Westmont Magazine The Merits of Mountain Climbing
Dave Dolan ’78 has vaccinated Guatemalan children against polio, helped establish health clinics and orphanages on three continents, and built homes through Habitat for Humanity in Orange County, Calif. His passion for service and social justice began in high school and continued throughout his time at Westmont, when he encouraged students to alleviate hunger and help children. Each year, the college gives the Dave Dolan award to the senior who carries on his legacy.
To better help the poor through a variety of humanitarian organizations, Dave earned master’s degrees in public health and Latin American studies at UCLA. He also graduated from San Francisco Theological Seminary and has pursued local and global outreach as a Presbyterian minister. A compulsion to meet the needs of society continues to drive him.
Dave confronts a different kind of challenge just as passionately: mountain climbing. In the past 10 years, he has led numerous treks in East Africa, scaling Mt. Kenya, Ol Doinyo Lengai and Mt. Kilimanjaro. Some of these expeditions have raised money to provide food and assistance to Africans. “My favorite location in the world is on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, around the 12,000-foot level,” he says. “At night, there is a quietness and peace about this place, and it seems like you can see more stars in the sky than almost anywhere else on earth. During the daytime, I particularly enjoy the conversations with my climbing companions, both those who have traveled from my home country as well as local Tanzanian friends who guide us up the mountain.”
In March 2009, Dave accepted a Citation of Merit from the Explorers Club, donning an uncharacteristic tuxedo to speak briefly to the audience of 1,000 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Trustee Steve Stong ’75 and his son, Ryan ’12, accompanied Dave at the gala event. Only 54 people have received this award in the 105-year history of the club, including Ted Turner, Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic, Jim Whittaker, the first American on top of Everest, and Gilbert Grosvenor, chair of the National Geographic Society. Dave chairs the Southern California Chapter of the Explorers Club, and his son, Daniel, is a student member.
“While in high school, I read a quote by the great humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Albert Schweitzer that has always motivated me to serve others,” Dave told the guests at the dinner. “Dr. Schweitzer said: ‘I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.’ I have found great happiness in serving locally and globally, particularly in East Africa, in providing health care, water wells and a better life for others, particularly children. I hope to continue seeking and finding how to serve others and thus fulfill my destiny.”