WATN: Tom Vogl


The average height of an adult maple tree is 70 feet. As one of the most commonly found trees in North America, the maple towers over humans. However, these trees did not start that large. Just like humans, trees have to mature and grow to get where they are today. For Tom Vogl, 1985 KHS graduate, high school served as that place of growth for him. It was in those halls he established his roots and began embarking on a journey that would eventually lead him to his career today.

“[At KHS] they really expected a lot from you and pushed you to be the very best you could be,” Vogl said. “Whether you were an athlete on the field or someone in student government, the school’s focus on inspiring people to be leaders in any role really made an impact.”

While at KHS, Vogl was one of the initial members of the Beautification Committee, which focused on cleaning up campus and giving students a chance to learn outdoor skills. With the rest of the members, Vogl learned how to properly climb rocks and where in the area to hike. Along with learning skills, the committee planted trees and other plants and learned the values of servant-leadership. Vogl found his passion through the club and wanted to expand his knowledge on the topics.

“[The committee] created a way for people of different walks of life around Kirkwood to come together and take part in cleaning up the campus,” Vogl said. “I learned that people are their best selves when they have these experiences with nature and wilderness.”

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia and Harvard Business School, Vogl moved to the west coast and began working jobs in the marketing field. While working at companies like REI and serving as one of the directors on the National Parks advisory board, Vogl was able to challenge himself by attempting tougher climbs and learning new skills such as skiing. Now a trained outdoorsman, Vogl wanted to help others get involved in nature as well.

“One of the things I love about the outdoors is that it brings people together into a community, who otherwise might not interact a lot,” Vogl said. “I think it is a really positive thing in that regard.”

When a job opportunity opened for a non-profit organization based in Seattle, Washington, called The Mountaineers, Vogl knew he had to apply. The company, which specializes in creating safe ways to get people involved with nature, was similar to the club Vogl was involved in at KHS. With a lot of business experience and a love for the outdoors, Vogl considered himself the perfect candidate for the job and eventually assumed the role of CEO for the company in February of 2016.

“We were confident that Tom’s leadership skills, his experience with both the business and the recreation communities and his personal commitment to conservation and outdoor education make him ideally suited to lead The Mountaineers,” Dan Lauren, Mountaineers Board president in an interview for the Mountaineers website, said.

Today, The Mountaineers focus on providing the Seattle area with education on how to properly interact with the nature around them. They offer free hiking and climbing classes and the non-profit plays a large role in environmental protection. Vogl said he loves his job because it makes it easy for him to wake up every morning and go to work.

“I was really passionate about the work that I was doing,” Vogl said. “A job like this gives me the opportunity to merry up a passion of mine, like climbing and backcountry skiing, with a really cool job.”

Trees never stop growing. They will stop getting taller, but instead they begin to bulk up, expanding in width. In fact, scientists have discovered that trees start to grow faster the older they become. And just like trees, Vogl believes he is growing faster than ever. Although his current job looks to be the highpoint of his career, Vogl looks forward to the future and what The Mountaineers has to offer him.

“There are a number of benefits that can come from getting people to spend time in the outdoors,” Vogl said. “I think people who are able to experience things like camping in the woods or the mountains can be a very restorative experiences.”