In the words of Bush faculty member Thomas, who met Ian during Ian’s visit to the Bush Seattle campus in the fall of 2017, “What a great guy. I truly enjoyed getting to know Ian. I am in shock and cannot believe the news. So sad. Shine down like the sun, man.” Ian died in an avalanche while skiing on March 4, 2018. To say that his death was devastating underscores the impact he has had on my life and our greater community, both in the Methow Valley and at The Bush School.
On the morning of March 5, I called friends and family and I was instantly overwhelmed by the widespread reach Ian had during his short time on this planet. A few nights later, my living room was packed with friends and family who had traveled from Florida, Connecticut, Montana, Colorado, California, and all across Washington. While sharing stories and scheming on how to keep Ian alive in our communities, we understood that losing Ian was not only our loss, but a loss to all of the students that he has taught and the students he had not had the opportunity to inspire. When you lose someone you love so deeply, you do whatever you can to grab on to bits and pieces of their life to ensure that you can keep them alive.
To say that Ian was a talented teacher does not fully articulate the impact he has had on students and faculty throughout his lifetime. Ian had a gift that few educators have. He could quickly and seamlessly connect with any student, engaging them in the subject they were exploring while meeting them where they needed to be. Ian inspired students through his constant enthusiasm and his own desire to continue to learn and explore alongside them. On that evening in my living room, we were unwilling to allow Ian’s gift of teaching to expire. Ian was incredibly passionate about providing opportunities for all students, regardless of socio-economic background: the same access to education and the outdoors. He believed that environmental education can provide transformative experiences to students and that race, background, or income should not dictate access to outdoor learning opportunities.
When Ian was the Methow Campus Program Coordinator for The Bush School, Ian and I would spend most of our evenings discussing his dreams of creating collaborative programs for both Methow Valley students and The Bush School students at both the Methow Campus and in Seattle. He firmly believed that every student had so much to learn from each other and that they could inspire in each other a sense of wonder and global appreciation while exploring the forests at the base of the Cascade Range or the city skyline along the shores of Lake Washington.
That same evening, I reached out to Sharon Hurt (Director of Development) and Percy L. Abram (Head of School) at The Bush School and proposed an idea to create a memorial fund in Ian’s name to bring his vision to fruition in his absence. With The Bush School feeling the gravity of losing a talented experiential educator and community member, they overwhelmingly supported the idea and the Ian Fair Memorial Fund for the Methow Campus was born.
Note: Author Steph Bennett is Ian’s long-time partner. She is also the spark behind the Fund in Ian’s memory. She has become a friend of The Bush School community in our collective efforts to keep Ian’s memory alive and his vision achievable. To support Ian’s legacy, go to bush.edu/give and select “The Ian Fair Memorial Fund for the Methow Campus” in the designation dropdown.