Alumni Spotlight: Greg Lambert

If you’ve never heard the expression that 90 is the new 40, then you’ve never met Greg Lambert.

Lambert, who celebrated his 90th birthday last May, spent 26 years as a pilot with the U.S. Navy—eight on active duty, and 18 as a reserve—and raised 12 children through two marriages. He worked with the Simpson Timber Company for 32 years until he retired in 1987 at the age of 62, at which point he went on to start his own business and then build houses with Habitat for Humanity for several years. He still downhill skis twice a week during the winter, takes long boating excursions in the summer (indeed just returned from a 10-day trip), and flies a Cessna 172 a couple times a month as part of a local flying club. “I don’t think life is based on a chronological age,” he says. “It’s a psychological age.”

Greg Lambert hasn’t lost any of his zeal for the outdoors, and he isn’t about to slow down—especially on the slopes. “You can ski from age 4 to 94,” he says. “I [turned] 90 the first of May, and it still feels good me.”

Greg Lambert, who lives in Seattle with his wife Mary Kay, on a visit to Anderson Hall this past spring.

So when Lambert looks back on his expansive life and multiple careers, he says there’s little he would change—except for one tiny, lingering regret: He wishes he would have finished his master’s in forest management from the College of Forestry back in 1951.

Maybe “regret” isn’t the right word, though, because he came within weeks of completing the program and went on to enjoy a long, fulfilling career in the timber industry. And with or without the degree, Lambert thoroughly earned his place in our history and family at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, and we were thrilled to reconnect with him after nearly 65 years.

From Flyboy to Forester
Lambert was born in Seattle in 1925, and he enlisted in the Navy during World War II to be a pilot. He spent most of the war in training, though, and didn’t get a chance to fly in combat before the war ended. “I didn’t get my wings until 1946,” he says, “and when I got to Tokyo, they were having guided tours. I missed the whole thing.”

A few years later, around 1949, the Navy starting drawing down its tactical squadrons, so they didn’t need as many fighter aircraft and pilots anymore. Lambert thought about transferring from the reserves to the regular Navy, but he decided instead to weigh some other career options—including going back to school. He initially considered pre-engineering at Whitman, but after sending away for a University of Washington course catalog, he saw an area of study that really caught his attention. “I started going down all the courses, and I came to forestry,” he says. “That sounds like a good, clean life, so let’s do that.”

One of Lambert’s daughters, Denise, reached out to us a few months ago to share some of her father’s story. She described how he used to bring all of his kids into the woods to teach them about trees and plants, and instill in them a love for the natural world. “I’m really flattered she remembers that,” says Lambert. “We did a lot of camping when they were growing up, and my wife would get a little upset with me for getting into my lecture mode.”

One of Lambert’s daughters, Denise, says he used to bring all of his kids into the woods to teach them about trees and plants, and instill in them a love for the natural world. “I’m really flattered she remembers that,” says Lambert. “We did a lot of camping when they were growing up, and my wife would get a little upset with me for getting into my lecture mode.”

Lambert enrolled as a student at the College of Forestry in January 1950. But then the Korean War started that summer, and Lambert, who was already serving in the Naval Air Station reserve unit in Washington, felt a strong pull to get involved. “I was anxious to get back in,” he says. “I made my application to go back on active duty, and they put me in ready reserve.”

His opening came up that fall, but by then Lambert and his wife were settling into student life and their home in Union Bay Village, a community for veterans that was located near the current Center for Urban Horticulture. “It was a really nice deal,” he says. “Rent was cheap, and there was a certain amount of camaraderie. We all had children, so there was a lot of dignity to being a poor student.”

Lambert decided to stay in the reserve unit in Washington and continue with the forestry program. He got to participate in Garb Day, learn timber cruising and surveying down at Park Forest, and he took field trips to visit mills out on the Olympic Peninsula. “[The program] was a nice marriage between time in the classroom and on the job,” he says.

