Will's Story Constructing the Steger Center

I started building the Steger Center back in 1988 when my teammates and I were training for the Trans-Antarctica Expedition. At that time we were two lakes from the nearest road, but that wasn’t an obstacle. We would be leaving the next year to cross Antarctica and the team and dogs needed some exercise to get ready for the journey. So we dog-sledded in a million pounds of gravel and 5000 bags of cement; each trip was three miles and up three hills. The sand we needed from the local pit was frozen, so we chipped it out with picks and transported it in five-gallon buckets stacked in the sleds. That workout paid off. In the spring we poured the foundation for the Center by hand and in July we left for Antarctica to make the first and longest-ever dogsled traverse of the continent.

A lot has changed since then. We put in a road to bring in cement trucks; the infrastructure has been upgraded; the campus has been built out; and the five-story Center, begun with that foundation in 1988, will be completed in the next couple of years.

Up until 2021, I supported all the work on the Steger Center through old-fashioned hard work. I gave professional lectures, wrote books, did photography, and designed clothing for the outdoor industry. Nearly everything I earned was invested in the Steger Center. In addition, thousands of people volunteered in various capacities, and I paid the many craftspeople who made the building possible. In 2021, I donated my life’s work and assets to the non-profit Steger Center for Innovation and Leadership. The dream of building a “Camp David” in the wilderness now resides in this 501(c)(3) organization and in the hands of the countless people who have contributed their time and talents to the Steger Center community.

The one thing over the years that hasn’t changed is the momentum of the construction. To keep everyone informed on our progress we will keep the construction page current. We have two major goals this year. The priority is to finish the five-story Center so we can hold our first pilot programs there. On the docket this year is to finish the electrical, blow in the insulation, and sheetrock the ceilings for both the Center and the nearby washhouse. The long-awaited bell tower will be constructed by the women’s advanced timber framing course using recycled redwood beams that have been in storage the last 20 years.

The second goal is to continue to build out our staff, student, and guest accommodations. This year we will complete our state-approved summer kitchen and increase our housing capacity by 12 people. We are also moving toward actual running hot and cold water and flush toilets. A large part of our labor for the infrastructure improvements is provided by the students and master tradespeople participating in our programs with Summit Academy OIC.

The ultimate goal of this work, of course, is to create a place where people can come together to solve real-world problems. With community spaces, master classes, and international leadership conferences, we are growing a sustainable community in the north woods and inspiring future generations of leaders to care for the earth.

If you would like to support this work, please consider making a donation to the Steger Center through the form at the bottom of this page.