Brief History of the Texas Outdoor Education Association (TOEA)
In July 1974, Ewell Sessom, Director of Health, Physical Education and Recreation of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), formulated a plan around his vision that every student, before graduating from public schools in Texas, would have had an outdoor experience, an opportunity to learn something about the environment, an opportunity to learn something about how the world exists, and how to survive in the outdoors. Small workshops sponsored by TEA were held each year from 1974 through 1978 at various locations around the state.
The role for continuing outdoor education in public schools was entrusted to TOEA as Mr. Sessom became more involved in other programs in TEA in 1978 when he organized the last TEA workshop.
In 1979 Mr. Sessom contacted the superintendent at Corsicana and was given the name of a young teacher named John Fortner who had surfaced as an instructor and started an outdoor education program at his school.
Neither sleet nor snow could discourage the determined people who attended the organizational meeting in Waco on February 17, 1979 to share ideas and plans for the formation of an outdoor education association. Those in attendance included James Boyce, Vicky Christenson, John Fortner, Dr. Buddy Gilchrest, Ray Goodman, Dr. James Kroll, Susie Kroll, Dr. Mike Legg, Dr. Mickey Little, Patsy Martin, Lillian Morava, Milton Payne, Dave Wilkie, Jean Wilkie and Pat York.
At this meeting a name was selected, an executive board was elected to plan for the 1979 state workshop, a committee was appointed to draft a constitution and bylaws, and plans for a newsletter were made.
The first Executive Board of the TOEA was:
President – John Fortner
President Elect – James Boyce
Vice President for Membership – Dr. Mickey Little
Vice President for Finance – Dave Wilkie
Recording Secretary – Patsy Martin
Corresponding Secretary – Vicky Christeson
John and Ewell organized the TOEA first workshop at the H.E. Butt Foundation Camp. The Dallas Safari Club funded the majority of the cost of the first workshop. From that workshop came the dream for a statewide outdoor education association. In addition a ten year relationship developed with the Dallas Safari Club, Houston Chapter of Safari Club International and Houston Conservation International (COIN) Club through a series of grants.
TOEA has hosted at least one and occasionally two or more outdoor education workshops annually. The clear focus of TOEA was the Annual State Workshop held at the H.E. Butt Foundation Camp, which has been the home to that workshop nearly every year since the relationship with the H.E. Butt Foundation Camp began in 1979.
The 1979 workshop is considered the official beginning of the Texas Outdoor Education Association. In the years that followed, several committees were formed and worked to develop a constitution and bylaws, policies and procedures manual, workshop manual and financial policies. In 1984 the first Constitution and Bylaws were adopted as was the first Policies and Procedures Manual. In 1987 TOEA was granted tax exempt status as a 501(c) (3) organization by the Internal Revenue Service.
In 2004 TOEA celebrated its Silver Anniversary as an association, while our host, the H.E. Butt Foundation Camp celebrated its Golden Anniversary. TOEA has, is and will continue to be the leader in the State of Texas for outdoor education.
The mission of TOEA was clearly stated in the preamble to the Constitution adopted in 1984 and continues to provide direction for the future:
“The TOEA shall be an organization of individuals and groups with a common interest in outdoor education working toward the attainment of an appreciation, understanding and wise use of the total environment by all people.”