PEOPLE

CORE STAFF

JACOB HUNDT — Founder,  Director, & Faculty

Jacob Hundt played a central role in the founding of Thoreau College in 2015 and now serves as Executive Director, as Board Member, as a Faculty member leading courses in literature, philosophy, and sustainable agriculture.  He  grew up on a dairy farm in the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin and was one of the founding students of the Youth Initiative High School. He studied and gathered inspiration for transformation in higher education at Deep Springs College, the American University in Bulgaria, and the University of Chicago Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences, earning a BA in History and an MA in Social Sciences.  Since 2004, he has worked as a trained Waldorf high school teacher and guidance counselor at Youth Initiative High School and was a founding board member and instructor of the Driftless Folk School.  Jacob is passionate about the importance of the liberal arts for our civilization and motivated to create a model that enables students to freely choose a post-secondary education dedicated to the cultivation of thinking, feeling, and willing.

ARWYN WILDINGWAY — Director of Thoreau’s Garden

Arwyn Wildingway teaches gardening and greenhouse management as the director and leading light of the Thoreau’s Garden Greenhouse enterprise . She is a mother and step-mother of five young adults, partner of artist Frank Wildingway, and long-time employee of the Viroqua Food Co-op. Before moving to Viroqua in 2004, she was a carpenter, market gardener, and homeschooler on a central Pennsylvania homestead. Loving all plants, she has started the Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School garden, initiated the building of the attached PRWS greenhouse, and helped PRWS take over running the Growing for Good greenhouse and spring garden center, before transitioning this enterprise to the stewardship of Thoreau College. As a Wisconsin Master Gardener for over 10 years, her passion for sharing plant wisdom has actualized in hundreds of hours of community service. Ask her a plant question, and watch her light up!

DAVE PUIG — Solos and Wilderness Expeditions

Dave Puig has been a wilderness instructor for fourteen years, leading expeditions in the desert, the Arctic, the wondrous Northwoods, and into the minds of authors, social critics, and high school students.  He developed the expedition-based Land Ethics Curriculum at Youth Initiative High School which challenges students to see their own growth in reciprocity with their peers, those they see as different from themselves, and the earth.  He also builds houses and lives on his wife’s family farm where they are embarking on the incredible journey of parenthood!

LIZ FRANKLIN – Driftless Folk School Registrar

Liz Franklin is the Registrar of the Driftless Folk School and has also been a Thoreau College Board member since 2017.  Liz and her family moved to Viroqua in 1993. Since that time she has served on the Board of Trustees and the Development staff at Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School, and as Development Officer and Administrator at the Youth Initiative High School. She was a founding Board member of the Viroqua Food Co-op, and currently serves on the board of the Threshold Care Circle. Liz sees the impulse behind Thoreau College as a profoundly practical response to the deep and urgent questions of the rising generation.

SARAH MERCER — Thoreau’s Garden Manager

Sarah Mercer is the day-to-day manager of Thoreau’s Garden and teaches gardening and greenhouse management to the students of Thoreau College. Sarah grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia bordering the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains. She was home-schooled, spending much of her time traveling, and when she was home, she was completely fascinated by nature, gardens and houseplants. Sarah became a junior Master Gardener as a child as well as a member of the American Iris Society, where her love of flowers and ornamentals bloomed. Sarah came to the Driftless area in the fall of 2019 to join the inaugural class of Thoreau College. In 2020 she began her Thoreau College internship working under Arwyn Wildingway as her mentor. In 2021, Sarah and Arwyn brought Thoreau’s Garden into being, and their dynamic partnership has been instrumental to the success of the business.