Seattle University Alumnus, Jim Whittaker, ‘52, became a legend among mountaineers and outdoor enthusiasts when he became the first American to summit Mt. Everest in May of 1963. We are excited to announce Mr. Whittaker as our honoree for this year’s Red Tie Celebration and celebrate the 50th anniversary of his accomplishment.
The Seattle-born Whittaker and his twin brother, Louie, came to Seattle University on basketball scholarships. Although Jim had to leave the team after Coach Al Brightman learned he was spending his off time hiking and skiing, he immersed himself in scholarly pursuits and found great mentors in professors and Jesuits on campus. As he wrote his memoir, “Every class opened a door to a whole new world of ideas.” Jim chose biology as his major, “because I wanted to deepen my understanding of the natural world I loved so much.”
A visionary business and community leader, Jim was the first full-time employee of one of the country’s largest outdoor retailers, Recreational Equipment, Inc. – REI – retiring as its President and CEO after 25 years with the company. Jim is a talented and inspirational public speaker, who has given presentations to hundreds of corporations and organizations for more than four decades. He has led numerous, high-profile climbing expeditions, including the first ascent of Mt. Kennedy (with Senator Robert Kennedy) in the Candia Yukon in 1965, the first American ascent of K2 in 1978, and the spectacularly successful Mt. Everest International Peace Climb in 1990. He is an accomplished blue-water sailor, having twice skippered his own boats on the 2,400-mile Victoria-to-Maui International Yacht Race. He and his wife Dianne Roberts, along with their two sons, made a four-year, 20,000-mile Pacific sailing journey to Australia and back to their home in Port Townsend, Washington, aboard their 54-foot steel ketch, Impossible. Jim is the author of the best-selling, award-winning memoir, A Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond.
Please join us as we celebrate Jim’s incredible achievements and pay tribute to his Seattle U legacy.