2007.09.18: September 18, 2007: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Obituaries: Staff: Mountaineering: Seacoast Online: Obituary for Robert Hicks Bates,first Peace Corps country director in Nepal

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nepal: Peace Corps Nepal : Peace Corps Nepal: New Stories: 2007.09.18: September 18, 2007: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Obituaries: Staff: Mountaineering: Seacoast Online: Obituary for Robert Hicks Bates,first Peace Corps country director in Nepal

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Obituary for Robert Hicks Bates,first Peace Corps country director in Nepal

Obituary for Robert Hicks Bates,first Peace Corps country director in Nepal

Bates served as director of the first group of Peace Corps volunteers. One outcome of this experience was for Bates and his wife to bring a Tibetan refugee from Lhasa to study at the University of New Hampshire, a young woman who became a member of his extended family. After returning to their home in Exeter, Bates continued to welcome countless students, climbers, Peace Corps volunteers and friends from around the world, always imbuing them with a sense of excitement about the possibilities in life and the belief that they could accomplish whatever they set out to do.

Obituary for Robert Hicks Bates,first Peace Corps country director in Nepal


September 18, 2007 6:00 AM

Robert H. Bates

EXETER — Robert Hicks Bates, 96, teacher, author, mountaineer and first Peace Corps director in Nepal, died Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007, in Exeter.

He was born Jan. 14, 1911, in Philadelphia, the son of William N. Bates and Edith N. Richardson.

He attended the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia and was a 1929 graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy. He earned his undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, in 1933 and his master's degree in 1935 from Harvard University. Interrupted by World War II, he earned his Ph.D., degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1947 under the GI Bill. His thesis on the literature of the mountains was published under the title "Mystery, Beauty, and Danger" (2000).

Mr. Bates was an instructor in English at Phillips Exeter Academy from 1939 to 1976.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Gail (Overlin) Bates; two nieces, Edith B. Buchanan of Denver, Colorado and Elizabeth T. Bates of Philadelphia; three great-nieces, two great-nephews, two great-great-nephews and Tsering Yangdon and her son, Nima Taylor.

He was predeceased by one brother, William N. Bates Jr.

WE REMEMBER: Well-known among mountain climbers as climbing partner with Charles Houston on two early expeditions in 1938 and 1953 on K2, the second highest mountain in the world, Bates climbed during the "golden age of mountaineering," a time when few of the world's highest peaks had been reached. Accounts of these climbs were published as "Five Miles High" (1939), edited by Bates, and "K2: The Savage Mountain" (1954), co-authored by Bates and Houston.

Early in his career at Harvard, he made friends in the Harvard Mountaineering Club who became known as the "Harvard Five" — Bradford Washburn, Adams Carter, Charles Houston, Terris Moore and Bates — climbers who dominated American climbing for many years. With Washburn, who became a renowned cartographer and director of the Museum of Science in Boston, Bates explored some of the largest unmapped areas of North America in Alaska and the Yukon territory, making several first ascents between 1932 and 1942. The story of their incredible survival, after walking close to 100 miles across remote crevasse-filled glaciers in the Yukon and summiting both Mount Lucania, then the highest unclimbed peak in North America, and Mount Steele, is told by David Roberts in "Escape from Lucania" (2002).

By the time the United States entered World War II, Bates had had considerable experience with the limitations of the cold-weather clothing, boots and equipment available at the time. He entered the U.S. Army in 1941 and was assigned to the Office of the Quartermaster General as a captain in charge of testing clothing and equipment for use by the Army's mountain troops. He coordinated the successful third ascent of Mount McKinley in 1942 as part of the Army's Alaska Test Expedition, a test of army clothing and equipment conducted jointly with the American Alpine Club. For further testing in combat and for training mountain troops in effective protection in cold weather, Bates was sent to Anzio, Italy, in 1944. His work there resulted in significant decreases in casualties from frostbite and trench foot. He was discharged in 1946 as a lieutenant colonel, having been awarded a Legion of Merit and a Bronze Star.

After the war, Bates returned to teaching at Phillips Exeter, continuing to travel and climb. In 1954, he married Gail Oberlin. Together, during the 1962-1963 academic year, they lived in Kathmandu, Nepal, where Bates served as director of the first group of Peace Corps volunteers. One outcome of this experience was for Bates and his wife to bring a Tibetan refugee from Lhasa to study at the University of New Hampshire, a young woman who became a member of his extended family. After returning to their home in Exeter, Bates continued to welcome countless students, climbers, Peace Corps volunteers and friends from around the world, always imbuing them with a sense of excitement about the possibilities in life and the belief that they could accomplish whatever they set out to do.

Remaining active after his retirement from teaching, Bates, in 1985 at age 74, led with Nicholas Clinch the first joint Chinese-American climbing expedition to Ulugh Muztagh, the so-called "great ice mountain," a previously unclimbed peak in remote south-central China. Bates recounted the experience in his autobiography "The Love of Mountains Is Best" (1994). Besides his mountaineering interests, as a past president of the American Alpine Club and an honorary member of the 10th Mountain Division, Bates was also very involved in civic affairs in the town of Exeter.

The preservation of the Dudley House in its present location in the center of town and the adjacent "Town Common" owe a great deal to his efforts as does the historical integrity of Water Street. He was an active member of the Exeter Historical Society, chairman of the Historic District Commission, and, as a committed outdoorsman, worked with conservation organizations to save the open land surrounding Exeter. Always engaged with other people, Bates was modest about his own accomplishments. He often dismissed admiring comments such as "You've had such an amazing life!" with a smile and the simple reply, "I've had an interesting one."

SERVICES: A memorial service will be held at a future date. Burial will be in Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge.

Memorial donations may be made to the Nature Conservancy and the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire.

Arrangements are by the Brewitt Funeral Home, Exeter. To sign an online guest book, visit www.brewittfuneralhome.com.

Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: September, 2007; Peace Corps Nepal; Directory of Nepal RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Nepal RPCVs; Obituaries; Staff; Mountaineering

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