As it happened, life as a student also synced nicely with the duties of a reserve pilot. When aircraft needed an overhaul, they had to be flown down to the base in Jacksonville, Fla. “The guys with real jobs couldn’t get off,” says Lambert. “But students were ideally suited to get off Friday to Tuesday.”

An Offer He Couldn’t Refuse
He had been able to resist that first temptation to leave school. A second challenge came about a year and a half into his program when the California Redwood Association (CRA) offered him a job as a forest products research engineer in Eureka, Calif. Lambert was a couple months away from wrapping up his thesis, but he had three children and didn’t want to pass up a solid career opportunity in forestry.

“I could have taken another six weeks to two months to finish my thesis, but they were pounding on my door that they needed me, and I rationalized that I’d gotten all of the value out of school,” he says.

Lambert and his wife Mary Kay on his 90th birthday.

Lambert and his wife Mary Kay on his 90th birthday.

So Lambert accepted the job offer and moved down to California with his wife. “At the time, the CRA had 14 member mills, and my job was to work with the mills on sawmill studies and kiln-drying improvement,” he says. “I worked with a lot of throwbacks to the rough-and-ready types, and they looked with disfavor on a young college student, but there were some younger people in the mix who began to appreciate the value of these studies—improving yield, accuracy of cut, that kind of stuff. That was a lot of fun. It was a very interesting job.”

One of the member mills he worked with was Simpson Timber Company in Arcata, Calif., which eventually lured Lambert away from CRA. “And that was that,” he says.

He stuck with Simpson for the next 32 years, moving to several states to expand the distribution base for Simpson timber, and eventually getting promoted to sales manager—and then marketing manager—for the Redwood Division. Lambert says he always enjoyed the work, but he especially appreciated the company culture at Simpson Timber, a fifth-generation, family-owned company that was founded in Shelton, Wash., in 1890. “One of the things I really liked about Simpson was the ethics of the company,” he says. “There was quite a dedication to being good stewards of the land.”

With his 90th birthday in the books, Lambert hasn’t lost any of his zeal for the outdoors, and he isn’t about to slow down—especially on the slopes. “You can ski from age 4 to 94,” he says. “I [turned] 90 the first of May, and it still feels good me.”

Lambert hasn’t lost any of his zeal for the outdoors, and he isn’t about to slow down—especially on the slopes. “You can ski from age 4 to 94,” he says. “I [turned] 90 the first of May, and it still feels good me.”

That wasn’t the case, Lambert says, when Sol Simpson founded the company, and nearly everyone believed the Pacific Northwest had an inexhaustible supply of timber. But over time, the company began hanging onto more of its harvested land, and developing a bigger, more sustainable base of forest lands to manage. “That impressed me, the commitment to being good stewards, and also the lack of pressure at the business end to make the bottom line look good,” he says. “The emphasis was on the long-term—but you had to make your case, though, about the validity of the long-term investment.”

Onward and Upward
Now, after more than three decades with Simpson, and after several other career and volunteer endeavors, Lambert has finally settled into retired life. But that doesn’t mean you’ll notice any change in his pace. He sailed through his milestone 90th birthday, and he’s already retrained his sights on 95—yet only on the condition he can keep skiing and flying.

So given how everything turned out, from the timing of his jobs and moves, to how he’s maintained such an active lifestyle, to how he met his wife Mary Kay, Lambert hasn’t dwelled needlessly on his missing master’s. It would have meant a great deal to him to earn the degree, no question, but there was nothing he did afterward that he’d be willing to trade for it. “If I had to do it all over again,” he says, “it’d do it the same way.”

That sounds like the well-earned perspective of someone who has a lot of great years to lean on, and more adventures still to come!

Photo of Greg Lambert at Anderson Hall © Karl Wirsing/SEFS; all other photos © Greg Lambert and Julie Seaborn.

Lambert and his family on his 90th birthday celebration.

Lambert and his family—all kids except for one son, in fact—at his 90th birthday celebration.

