Alumni Spotlight: Meet Mike Stanley


Outward Bound did not come into Mike Stanley’s life as a 14-year-old middle school student or during a gap year in college. Mike found Outward Bound, and ultimately himself, as a 54-year-old.  

It was 1987 and Mike knew he needed and wanted more. As a 29-year Wall Street veteran, Mike was leading a life commuting for an hour and a half to and from New York City every day. His weekends were his escape when he and his family would spend them whitewater canoeing, sailing, or skiing.  

By 1988 he knew he needed a change. He enrolled on a cross-country skiing and dog sledding Outward Bound course in January in Minnesota. Through the negative 40-degree temperatures and the physical challenge of plunging into an ice hole in frigid temperatures, Mike’s experience proved life-changing. 

At the end of his course, Mike applied to three Outward Bound Schools to be an instructor; Tino O’Brien, Hurricane Island’s Program Director, hired Mike as an assistant instructor at the age of 55. 

“They say that Instructors change – and save – a lot of lives at Outward Bound, but the life I saved, was my own. It’s all I ever wanted to do.”  

Mike quickly rose to be a lead Instructor and served in that role for 18 years until the age of 74.  

When asked about how Outward Bound shaped his life in his 50s: “I was Outward Bound all my life, I just didn’t know it. I was so hooked on it that I went home to New Jersey and started the New Jersey Leadership Corps in 2003.”  

Because of Mike and his passion for Outward Bound, he has changed over 450 students through the New Jersey Leadership Corp that runs through the Philadelphia Outward Bound School. 

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