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Camp Renovations

After 85 years, it is time to renovate the student cabins, bathrooms and showers at Camp Davis. While these cabins have served us well for years, and hold many fond memories, ongoing maintenance costs, safety concerns, and infrastructure decay require major upgrades to continue Camp operations, and to serve UM students for another century. We have developed a comprehensive renovation plan in collaboration with a local architect to redevelop the student cabins, connect Camp to high speed internet service, and renovate the mess hall. College, Department and alumni contributions have gotten us more than halfway to our $5 million target. Our ambitious goal is to complete fundraising for this project by January 2017, so that we can break ground on the new cabins in the fall of 2017.  There are many ways to contribute to this fundraising goal. Please read below about ways to give.

"Oh Joy Another Day To Excel"

A note from Camp Davis alumnus Fred Metzger:

“Non Tam Pares Quam Superiores” …”Not as Good as but Better Than”, that was the motto of the Michigan Marching Band during my days underDr. William D. Revelli and George Cavender. (Still is today!) The Band wasreally what kept me going at Michigan during my undergraduate years from1969-1973.  For me, academics were just optional; it was all about the band and football, basketball and hockey.  I was in the Engineering school but I really had no passion for it, and then I took my first Geology class in CC Little as an elective. I cameaway from that class,taught by Ike Smith, thinking hey this is a little more fun than Engineering!  It wasn’t long after that Geology became my major.

Many classes in geology quickly followed and I loved them all.  I especially appreciated the professors.  They taught with passion and enthusiasm.  These professors, Ike Smith, Don Peacor, Abe Heinrich and Bruce Clark, changed my path from academic apathy to a passion for success in the field of geology. I was then accepted to the Masters program in Geology at Michigan, all I had to do was complete field camp to graduate with a BS in Geology.

We van pooled out to Camp Davis and one of the first things I see in the Mess Hall is a sign over the door that proclaims:  “Oh Joy Another Day to Excel”. What I learned in the band was always work hard, don’t accept mediocrity from yourself or anyone else and to always strive for perfection in all that you do.  Well this sign, as much as it was kind of mocked every day, really started me going every day.  (It became a family favorite as well – ask my kids). 

The class (Geo 440) itself was really eye opening.  All the “book learning” came to life in what I still consider the best learning experience of my life.   The books taught us about normal
faults, reverse faults, wrench faults etc.  But when I SAW my first thrust fault in the field clearly seeing older rock thrust on top of younger rocks, everything changed!  My eyes were opened to all the classroom lectures I had listened to back in Ann Arbor and a true dedication to my academic career finally became a reality.  

The professors were also exceptional, how special it is to become close friends with your professors and call them by their first names…that was also a first for me!  Professors that I basically met at Camp Davis and were a huge influence on my graduate program included,   John Dorr, Rob Van der Voo, Eric Essene,   and of course my mentor Bill Kelly!  These are gentlemen whose lessons I drew from during my entire career!

Camp Davis was also where I made some lifelong friends; I stood up in two weddings for class members and attended a total for 5 weddings from a class of 25! Many of them and several of the professors attended my wedding several years later and I still consider them
close friends even after over 40 years!

So bottom line, Camp Davis inspired my academic career, and led to a lifelong career in the Energy industry.  During my 40 year career as a geologist I was able to travel to all 50 states and much of the entire world.  I got to places that office workers never get to see, and study the rocks and energy infrastructure in some of the most spectacular places in the world…and get paid to do that!  How great is that?!   My 40 year career was built on those basic field experiences that I first learned at Camp Davis, including how to write and present professionally.   I was able to move up to the officer level of the third largest energy firm in America and made presentations all over the world…and I attribute the start of all this to
my time at Camp Davis.

Camp Davis is still the most outstanding setting to learn field geology.  However, the infrastructure is much the same as it was when I attended in the early 1970’s.  Updates and
improvements are needed.  Please reflect on your time at Camp Davis, and if you feel as strongly as I do, please consider supporting the department in the infrastructure initiative.  Just go to the Department webpage and follow the Camp Davis link to make your
 Let’s make Camp Davis a place that will educate and inspire future earth scientists well into the next century.   “Non Tam Pares Quam Superiores”.

