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  • Olive Galager

Kip & Phyllis Ault: Seize the Day


By Olive Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Ever wonder why some folks never seem to have enough time to get anything done, while others seem to pack three lifetimes of accomplishments into one?

Take Kip & Phyllis Ault of Lake Oswego, seasoned educators and outdoor adventurers. Kip grew up in East Cleveland while Phyllis was raised in New York and Wisconsin. They met as teachers at The Colorado Springs School. At the end of the school year, they set off to hike one hundred miles along the Continental Divide. The following year, their colleagues kept trying to fix them up with each other, not knowing they were secretly dating and shopping for wedding rings!

They married in 1975 while team teaching at the school. Their educational journey took them east to Cornell University where Kip’s studies in paleontology and geology led to his PhD in Science Education followed by an appointment at Indiana University, Bloomington where Phyllis earned a Masters in Educational Technology.

A serendipitous opening at Lewis & Clark College — and the promise of outdoor adventures- beckoned them westward. The couple humorously recounted their holiday season move. “There we were in our little red Chevy wagon with a toddler, a first grader, a Christmas tree, and a dog (of course). With each stop along the way — and there were many — one of us came down with the flu!”

The family settled into a new life in Lake Oswego as Kip developed the Lewis & Clark MAT degree program for science teachers. Phyllis juggled child-rearing and part-time work, managing to squeeze in an EdD in Educational Leadership from the College.

Phyllis and Kip are devoted to three grown children and three grandchildren. Daughter Kori works as the Outdoor Programs Manager at Lewis & Clark. In summers, she runs her own backpacking adventure business ( Son Logan is pursuing a credential in radiography at PCC while busy with woodworking projects. Their eldest, Toby, a climate scientist at Cornell University ( studies drought conditions in the Southwest and California.

For decades, Phyllis led educational research projects at Education Northwest, with a special commitment to supporting tribal educators. Kip enhanced the Science MAT with field courses in Oregon geology, Columbia River ecology, and Costa Rican biodiversity. A year in Costa Rica (1993-94) started everyone in the family on the road to fluency in Spanish. Retirement opened doors for Kip to teach about learning science to students at Beijing Normal University and complete three non-fiction books aimed at inspiring science teachers: two critique the history of reform in science education and the third (“Do Elephants Have Knees?”) recounts stories told in fossils of whale, elephant, and bird origins (

Today, the couple’s adventures and contributions continue. At the cusp of 60, they were rafting the Grand Canyon and at 70, they were cross-country skiing in Yellowstone. When not kayaking or practicing marimba or hammered dulcimer, they tutor recent immigrants and refugees in English at Tigard United Methodist Church (

You can do it, too.

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