When Rick Ray first became a Friends member in 1982, it was just the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. At the time, he could never have imagined that he would go on to become an integral part of this organization over the next nearly 40 years.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems like Rick and Friends were an inevitable pairing.
Rick moved to a small farm near Corbett in 1987 where he got involved in local land use issues. Soon, Friends' staff mentioned him to founder Nancy Russell. She recognized his passion for land protection, as well as his youth and valuable experience with non-profits, and knew he would be an asset to the fledgling organization. Nancy asked Rick to join the board in 1993 and, over the subsequent years, Rick made his mark on the fledgling organization.
So much happened during those decades, but what Rick considers to be his greatest contribution was his role in hiring an engaging and enthusiastic individual who turned out to be Friends’ current Executive Director, Kevin Gorman. Nancy was out of town during the final interviews and she initially had another candidate in mind, but Rick was convinced that Kevin’s people skills, in particular, would make him a strong leader. Rick recalls, “I knew Kevin would be able to create a strong team which was extremely important because high-functioning teams make strong organizations.”
If hiring Kevin was Rick’s greatest contribution to Friends, Friends’ greatest contribution to Rick was giving him the opportunity to meet his wife Anne.
Anne Philipsborn was enthusiastically making her way through Friends’ spring wildflower hike series when she decided to participate in an outing led by wildflower guru Russ Jolley at Seven Mile Hill. The Forest Service had recently purchased the property, and this guided outing was the first time that the public was given access. Rick was also in attendance and the two soon discovered more than just a variety of interesting flowers. It turns out that Anne and Rick had a lot in common, having grown up in the same Chicago neighborhood. Over the course of the hike, they discovered that they knew many of the same families, neighborhood grocery stores, and that they even shared some of the same teachers.
In short, Rick and Anne were from a common world and they shared a common culture and history. Three years after that fateful hike led by Russ Jolley, they were married. Since then, the two have both grown their love for the Gorge, their new common world.
Today, both Rick and Anne see the Gorge as their home. Anne teaches yoga classes at the Columbia Grange in Corbett where they live, and they both care deeply about their friends and community. She says, “It is striking how deeply I have fallen in love with the Gorge. It has given me a strong sense of place which continues to deepen and strengthen.”
When Rick first got involved with Friends, two of our biggest current challenges - adopting a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) lens and responding to climate change - weren’t even on our radar. Now they are both pivotal aspects of Friends’ work to protect, preserve, and steward the Gorge for future generations, a testament to the evolution that Rick has been part of.
One of the most meaningful things Rick and Anne have done recently is including Friends in their estate plan. As Anne puts it, “I want future generations to feel the special connection to the Gorge we do. To hear the frogs and owls at night are just some of the Gorge’s beautiful pieces.”
Rick agrees: “There are a lot of things you can do when you leave money in an estate plan and it can all feel really amorphous, but leaving a gift to Friends is to a specific local place and it feels very relatable.”
Looking ahead to the next 40 years, Rick and Anne are particularly concerned about the harmful effects of irresponsible development and congestion. By including Friends in their estate plans, they hope to protect the Gorge from these and other threats, for generations to come.
We are proud to know these exceptional people and grateful for their longstanding commitment to Gorge protection work!