa, Guatemala!

Sam Stowell Jr., '73_SchoolWalk2023

Sam Stowell, Jr., '73, and walking partner JoAnn Woods in the White Mountains

Charley Kellogg ’84 P’25_SchoolWalk2023

Charley Kellogg ’84 P’25 hiked to the stone observation tower in Mount Tom State Park.

Krystalynn Schlegel ’96_SchoolWalk2023

Trustee Krystalynn Schlegel ’96 and Mr. Magnificent took a stroll on a beautiful fall day in Fernie, British Columbia.