Go Blue!                        Fred Metzger


Fundraising Goals

Our goal is to raise $2.75 million by the end of 2016 to initiate construction of 30 new student cabins ($3.75 million, or ~$125,000 per cabin), install high speed internet ($250 thousand) and renovate the mess hall ($1 million). We hope to receive city, county and state approval of our renovation plans in the early part of 2017, and begin construction in the fall of 2017, with cabins ready for the summer class of 2018. We have raised $2.25 million to date from the College of LSA, the Department, and alumni. Outright gifts, pledged gifts over multiple years, and planned estate giving are all ways to contribute that will count towards our fundraising goal. See Ways To Give, below, for more information.                

Renovation Needs

Renovation of the student cabins and mess hall at Camp Davis are needed to address two specific challenges. The first challenge is infrastructure decay. The cabins, and much of the associated water, sewer, and electrical infrastructure, is nearing 90 years old. Maintenance costs for the student cabins are a significant drain on our operating budget, and modern building code requirements limit the upgrades, repairs, and renovations we can perform on the existing buildings and infrastructure. Redevelopment of the entire student housing wing is the best way forward to improving infrastructure reliability, enhancing student safety, and lowering our long-term operating costs. The second challenge that we are addressing is student demand. Enrollment in Camp Davis courses has been climbing annually, and over 170 students are expected to participate in our courses this summer. Our present infrastructure limits the number of students we could accommodate because student cabins aren’t heated, and student showers and bathrooms can’t be opened while nighttime temperatures are below freezing. The renovation will address these problems, and allow Camp operations to expand earlier into the spring and later in the summer and fall, allowing continued student enrollment growth at Camp.  For more information about the proposed renovation and needs, please see this prospectus. 

Current Status of Renovation Project

Architectural and engineering diagrams for the student cabin renovation have been completed by Greg Mason of Krikor Architecture in Jackson, Wyoming, in consultation with the University architect, LSA Facilities management, and Department and Camp Davis staff. A variety of engineering sites tests have also been completed, including well pump tests and perc tests. Potential cabin manufacturers have been visited in the Rocky Mountain region. Once sufficient funds for the renovation are committed, plans can immediately be submitted to the University’s Board of Regents and to the City of Jackson and the State of Wyoming for approval and construction can commence. A PDF document of architectural site plans and cabin plans is available here. 

An internet improvement plan is in place and negotiations are ongoing with the local internet service provider to develop this service.  

Plans for renovations to the Camp mess hall are in development.

Cabin Plans

We plan to replace all of the cabins, bathroom buildings, and infrastructure on the west side of Camp. We will construct 28 new student cabins with electric heaters and en suite bathrooms, each of which will sleep 4 students. In addition, we will build two ADA-compliant cabins that will each sleep 2 students, and build a new restroom building adjacent to the camp center to better serve the mess hall and classrooms. All of the infrastructure will be replaced, and will be buried underground well below the frost line for multi-season use.  This will include a new septic system, sewer lines, water lines, electrical service, and fire sprinkler supply lines. The construction cost, per cabin, is estimated at $125,000. A PDF document of the architectual site plans and cabin plans is available here.

Ways to Give

The Camp Davis renovation fund is a unique opportunity for alumni and friends to help support and continue the educational mission of Camp Davis, and to improve the facilities at Camp for generations to come.  There are many ways to contribute towards the Camp renovation that will help us reach our fundraising goal for this project.  Importantly, plans for future contributions or gifts can be counted now towards our target.       

