Join us in Wishing Tim Ellis a Happy Birthday!

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From 1970 through 1991, Chewonki experienced a profound transformation. The man who steered these monumental changes was Chewonki’s first president, Harwood “Tim” Ellis, Jr.


Tim, still active in his role as an honorary trustee and a close Chewonki neighbor, turns 86 on October 1. To celebrate, we’re looking back at his many contributions to Chewonki and invite you to share your photos, memories, and birthday wishes as well. 


Thank you, and happy birthday, Tim! 🎂

Tim Ellis Stories

Join us in Wishing Tim Ellis a Happy Birthday!

From 1970 through 1991, Chewonki experienced a profound transformation, and in honor of his 86th birthday on October 1, we are honoring the man who steered these monumental changes: Chewonki’s First President, Harwood “Tim” Ellis Jr., by publishing guest-written blogs about Tim over the next few weeks.

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He Ignited a New Chewonki Era

Tim Ellis’ lifelong connection to Chewonki began in 1937. He arrived in a bassinet when his father, Harwood “Hardy” Ellis, Assistant Head at the Rivers School, was recruited by Chewonki founder Clarence Allen as head counselor. Tim spent every childhood summer at Chewonki, eventually becoming a counselor. After college, he ventured abroad and met his wife, Margaret Ellis, while teaching in Switzerland in the early 1960s.

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Tim Ellis' Chewonki Timeline

Early 1960's
October 1, 2023

Tim arrives at Chewonki as a baby when his father, Harwood "Hardy" Ellis joins our staff as head counselor.

Tim spends his childhood summers at Chewonki.

Tim becomes an official Chewonki Camper.

Tim joins our staff as a Camp Counselor.

Tim gets a degree in education, travels, and meets wife, Margaret, while teaching in Switzerland.

Chewonki becomes a nonprofit.

Tim returns to Chewonki as Boys Camp Director.

Tim successfully petitions Chewonki's trustees to hire him as the first year-round President and expand programming into the shoulder seasons.

First Environmental Education (EE) Program is offered. EE eventually evolves into Outdoor Classroom.

Chewonki expands summer Wilderness Expedition offerings.

Maine Reach begins, a year-long program for recent high school graduates.

Chewonki offers it's first coed Wilderness Expeditions.

Chewonki offers its first Boatbuilders Expedition.

Chewonki builds Wallace Dining Hall and Allen Center, and renovates the Farmhouse.

Chewonki starts Traveling Natural History Program.

Maine Reach concludes.

First group of Maine Coast Semester students arrive on campus.

Tim retires, handing off Chewonki presidency to Don Hudson.

Tim joins our board of trustees.

Tim continues serving Chewonki as an honorary trustee.

Tim's 86th Birthday

Birthday Messages (Thank you!):

Happy 86th birthday Tim! My son (Louie), daughter (Karina), and myself are all profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have experienced the joy and wonders of Chewonki. My kids will be forever grateful for the memorable, lasting, and life-changing experiences that they’ve had while being part of Semesters 58 & 61, respectively. Truly, we owe it to people like you who have devoted your time, talent, and vision to making Chewonki the awesome place it is today! God bless you always!


– Cheryl M., Semester Parent 58 and 61

I remember the first Summer I was with my parents, dropping my brothers off at Chewonki.

At the very moment that I began wishing so desperately to go to camp there. Tim was standing in front of the barn, welcoming families and campers while children flew through the air on the rope swing from the shadows of the barn into the blazing midday sun. There was not a hint of scolding. All around Tim, there was an energy of his confidence in others to be successful at doing something they may have never done before, whether they were campers or counselors or any of the other valued and important staff.

I knew right then that I wanted to be part of THIS community. As the only girl in the family, I got back in the car, and we drove to another camp for girls. Luckily, river and ocean canoe trips gave me a chance to camp at Chewonki and also prepared me for Wilderness Trips once I was old enough.