 

 

 

2014 Garb Day: Back to Tradition!

The UW Forest Club, one of the oldest and longest-running clubs on campus, is proud to present the 2014 edition of Garb Day on May 10 and 11 down at Pack Forest!

If you’ve never been to Garb Day before, picture a long afternoon of playing outdoor games with your friends, drinking beers and barbecuing around a campfire, listening to live music and hanging out late into the night. In short, picture a really fantastic time with a whole bunch of your classmates and colleagues from the SEFS community!

Garb DayThe theme of this year’s Garb Day is “Back to Tradition.” Justine Andreychuk, president of the Forest Club, did some historical research in the UW Archives last week and found clippings from the Seattle Times about Garb Day in the early 1940s. It used to be a weeklong celebration, and all forestry majors had to grow a beard; if you didn’t—or, worse, couldn’t—you could find yourself getting dunked in the nearest fountain or pond. (Women, meanwhile, had to settle for a cigarette-rolling contest. Seriously.) Other events ranged from a wood chop to log rolling, axe throwing and a logger’s brawl.

Andreychuk doesn’t want to bring back all of these traditions, and liability concerns make some them out of the question. Yet there are a few she’s hoping to resurrect this year—with some modern modifications, of course. First off, you are encouraged to bring and wear your forester best, including full flannel garb, jeans and forestry boots. There will also be the crowning of a “Timber Queen” and “Ole, King of the Woods.” Final judging criteria haven’t been set, but Andreychuk says they’ll be looking for who has been the most spirited, had the most fun, encouraged others and generally been an enthusiastic participant in the day’s activities. Prizes for these honors, which last the whole year until new winners are crowned at the next Garb Day, could include a crown, scepter and other SEFS goodies. Needless to say, competition is likely to be fierce.

Remember, Garb Day is open to all students, staff, faculty, family and friends—the more the merrier—so check out the details below and sign up today! And contact Andreychuk if you have any other questions.

Things to Get Excited About
* Salmon bake
* Live music
* Multiple kegs of beer (for those of age)
* Old-growth nature walk
* Tug-of-war and three-legged races
* Other field games, perhaps including kickball and “sticks,” which Andreychuk says is like capture the flag with Frisbees
* Beard-growing competition (begins a week in advance of Garb Day, so get those whiskers going this weekend!)
* Campfires and camping
* General frolicking in the woods

What to Bring
* Tent and sleeping bag (there are a limited spot in cabins, too, in case you prefer a solid roof over your head)
* Sack lunch for Saturday, May 10; all other meals, snacks and drinks will be provided.
* Rain gear and clothes for all sorts of weather. Last year we got lucky with total sunshine, but you never know what to expect!
* Refillable water bottle
* Decent footwear if you plan to do any hiking

Garb DaySchedule of Activities
Official events will kick off at noon sharp on Saturday, May 10. You are welcome to show up and set up camp anytime that morning, but planners hope you will be there and ready for the start of the festivities. Also, remember that Saturday lunch will not be provided, so bring a sack meal to tide you over until the salmon bake and bbq that night.

Dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m., and then there will be some downtime before the evening awards program and the music begins. You are encouraged to bring your own instruments, as well, for strumming and singing deep into the night.

On Sunday, you’ll wake up, pack up and clean up, and there will be some breakfast pastries/light breakfast and coffee. You should plan to be on the road by 11:30 a.m., and by to campus by 1:30 or 2 p.m.

Tickets and Transportation
Tickets are on sale now in the SEFS Advising Office for $20, and that covers just about everything—lodging, all meals except for lunch the first day, beer, etc. You are welcome to provide your own transportation down to Pack Forest, or you can sign up for a group ride from campus by emailing Andreychuk or signing up when you buy your ticket. To reserve your spot in a group car, try to make your reservation by this Monday, May 5!

