The Upper Valley Stewardship Center is an alliance of educators, natural resource professionals, and landowners dedicated to collaborative management of a 2000 acre campus and advancing stewardship, outdoor recreation, and experiential education in the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire and Vermont. Regardless of their role, members of our team are all considered stewards of the land and teachers engaged in the process of life-long learning.
While knowledge and experience are important considerations, the most important consideration in the selection of our team flows from the words of John J. Wolter (1937-2004), the person most responsible for the vision that has become the Upper Valley Stewardship Center. In an interview with a doctoral candidate studying Dr. Wolter's educational philosophy, Dr. Wolter observed that his first and foremost consideration in hiring was finding individuals who possessed "human qualities especially , not only academically sound, but also young at heart and having interests similar to the boys . . . . A teacher would have to be warm, firm, understanding, compassionate and an ethical model to the students."
Jess Mohr, Director of Stewardship Operations, Upper Valley Stewardship Center:
Jess comes to the Upper Valley Stewardship team with experience as an ecologist, forester, conservation planner, and educator at the collegiate and high school levels. Jess grew up on his family’s farm in upstate New York. After managing the farm for a few summers, Jess moved to Olympia, Washington where he pursued a degree in Forest Ecology from the Evergreen State College. After graduating from Evergreen, Jess served as the college’s first Forest Manager and Restoration Coordinator, helping to balance and restore the diverse academic, recreation, and ecological values of the School’s 1800-acre forest and preserve. During his time in Washington, Jess also supervised a Washington Conservation Corps Crew that worked on trail projects deep in the backcountry of Rainer and Olympic National Parks and the region’s many National Forests.
Jess returned to New England for graduate school. Jess received a master’s degree from the University of Vermont’s School of Natural Resources in 2006. While in graduate school, Jess founded Native Geographic, LLC, an ecological consulting firm specializing in natural resource conservation and sustainable management. After graduate school, Jess began teaching at the University of Vermont, primarily undergraduate and graduate classes in natural resource inventory and analysis. In 2008, Jess left the University of Vermont to teach at the Oliverian School and serve as the Upper Valley Stewardship Center’s ecologist and forester.
In 2010, Jess stepped in as Executive Director of the Upper Valley Stewardship Center. As the Executive Director, Jess manages the day-to-day and long-term operations of the Center and its multi-use lands, provides support to the educational programming of the Oliverian School and Mount Prospect Academy, and continues to function as the resident forester and ecologist.
Jay Wolter, Founder, Upper Valley Stewardship Center:
Raised in rural Connecticut, Jay spent most of his adolescence fishing and exploring the natural habitat in and around the 100 acre campus of Becket Academy, a school founded by his parents in 1964. Highlights of this time include his personal efforts as a ten year old to stock a large pond with bass, perch, catfish, crappies and sunfish he caught in the Connecticut River and surrounding ponds, and then watch the ecosystem grow and evolve, as well as his many excursions to Chapman Pond, a preserve adjacent to the Academy's campus on the Connecticut River that has since been protected by the Nature Conservancy. Jay also participated on numerous hiking and canoe trips, most notably completing the Florida Everglades Wilderness Waterway and a 406 mile "Source to Sound" excursion down the Connecticut River. Throughout his adolescence, Jay had numerous responsibilities on the school farm, including collecting eggs, working in the organic gardens and milking cows. After graduating from Fairfield University with a B.S. in Chemistry, Jay graduated cum laude from the Georgetown University Law Center where he received the American Jurisprudence Award in Land Use & Planning. While in college and law school, Jay spent many summers working as a vocational counselor and trip leader for the former Pike School, helping to construct the campus and develop the programs that have evolved into The Oliverian School, the Becket Family of Services and now the UVSC. In 1993, Jay left the practice of law to assume the role of Executive Director of the Pike School. He changed its name to Becket School and since that time has led the effort that has seen the expansion of a small treatment program into an array of services that includes Becket, The Oliverian School and the UVSC. Jay resides in Hanover, NH with his wife Colleen, and four sons, Shane, Christian, Ryan and Brendan.