In my late teens, I joined Lynn and Greg Shute on Mistassini and the following year on the first George River trip …. and at last, my childhood dreams were made! I got to be a camper doing something just out of my reach, and I was given that same assurance that I could really do it!


To not be worried about was (and probably still is) such a powerful gift that Chewonki and Tim Ellis offered us all.

Thank you for believing in us so that we could soar to new heights!

– Sarah I-L, Mistassini ’90, George River ’91

Happy birthday, Tim! Thank you for your creativity, inspiration, enthusiasm, commitment, and guidance to some many young people for so many years. I am happy to be a small part of the large group that helps sustain your work for years and years to come.

– Roseanne Saalfield, Current Trustee and Camp Parent ’97, ’01-’05

Greetings and HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Also, congratulations on a long, storied, and magnificent career at Chewonki. The two most memorable things I recall, oddly enough, when I was a camper were: 1) the trip to Matinicus Rock and banding the petrels with Stricky Wheelock. The ride down the lifeboat ramp and just the ambiance of the island more or less cemented my turning to the sea. Yes, I climbed mountains at Chewonki and even afterward, but I’ve spent 75 years (!!!) sailing and logged thousands of miles. Too much salt water in my veins. 2) the other was stories I heard from Algy (my Dad) and Skipper Allen. So much history has been lost, but the story of the teacher and student canoeing miles through the Northeast Kingdom, the nether regions of northern Maine, and Lake Champlain searching for a suitable venue for a boys camp was riveting. Of all things, a timber rattler propelled Split Rock Camp to Wiscasset. Few knew that Algy wanted to have it at Five Islands, but Skipper said it was too rough and windy. Hence, the Neck. Another tidbit: I am good friends with a Bowdoin fraternity brother of yours and his two sons: Dr. Henry Pollock, Doug, and Brendan. Great guy and remembers you fondly. I recall you and Lance Lee were part of what my Uncle Henry “Grubby” Douglass (of Kimball Union and South Freeport) called the “miracle class” at Bowdoin. Still, ANOTHER tidbit! In 1952 or so, my family visited Split Rock and thence went north to Quebec. Along the way, we explored Ausable Cavern and, at a little farmhouse just south of Valcour Island, we saw these massive scarfed timbers under a shed. Turns out they were remnants of one of Benedict Arnold’s “gundolas” from the Battle of Valcour Island, the event which essentially saved the Revolution. Having seen the “Philadelphia” in The Museum of Natural History (I think) in Washington, DC, there can be no mistaking the fact that the farmer had salvaged the real thing. My (much) later career as Bob Ballard’s historian and archaeologist led us to use side-scan sonar in a search for the missing “Thirteenth Gunboat.” We did not find it, but Art Cohn of the Vermont Maritime Museum (right across from Split Rock!) did. Turns out (via my brilliant niece’s research) the Douglasses were remotely related to the Arnolds! No problem with me, Arnold was America’s greatest general and the true American Alcibiades! I always wanted to give a presentation on the above to interested campers. Maybe some day soon. Anyway, keep smilin’ and have many more happy years,.


– Freddie  D, Camper ’57-58, Camp Staff ’58

Happy Birthday, Tim!
– Pascal S., Camp Family ’97-’06

Happy Birthday, Tim! I’ll never forget coming home to find a letter from Chewonki (you) opened and taped shut. I’d written to summer camps all over the country looking for a summer job and had met you at an alumni gathering in St Louis. My heart was so set on Chewonki that my Mom, who didn’t usually snoop, couldn’t wait to know my joy or disappointment. Joy it was and the Chewonki you shaped became a huge part of my life. Now and most days you’ll find me with a Chewonki cap on. Two days ago at an annual tomato tasting at Hidden Villa I met their camp director because he mentioned that he knows Chewonki as the runaway leader in outdoor education. Hidden Villa’s new executive director also attended leadership programs at Chewonki. You have been a major influence in my life and so many others’ lives. Thank you!
– Paul D., Maine Reach 1, Camp Staff ’72-’74, ’77-’78, Chewonki Advisor ’93-’05

