Scholars retreat moves from long-time home, begins new traditions

September 11, 2007

By hammersmith

Travel reports. The talent show. The tug-of-war. Mention those words to any Flinn Scholar from the past two decades, and there’s an excellent chance he or she will reply with a single word:


For 19 years, the Flinn Scholars program kicked off each academic year with a retreat at the Orme School, a K-12 boarding and day school nestled among the cottonwoods and hilly rangeland of a 26,000-acre working ranch near Mayer in northern Arizona.

To participants, the retreat became known simply as “Orme.” It served as an opportunity for new Scholars to meet each other and upperclassmen, and gave those upperclassmen—many just returned from summers and semesters abroad—the chance to renew friendships and share stories of their study, service, research, and adventure across the country and around the world.

A variety of Orme traditions sprang up in addition to those travel report sessions, including an eclectic talent show; nature hikes and horseback riding; informal seminars with favorite university professors; and a tug-of-war contest pitting the classes of active Flinn Scholars against each other.

The retreat at the Orme School became, for many students, a signature element in the Flinn Scholars experience, and fittingly so, given the intertwined histories of the Flinn and Orme families.

Well before the Orme School was established in 1929, Dr. John Flinn, who founded a tuberculosis sanitarium in Prescott, served as physician to the Orme family and others who lived and worked at their ranch. A generation later, the Orme School’s founding headmaster, Charlie Orme, and his wife Mimi became patients of Dr. Robert Flinn. Irene and Robert Flinn would later endow the Flinn Foundation.

Tug-of-war at RetreatThe Flinn Scholars retreat of August, 2007 was thus especially notable: For the first time since 1987, it was not held at the Orme School. The retreat’s new home is Lost Canyon, a group camp and retreat facility about 35 miles west of Flagstaff near Williams.

While Lost Canyon may not possess the Orme School’s historical ties to the Flinn family, it boasts an astonishing assortment of modern facilities and outdoor activities; besides its athletic fields and swimming pools—with two water slides—the compound includes a ropes course suspended among the ponderosa pines, a quarter-mile-long zip line, and more.

First-year Flinn Scholar Shruti Bala found the retreat site ideal. “Lost Canyon was quite an enthralling experience, from watching meteor showers and twinkling stars to playing beastly games of ping pong and being drenched in blue goo,” she said. “I also had the opportunity to meet people of diverse backgrounds and engage in a lot of thoughtful conversation,” she added.

Flinn Scholars relax at the Lost Canyon RetreatSuch an experience for a new Scholar was just what the director of the Flinn Scholarship Program, Michael Cochise Young, hoped for from Lost Canyon: a relaxing, fun environment where Scholars could take a deep breath after their busy summers before plunging into jam-packed schedules in the academic year.

Sarah Trainor, another first-year Flinn Scholar, agreed with Bala. “Lost Canyon was the perfect setting for our class of Flinns to develop a powerful friendship,” she said. “We shared priceless memories—nearly winning the tug-of-war, facing our fears as we leaped off the zip-line platform, and banding together to perform a Monty Python skit. The four days of the retreat rank among the best in my life.”