  • Donate now to the Camp Davis Renovation Fund  
  • Pledge an annual gift over the next five years. If your employer matches your charitable giving, both your total pledge, and the total matching amount from your employer can be counted towards our fundraising goals. Example pledge letter.       
  • Plan for Camp Davis in your estate through a bequest. Planned gifts that are documented with the University can be counted towards the fundraising goals of the student cabin renovation. Example Memorandum of Agreement. Example Declaration of Intent.
  • If you are interested in making a pledge or a planned gift, please contact Camp Director, Nathan Niemi (; (734) 764-6377) or LSA Development Liaison Jenny Howard ( ); (734) 615-6239)

Donor Recognition

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Student Testimonials

Below are just a few of our student testimonials over the years:

Any student will tell you that Camp Davis offers so many more lessons than those printed on the course syllabus. We asked questions during the hike to the day’s lesson site, hikes that were no less interesting than the planned projects; we forged strong bonds with old and new friends; we got daily one-on-one career and life advice from some of the best geologists in academics; we learned to work with people we might not otherwise choose to work with; we pushed ourselves physically beyond our comfort zones; we became more responsible adults; and, most importantly, we became more impassioned about the way our planet works. Daily life in Ann Arbor has too many distractions to get these sorts of lessons sitting in a classroom for a few hours. I got my photo published in the Ann Arbor news when I graduated in 2008 because on my mortarboard, I wrote the words that were our morning mantra at Camp Davis, said each day before leaving for the field, “Oh, joy! Another day to excel!” That is what Camp Davis was for me, a place that taught me how to excel in academics and in life. I am about to complete my PhD in Geological Sciences this year, and I literally owe much of my success to my time at Camp Davis.− Eric Portegna (BS ‘08), Postdoctoral Fellow

The skills I learned at Camp Davis - applying 4-dimensional reasoning, interpreting with limited data, and developing a holistic approach to geology - have directly translated to my work as a geologist for a major energy company. In a world where field camps are vanishing, Camp Davis offers students what no other geology field camp can provide: a varied, first-rate education of fundamental field skills in a small class setting with high caliber experts. There is no replacement for field geology skills and how they transfer to the working world of a geologist, and the University of Michigan offers the best in its class.− Kelly Umlauf (BS ‘07) , Geologist

I love Camp Davis! Not only are the classes fantastic, but the professors are great and very knowledgeable and approachable. My Camp Davis experience allowed me to have a much better understanding of geological processes by transcending the very simplified textbook examples and actually seeing how these processes shape the Earth. This not only allowed me to do better in my classes following my Camp Davis classes, but ultimately give me an edge in my job for a major oil company.− Ada Dominguez (BS’10, MS’12), Geophysicist

I was at Camp Davis twice as a Michigan student- in 2003 for Earth 116 before my freshman year and 2006 for Earth 341[now Earth 450] before my senior year, and also once as an Earth 116 GSI in 2009.I spent time there as an incoming freshman with an undecided major, a confident senior applying to graduate geology programs, and a graduate student about to begin a career in environmental consulting. The impact Camp Davis has had on my life is indescribable - it is directly responsible for where I am today.Camp Davis is a unique learning experience - the setting is rustic but the faculty are world class.− Jess Malone (BS’06, MS ‘09), Environmental Consultant

I was fortunate to be able to attend both Earth 116 and Earth 440 at Camp Davis. The educational experiences that Camp Davis provides to students in various degree programs are unlike anything they can receive on main campus. Camp Davis facilitates physical and mental growth, teamwork, and camaraderie with other students and professors. It gives students first hand exposure to the treasures that are our National Parks and Forests. My tenure at Camp Davis had a direct impact on my decision to pursue a career in conducting and coordinating scientific research in the field that supports conservation.− Lt. JG Jared Halonen (BS ‘08), NOAA Corps

My experience at Camp Davis, in addition to providing me with practical field knowledge which has been invaluable to my research, caused an enduring shift in how I think about deep earth processes. Being able to walk along folded layers of bedrock and then applying my observations to reach a set of conclusions about the history of an area is a completely unique way to take learning out of the abstract. My time at Camp Davis in particular, from its location to the professors that run the camp, helped me make connections between field observations and geologic theories that have made me both a better teacher and a better scientist.− Mary Peterson (BS ‘09), PhD student

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