Sending warmest wishes and love to you for your birthday! Happy memories going so far back! And thanks for all you’ve done for our children! See you next summer!
– Ted and Mary Gene M., Camp Family ’78-Present

I have worked with CEOs of Fortune 50 companies, self-made billionaires, and best selling authors, and none hold a candle to the towering presence of Tim Ellis.
– Clark A., Boys Camp ’77-’80, Camp Staff ’85-’89

Happy Birthday, Tim. The memories of our group week in Baxter State Park and climbing Katahdin, probably 65 years ago, remain vivid and a life high light. Thanks for those memories and many others.
– Howard C., Boys Camp ’56-’57

Wishing you the Happiest of Birthdays, Tim! 🎉 
– Nancy M, Semester 4 Parent, Semester 70 Grandparent

How lucky am I that I get to call this man Dad? Happy Birthday, and thank you for teaching me the importance of wild places, community, adventure, and family. You are a man of the highest integrity and vision, whose banjo strums have punctuated and given rhythm to every stage of my life. Love you XOXO
– Jenny E, TWT ’83, Mistassini ’84, Camp Staff ’89-’90, Camp Family’13-’15, ’19, ’21

Above, submitted by Jenny E, “Slovenia, 2016”

Dear Tim, Happy Birthday!
I’ll never forget our phone conversation when I was a TWT tripper in 1978. TWT-C had just finished canoeing down the St John to the Allagash. I had been terribly homesick and the weather and bugs had been miserable. I wanted to go home. Mike Heath put a call through to you and you convinced me to keep going, which I reluctantly agreed to do. . . 
As I continued on the trip, the days poling up the Allagash turned me from a homesick girl into a confident one who could do anything she set her mind to, such as poling and portaging a canoe on the Mud Pond Carry (though I didn’t dump a wannigan until a later trip!) Thank you for encouraging me to stay on TWT-C 1978. That trip was formative to who I am today. I hope you and your family are well and loving life. Best wishes to you all.

– Hilary H, TWT ’78, Camp Staff ’83-’85, Camp Family ’04-’08

Dev and I finally made it up here to Maine last November. We’re in Bucksport. Happiest birthday to you, Tim. We hope this day is a great one for you and expect a whole multigenerational wave of good wishes and positive stories that will reinforce how your work and person shaped and continue to shape so many lives for the better.
– Tom M, Camp Staff ’70-’75; Camp Family ’88-’91, ’95-’96

Love you so much, Tim! Wishing you a very happy birthday and a healthy, peaceful year ahead! More well wishes and stories to follow…
– Kate Z., Camp Staff ’94-’03, ’16, Outdoor Classroom Staff ’94-’96, Adjunct Staff ’19, ’22-’23

Hi Tim, happy birthday, and thank you for your passion and vision.
– Tom B, Boys Camp ’80-’81, Semester 1

Tim – Thank you for your leadership, curiosity, desire, and vision to effect positive change in people on the ‘Neck’ and the world. Your heartfelt actions will continue to ripple through time. Wishing you a wonderful birthday! Sending love and appreciation.
– Carol G., Maine Reach Staff ’75-’77, Camp Staff ’80, Camp Family ’94-’99, ’02

Happy birthday, Tim! As an MCS X alum, my semester at Chewonki Neck will always be a treasured time for me. Best wishes.
 – Emily R., Semester 10, Camp Staff ’95

Happy birthday, Tim! As an MCS X alum, my semester at Chewonki Neck will always be a treasured time for me. Best wishes.
 – Emily R., Semester 10, Camp Staff ’95

Happy, Happy Birthday, Tim! I hope you are having a lovely day and celebration. Wish I could hear you singing “Peggy Gordon” right now! Love, Amy 
– Amy R, Allagash ’85, English Faculty Semesters 1-37