Pat Underhill, Agriculture, Mount Prospect Academy:
Pat Underhill was born and raised in Rollinsford, NH where she was active in the 4-H dairy program. While participating in 4-H, Pat became a member of both the State of New Hampshire and University of New Hampshire dairy judging teams. Pat graduated from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH with a B.S. in Home Economics. Upon graduation, she worked in Wisconsin as a 4-H and Youth Agent in Waukesha County for six years. While in Wisconsin, Pat developed an interest in beef cattle and served on the 4-H Animal Science Development Committee for the state. Upon returning to New Hampshire, she continued to work as a 4-H agent. As an agent in Belknap County, Pat met her future husband, Hugh, at a Holstein sale. Pat and Hugh developed an elite herd of Registered Holsteins. Both their cattle and cattle embryos were sold globally. Pat has served as the President for both New Hampshire and Vermont State Holstein Associations. She has also chaired the New England Holstein Breed Development Committee. Pat currently teaches Animal Science and manages the beef herd for the Becket Family of Services. She maintains her passion for good cattle and enjoys painting and playing with her labradoozle, Ozzy, in her spare time.
Hugh Underhill, Agriculture, Becket Family of Services:
Hugh Underhill is a sixth generation farmer whose Upper Valley family roots trace back to the greater Piermont region beginning in the 1790s. He was raised on a 1,000 acre farm in Piermont, NH known for its dairy, strawberry, maple syrup, and forestry produce. Hugh is a graduate of Bradford Academy in Bradford, VT and holds a B.S. in Animal Science from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH. While at UNH, he managed the university's horse barns for three years. Hugh began his post-collegiate life by joining the Peace Corps where he was stationed in Pakistan for two years. During Vietnam, Hugh served in the Marine Corps as the Commanding Officer of "A" Company, 1st Engr. Battalion, 1st Marine Division posted in the Denang region. Hugh returned to the Upper Valley after Vietnam, owning and operating the Dream & Do Farm with his wife, Pat, for 25 years. His farming business spanned from New Hampshire to Vermont. Hugh and Pat currently live on a certified tree farm in Haverhill, NH. Hugh enjoys farming, forestry, and history.
John Doyle, Forestry and Wildlife, Oliverian School:
John grew up in the Hanover area on an old, working farm purchased by his parents in 1960. Working on the farm with his parents and the caretakers, Tom and Etta Goodfellow, instilled with John self-confidence and a love for the outdoors. Raising and caring for livestock and other agriculture endeavors such as gardening, maintaining an apple orchard, cidering, and maple sugaring gave John a meaningful and practical education in mathematics, science, history, language arts, and problem solving. He maintained his connection with his parents’ farm over the next forty years, working with his father on the many projects undertaken on the property, and saw the culmination of their efforts when the farm was awarded the 2004 New Hampshire Tree Farm of the Year.
For the last sixteen years John has taught disadvantaged, disconnected, and struggling teenagers, primarily through his use and vast knowledge of outdoor activity to reach them. His endeavors help them reconnect with their families, society, and their academics through experiential projects such as building log cabins and sugarhouses, maintaining a beef cattle herd, organic gardening, and forestry and wildlife projects.
Currently, John lives in Warren, NH with his wife and daughter on their own small farm. They have organic gardens, chickens, a small orchard, a large woodlot, and a desire to be stewards of the land and contributors to their community.
Jay DesTroismaisons, Gardening and Culinary, Mountain Valley Treatment Center
Jay has been a lifelong organic gardener. Jay is currently the Executive Chef of the Mountain Valley Treatment Center and was responsible for implementing the Farm-to-Table Program which ensures the utmost utilization of the abundance of products that are produced on our farms and in our gardens. Prior to his service at the Oliverian School, Jay worked as the Food Service Coordinator for the Becket Family of Services. Jay firmly believes that eating and producing local foods is advantageous for the community and brings over 30 years of experience serving and coordinating workshops focused on the benefits of enjoying local produce. He has also led workshops on how to attract animals and insects which are beneficial to growing to garden sites. Jay is continually striving to find ways which we can make the process of growing organic foods more easily and with greater sustainability. One example of Jay's method for creating sustainability is by designing gardening tools, most notably his easy-to-build compost tumbler, which is made from local and recycled materials. Jay also brings over 20 years of service in youth and family mediation. He is a National Guild Certified Consulting Hypnotist and serves as the Director of the Center for Enduring Change, a hypnosis practice devoted to fostering positive change in individuals who seek and desire ways to better their personal lives.