LTCC mourns passing of wilderness educator Dr. Culp
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Lake Tahoe Community College’s faculty, staff, and students are mourning the passing of Wilderness Education and Outdoor Leadership director and faculty lead Dr. Clinton Culp.
Culp experienced a non-trauma medical emergency on Friday, Jan. 27, while leading an avalanche instructor training class near Luther Pass. Despite the best life-saving efforts of the staff and students in the field, some of whom are medical professionals, and the emergency professionals who arrived at the scene to assist, Dr. Culp passed away. He was just 56 years old.
“He was an excellent colleague, a mentor to students, and a dear friend,” said LTCC Superintendent/President Jeff DeFranco. “Clinton’s impact on our Wilderness program was huge, bringing it to a whole new level of quality and national recognition, exceeding my highest expectations for the program. It’s hard to make sense of this loss, but I and many others are finding at least some solace in the fact that he passed on a day while teaching his students, out in the mountains, with gorgeous bluebird and snow conditions, doing what he loved most.”
LTCC Academic Senate President and fellow faculty member Bruce Armbrust added, “Clinton was an incredible colleague and an even better friend. He was always willing to assist in any way to help make the college a better place for our students. I know I speak for all faculty when I say he will be missed terribly.”
“I am not alone in saying that I am devastated by Clint’s untimely passing,” said Brad Deeds, dean of workforce development and instruction. “When we hired him almost five years ago, I told everyone here at LTCC that we found our unicorn: an educator, a mountaineer, a Marine, a Ph.D., and a kind human being. Even more importantly, I found a great friend. His contributions to growing the Wilderness Education and Outdoor Leadership program at LTCC were immense, and he loved being out in the Sierra and sharing his love of the wilderness with students. He leaves gigantic shoes to fill, and I’ll miss him forever.”
LTCC Wilderness program graduate Kendall Madsen first met Dr. Culp as a student in the Whitewater Rafting Guide School and developed a close friendship with him. With his support and encouragement, she transferred to earn advanced degrees in the Wilderness field and to pursue a teaching position in LTCC’s Wilderness Education program.
“He was my mentor throughout school, my life mentor, and a father figure in my life,” said Madsen. “If it weren’t for Clinton, many of us wouldn’t be where we are today. His passion, dedication, determination, and overall leadership strength is what we will continue to carry on. He strived to make the backcountry more inclusive by empowering women to become leaders. We have more to learn, but we are incredibly grateful for everything Clinton showed us.”
LTCC was fortunate to find Dr. Culp when searching for a faculty director to redevelop and launch its Wilderness Education & Outdoor Leadership program in 2018. In short order, he came in and quickly fashioned a world-class, widely-respected wilderness program that attracted a diverse body of students and instructors who were drawn to Dr. Culp’s exceptionalism, kind nature, and broad experience.
Clinton was a longtime American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education instructor as well, and was in the process of conducting an AIARE Course Leader Training in the field when he passed.
LTCC’s popular AIARE program, led by Dr. Culp, educates and trains backcountry students to travel safely in avalanche terrain, avoid accidents, and prevent injuries and fatalities, a real threat in unpredictable alpine environments like the Tahoe Basin.
“Clinton was not only an educator but also a mentor to many, and his passing is a great loss to the avalanche community,” said AIARE Executive Director Vickie Hormuth. “He will be remembered for his dedication to safety and commitment to helping others enjoy the backcountry safely.”
Dr. Culp came to LTCC from Montana State University-Billings, where he taught Outdoor Adventure Leadership. He had also taught Sport Management classes at Washington State University. He earned his Doctorate in Education and Master of Science in Recreation from the University of Idaho, and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems from West Texas A&M University.
During his career, Dr. Culp taught a wide range of classes, from leadership theory, research and methods, climbing and mountaineering, and whitewater rafting to avalanche awareness and rescue. He was a passionate advocate for sustainable outdoor recreation and Leave No Trace training, and developed and taught that curriculum to Wilderness students at LTCC.
Dr. Culp grew up in northwest Texas and enlisted as a Private in the United States Marine Corps shortly after graduating high school. After 23 years of service, he retired as a Major after serving seven overseas deployments, including in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Somalia, two trips to Afghanistan, and Iraq. Clinton spent more than three years at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, primarily as the Officer in Charge of the Mountain Leaders Course. He participated in and led mountaineering expedition and training missions to Alaska, the North Cascades, Norway, Germany, and the High Sierra.
Dr. Culp is survived by his wife, Lisa, his two daughters, Leah and Lenny Culp, and Lisa’s sons, Peter and David Horan.
A GoFundMe page has been started by AIARE to assist the Culp family as they navigate this loss. Donations can be made at https://gofund.me/2ae37734.
In collaboration with the Culp family, LTCC has set up the Dr. Clinton Culp Memorial Scholarship for Outdoor Leaders, which will be used to support associate degree-seeking students in the Wilderness Education and Outdoor Leadership program at LTCC. This endowment will provide a $1,000 scholarship each year to at least one student, and more depending on the amount of scholarship funds raised.
To ensure the scholarship benefits both current and future students, President DeFranco worked with a generous donor to seed the fund with a $25,000 gift to create an endowment. Funds will be invested to generate revenue to support students for years to come. The goal is to raise an additional $25,000 match to honor Dr. Culp’s legacy and support outdoor leadership students in their pursuit of excellence. The first scholarship recipient will be awarded in June 2023.
Donations can be made by check to the “LTCC Foundation” with “Dr. Culp Scholarship” in the notes line. Checks can be mailed to the LTCC Foundation, One College Drive, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150. Donations via credit card can be made online by visiting bit.ly/DrCulpScholarship.
LTCC is working with community partners to provide grief counseling for all students and staff. Students can also access the TimelyCare app for free virtual mental health support anytime (http://www.ltcc.edu/mentalhealth). LTCC counselors are available on campus to help anyone struggling with this loss or virtually via the Cranium Cafe platform (ltcc.craniumcafe.com).
LTCC will host a Celebration of Life event for Clinton on Saturday, March 25. All are welcome to attend. Please save the date, and additional details will follow.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.