Directions to Pack Forest
If you’re driving separately, the best route to Pack Forest from Seattle is to take I-5 south to Tacoma, then take exit 127 for WA-512 E toward Puyallup. Turn left onto 512. Stay in the far righthand lane as you will take the Steele Street exit (which is about 0.2 miles down 512). Turn left at Steele Street South. Continue straight through intersections as the road changes from Steele Street into 116th Street, and finally into the Spanaway Loop Road that will bring you to WA-7 S (after a long sweeping turn through a light where the Cross Base Highway will eventually be constructed). Turn right onto Rt. 7 and travel about 20 miles to the entrance of Pack Forest, which will be on your left. Driving time—off-peak hours—is about an hour and 45 minutes.

Garb Day Tug-of-War

Gear Up for Garb Day!

Garb DayNext weekend, May 11 and 12, one of the oldest outdoor traditions at the University of Washington will be taking place down at Pack Forest. Hosted by the UW Forest Club—the longest-running club on campus—“Garb Day” is a throwback to the early days of the university, when folks tended to show up dressed more professionally for school. On this day, though, students and faculty had a chance to dress in more informal “garb” while relaxing together and playing field games and logging sports.

The days of formal clothes on campus have largely passed, and logging sports have become a little too much of a liability, but the annual Garb Day tradition lives on!

So what’s on tap for the celebration this year?

Garb Day

The logging sports are no more, but Garb Day still offers loads of outdoor games and activities at Pack Forest!

The Forest Club is arranging vans to depart from the C10 parking lot at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, May 11. (If you want to be part of this caravan, you have to let them know no later than the end of day tomorrow, May 3!) Events are expected to kick off at Pack Forest between 10 a.m. and noon, and they’ll last all day and overnight. There will be live music, a salmon feast with hamburgers and veggie burgers and other treats, fun field games—like tug-of-war, scavenger hunts and three-legged races—and prizes to give away. You’ll need to bring your own tent to camp, though a few beds will be available in cabins on a first-come, first-served basis for $7 per person; you’ll need your own linens.

Most activities will take place on Saturday, says Kaitlyn Schwindt, a senior ESRM major and president of the Forest Club, and participants should expect to get home on Sunday by noon or 1 p.m.—in plenty of time for Mother’s Day festivities.

Garb Day

The Forest Club cut and sold more than 300 Christmas trees to help fund this year’s Garb Day festivities.

This year, the Forest Club cut and sold more than 300 Christmas trees to help fund the Garb Day celebration for their fellow colleagues, staff and friends. A group of about a dozen Forest Club members also went down to Pack Forest during Spring Break—helping with the annual spring planting and chopping wood—to earn a discount for renting the facility for Garb Day. So come down for the Garb Day fun and reward their efforts and preparation!

Tickets are $25 (you can pay when you get there, so it’s never too late to decide to join), and the Forest Club is offering half off for faculty and staff! You can pick up your tickets from Amanda Davis in the Advising Office in Anderson Hall. Your ticket covers the cost of all food, games and transportation, but remember if you want a spot in a van on the way down, you have to send them an email by this Friday, May 3!

Find more info and stay up to date with the Forest Club on Facebook, or stop by one of their weekly meetings every Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the loft area of the Forest Club Room.

See you down at Pack Forest!

DIRECTIONS
If you’re driving separately, the best route to Pack Forest from Seattle is to take I-5 south to Tacoma, then take exit 127 for WA-512 E toward Puyallup. Turn left onto 512. Stay in the far righthand lane as you will take the Steele Street exit (which is about 0.2 miles down 512). Turn left at Steele Street South. Continue straight through intersections as the road changes from Steele Street into 116th Street, and finally into the Spanaway Loop Road that will bring you to WA-7 S (after a long sweeping turn through a light where the Cross Base Highway will eventually be constructed). Turn right onto Rt. 7 and travel about 20 miles to the entrance of Pack Forest, which will be on your left. Driving time—off-peak hours—is about 1.75 hours.

Photos © Kaitlyn Schwindt/Forest Club.