John Burton '69 in DAM

From the most recent DAM issue, an article about River Master Jay Evans '49 includes a comment from our classmate John Burton, pasted below. The rest of the issue is also worth reading.


The first two people I met at Dartmouth in September 1965 turned out to be two of the most influential people in my life. Jay Evans and Wick Walker were manning the Ledyard booth on activities night. They were recruiting green freshmen (in my case a very green 18-year-old newcomer) into the birthing of the Ledyard juggernaut.

Jay was the best mentor I could have asked for. He was disciplined, focused, competitive, and creative. We never stopped working on technique and conditioning, all while maintaining an optimistic, positive attitude. Jay taught us to welcome adversity, something easy to find in spring conditions in northern New Hampshire. If the snow was blowing sideways, we always knew we had an advantage over those unaccustomed to such challenges.

After Jay coached the U.S. teams in the 1969 and 1971 World Championships, I tried to partially fill his shoes at the 1973 World Championships in Switzerland as one of the team’s three coaches, an experience that foreshadowed the end of my brief banking career, which began in 1971 when I moved to Philadelphia to train for the Olympics.

Our first training camp for the championships was hosted by the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), a visionary outdoor enterprise in North Carolina that had been founded the year before. Molded by Jay’s idealism, his embrace of lofty goals, and his example of behind-the-scenes service to the sport, I continued my river journey in 1975 when I left banking and went to work at the NOC. Jay could not have been prouder.

Since then, I’ve been privileged to participate in the NOC’s growth. It has gone from annually guiding a few hundred rafters down the Nantahala and Chattooga rivers and offering several kayak and canoe classes to becoming one of the world’s premier outdoor adventure providers. Now, 45 years later, it provides about 700 outdoors-related summer jobs, takes 108,000 rafters down eight southeastern rivers every year, and trains hundreds of paddlers from beginners to Olympians and swift-water rescue professionals. The NOC’s staff and customers are led to places of courage and accomplishment they didn’t know they could find in themselves. Jay would have expected nothing less.     —John Burton ’69