Impact Giving | Celebrating the Memory of Barbara J. Allan (1927-2021)

In this feature from Mountaineer magazine, learn about the incredible contributions Mountaineers member Barbara J. Allan made to our community, and how we are honoring her legacy by using her bequest to support our conservation and advocacy education programs.
Bri Vanderlinden Bri Vanderlinden
Deputy Director, Development and Strategic Engagement
September 27, 2022
Impact Giving | Celebrating the Memory of Barbara J. Allan (1927-2021)
All lead images of Barbara J. Allen, courtesy of Barb (Moser) Marshall.

In the summer of 2021, I received a phone call from lifetime Mountaineer MaryJane Steele delivering the difficult news that Barbara Jean Allan had recently passed away. A biochemist and researcher at the University of Washington, Barbara was a passionate outdoorswoman and environmental advocate. The lifetime she spent in the mountains inspired her to give back in many ways, and for her, that included protecting the legacy of outdoor education by planning for a bequest to benefit The Mountaineers.

Barbara had a keen interest in the outdoors and natural history, spending most of her summers at Mount Rainier. Early in her research career, she spent several summers researching and cataloging alpine meadows and flowers. She loved to talk about the mountains, wildflowers, and trails with her family and friends. She loved everything about the Pacific Northwest.

While Barbara could boast 58 years of Mountaineers membership, she also carried with her the legacy of her parents, Jim and Helen Allan, who joined over 100 years ago. MaryJane proclaimed, “I always thought Barbara had bragging rights!” And that she did.

As her extended family members, Allan, Barb, and Terry, tell the story, Barbara’s connection to the outdoors was a way of life. Every time they would visit the Pacific Northwest, she would take the whole crew to Mount Rainier. As I spent time with the family getting to know more of her story, they fondly reminisced about their Aunt Barb’s endless tales of outdoor adventures and how her passion rippled into their own lives.


Discovering Barbara’s legacy

In my role on staff, I have the great privilege of helping to connect Mountaineers supporters with our mission in ways that honor their values and experiences. However, sometimes we receive transformational gifts like Barbara’s without prior notice and it can be challenging to find the right match. While I had the benefit of visiting with Barbara at our 50-year member luncheons, I was taken by surprise to learn that she had planned to pass on her love of the outdoors by leaving a gift to The Mountaineers in her estate. Receiving the notification of Barbara’s bequest kicked off a journey to discover the perfect alignment between her personal values and the opportunities in need of funding at The Mountaineers.

Fortunately, family members Allan and Barb were traveling to Seattle frequently to manage the family home in Ravenna. One morning I visited to learn more about Barbara’s joy- filled life, how she cherished the camaraderie of her fellow Mountaineers, and her passion to inspire life-long connections with the outdoors.

Allan called special attention to Barbara’s devotion to protecting and restoring natural areas, and helping people to learn through the same type of conservation education she had with The Mountaineers. A light bulb went off. It seemed serendipitous that the size of her gift perfectly matched our two-year funding need to expand our Conservation and Advocacy Program.

When I proposed to the family that Barbara's gift could help fund the much-needed additional capacity for this program, they agreed it was in perfect alignment with the legacy Barbara hoped to leave.


Impact multiplied over generations

Barbara loved the outdoors, and not just the mountains. She loved the ocean, lakes, waterways, plants, and wildlife – the entire ecosystem. She had a keen awareness of the impact our adventures have on the environment and knew the importance of fostering a deep connection with the natural world in others so they, too, would be inspired to protect it.

For over a century, The Mountaineers has served as a gathering place for people like Barbara who are called by the freedom of hills. Early members, like Barbara’s parents Jim and Helen, recognized the importance of outdoor education and protecting the natural world and the outdoor experience. They passed this value on to Barbara, who passed it on to her extended family and made a plan to pass it on to Mountaineers members today through her bequest.

Barbara’s bequest will make a meaningful impact in protecting our planet and outdoor recreation. In the fall of 2021, we used a new grant and individual donations to hire an Advocacy & Engagement Manager, Conor Marshall. Together, Conor and Conservation & Advocacy Director Betsy Robblee have already accomplished a tremendous amount of work to enhance the quality and volume of our education, as well as build partnerships and strengthen our collaboration with other advocacy-minded groups in our community. Simply put: our added staff capacity increases advocacy.

At the heart of our Mountaineers education programs is the determination to protect our public lands and the outdoor experiences they provide. Without conserved lands and waters, climate-resilient landscapes, and recreational access to these places, our organization and the opportunities we provide would cease to exist.

Just within the last year, our Conservation & Advocacy team has succeeded in integrating public lands education into our year-round youth programs, produced three blogs of a six- blog conservation series to educate our membership, and helped The Mountaineers to take on additional leadership roles in the advocacy community. This included launching a re-energized Outdoor Alliance Washington network, an advocacy group of human-powered outdoor recreation organizations in Washington State.

Support like Barbara’s is what fuels our ability to create these kinds of incredible changes in our community and beyond. The relatively small investment of one to two years of staff time can produce huge dividends for generations to come, influencing thousands of members and youth with foundational educational resources and programming. Though she may not have realized it as she carefully catalogued alpine flowers or brought loved ones to Rainier, the passion and vigor that Barbara brought into the world extended far beyond the limitations of one lifetime. Her love of the outdoors, and how she chose to memorialize it, will ripple across our community for years. Thank you Barbara, and thank you to the many donors who have chosen to invest in the outdoors. You have made a difference


The outdoor recreation community has tremendous potential to advance the conservation movement, and The Mountaineers will continue to serve as a leader in outdoor advocacy through the legacy of Barbara Allan and others who support this important work.

If you have planned for a legacy gift, or are thinking about ways you’d like to make a meaningful difference with a gift to support The Mountaineers, I hope you’ll consider reaching out for a conversation. It is our sincere intention to match your funds with the area of need that most closely aligns with your passions and values, and one of the best ways to accomplish this is to share what is important to you so that we can document your wishes. To connect, please reach out to or call 206-521-6006.

The Mountaineers® is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located at 7700 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98107. Our staff located in Seattle work to support our seven branches (Bellingham, Everett, Foothills, Kitsap, Olympia, Seattle, and Tacoma), three lodges (Baker, Meany, and Stevens), and our Kitsap Forest Theater. Tax ID: 27-3009280.

All images of Barbara J. Allen, courtesy of Barb (Moser) Marshall. 

This article originally appeared in our fall 2022 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our  magazine archive

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