From several of the early years, Happy Birthday, Tim
 – Richard F., Boys Camp ’55-’59, Camp Staff ’52, ’55-’56, Camp Family ’81

Dear Tim, Margaret and you shared many small and large acts of kindness with my family during my camper and staff years, but I will use this opportunity to comment on a lesson you taught me that I attempt to share often, which is the importance of “vision” in both personal development and the success of a group or team. When I talk with students about their futures, your experience with Chewonki is often at the top of my mind. Among a few others, you taught me the importance of being passionate about not just a goal, but a set of goals that motivate you for months and years. Along with that comes a tolerance for failure, particularly “good failure,” from which we draw lessons while accomplishing something, even if it is not obviously permanent or falls short of our original goal. I think of Chewonki programs, short and long-term, that may no longer be with us but have impacted many lives and built things (sometimes physical things!).

Thank you for all you have done for Chewonki and a few generations of educators, including our family.

– Paul C., Boys Camp ’77-’78, TWT Trip ’80, Camp Staff ’81-’84, Chewonki Advisor ’00-Present

Above: Photo submitted by Paul C.: An out-of-focus picture of Outhaul on Baxter Peak in July 1977. Rupert Wood is in the back row on the left. The exact date of the photo could probably be established because the 1977 Abol Fire on the south side of the mountain started that evening, and we had to hike down from Chimney Pond to Roaring Brook in the dark. 

From several of the early years, Happy Birthday, Tim
 – Richard F., Boys Camp ’55-’59, Camp Staff ’52, ’55-’56, Camp Family ’81

Tim, I wouldn’t even know where to start. So many good memories – being consistently beaten by you at raquetball, stealing bits of Dick Thomas’s desserts while on recruiting trips, the famous banjo song disaster at Talent Show, the many talks about the Maine Coast Semester, the singing and playing, and all the learning. You and Margaret were surrogates once my Dad died. I could never thank you enough. Most of my photos of you are either slides or stills packed away somewhere in the basement, but I did find one of us playing together at Campfire. And I found another from my very first Fall at the Wonk. Happy Birthday. 
– Scott Andrews, Most Notably Founding Head of Maine Coast Semester

Above, submitted by Scott Andrews. First photo “Scott, Tim, and Clyde playing a song at Campfire.” Second photo “Fall 1978 Staff (such a small group!):

Dear Tim, I wish you a great birthday today and the very best wishes to you and the family. I hope to visit soon. I manage a property in Dublin, NH, so not too far away. Take care! 
– Phil G., Camp Staff ’73-’76

I want to say a happy birthday! I want to personally thank you and your colleagues for making my experience at the Chewonki Foundation one of many great memories. . . it seems like yesterday when I was. It’s remarkable how quickly time goes by and how much I retained from what I learned there. So once again, happy birthday, and wish your loved ones to make it a day you’ll never forget.
– Robert L., Maine Reach 10

Happy Birthday, Tim! Thank you for all that you have done for so many years for Chewonki, and for the wonderful memories of so many years ago of the incredible summers our sons spent with you in Wiscasset. The only thing that surprised us more than the size of the zucchini that he brought home at the end of the summer with his name carefully carved into it was the joy with which Lauren shared every detail of his time with Margaret, working in the garden. And then there was the thrill of the summer that Chris spent on the Umbagog Whitewater Kayaking trip. Here’s wishing you a very happy birthday, Tim, and many more to come.
– Lauren and Sue P., Camp Family ’79, ’80, ’87

Tim, Happy Birthday!

You entered my life in the late 1960’s as my high school Algebra 1 and Geometry teacher. While I aced your courses, you refused to give me a grade higher than a 99 on any assignment. Your argument, “No one can ever know 100% of the material”. Following my Chewonki interview in your Volkswagen bus (my junior year at Hyde… in the school’s parking lot), I came aboard in the summer of 1971 as a junior counselor in Fenway. That began the first of two wonderful tours of duty at Chewonki that carried me through to 1985.

I’ve had four significant people in my life that have served as mentors. One was you. Your commitment to youth helped inspire me into the field of education, where I spent my entire career. You taught me the importance of being entrepreneurial in one’s life calling… you, at the time, were taking risks and growing Chewonki beyond its original summer camp mission. You taught me the importance of maintaining a contagious enthusiasm for life, even during difficult times. Watching you sing and pluck the banjo at campfire circles helped inspire some musical interest on my part… although I stuck with the harmonica so I wouldn’t have to showcase my uninspiring singing voice. You inspired a sense of wilderness adventure in me, having canoed the Allagash a couple of times with you and Margaret. As a leader, you taught me the importance of hiring quality people and not micromanaging them. When I directed Chewonki’s environmental education programs, I felt your trusting support of my efforts and never felt any control of my decision-making on your part. You allowed me to learn from my own mistakes. You also set a clear vision for your team at Chewonki that inspired me to maintain high standards. You taught me to always leave it better than the way I found it.

 I hope your birthday brings you great joy. Thank you for everything you did to help me grow personally and professionally. I consider myself very lucky to have your friendship.

– Ken G., Camp Staff ’71-’78; Environmental Education Dir., ’76-’77, Assistant Dir. of Boys Camp ’84-’85, Chewonki Advisor and Trustee ’81-08

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TIM! This is Sue Armstrong, your faithful secretary way back in the 1970s. And used to be neighbor on Montsweag Road. I think about you all the time and
sometimes in my dreams. My whole life I have admired your vision for humanity and
the Earth and will hold you and Margaret in my heart forever. We are grateful for all
your contributions, efforts, and the brilliance that you were able to focus on Chewonki;
Which is such an important place to exist in these changing times. LOVE, Suzanne

– Suzanne A, Camp Staff ’73-’74

Dear Tim,

Happy B’Day! I was a camper in Boulder when you were the Sr. Counselor, and Cotty Saltonstall was the Jr. Counselor…. it was 1955 (I think!). That was the first of three summers I spent at Chewonki, and the good memories and connections have followed me everywhere. Thanks to Chewonki, I learned to appreciate Gilbert & Sullivan and the life enhancing value of a hot shower, along with a love of the outdoors and all things in it.

At one point in my life, I had put those memories away until the day I went inside the main classroom building at Rivers School when one of my daughters was there for a soccer game. Who did I see on the wall in full color but Clarence Allen! The memories came rushing back – I was in awe of him and loved his wife… she felt like a summertime Mother to me. I remember your Dad was the real “boss,” and I was always astonished by his skills, patience, and knowledge. I learned to listen well and follow his guidance.

One thing I’ve never forgotten is Mr. Allen’s talk about being a standout. You may recall that he used a large glass jar of white beans with a red ping pong ball inside to illustrate the moral of the story. The basic story was that if a person is really good at something (or, the flip side, really bad ! ), that person will rise to the top of the crowd and be a standout just as the red ping pong ball does when you shake the jar full of beans. And when you turn the jar over and shake it again, the red ball rises to the top once more. So goes the miraculous circle of life as a member of society and humankind!

I am happy to say I have seen that my old counselor has definitely risen to the top countless times as an outstanding star in service to Chewonki, its mission, and 1000’s of campers. Your Mom and Dad and the Allens would be proud of you! As an ex-camper who has followed your career for many years, I can say that. Congratulations!!

We moved recently, and in going through lots of boxes of old stuff, I found Mr. Allen’s Letter to the camp parents from August 1957. I was astounded by its folksy charm and literacy, which took me back to Chewonki Neck. I’ve attached a copy of it as my present to you!

Best wishes,
Tom “Tommy” M, the Red-headed Camper

– Tom M, Boys Camp ’57-’90 a

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