DRC Brown, Jody Cardamone, Tom Cardamone, & Elizabeth Paepcke
DRC Brown, Jody Cardamone, Tom Cardamone, & Elizabeth Paepcke. c1984
DRC Brown and grandson at Hallam Lake
DRC Brown and grandson Simi Hamilton at Hallam Lake. c1992
Stuart Mace leads a school group on a field trip to Hallam Lake
Stuart Mace leads a school group on a field trip to Hallam Lake. c1976
Founding trustee Bob Lewis hiking Conundrum Creek
Founding trustee Bob Lewis hiking Conundrum Creek. c2005


Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) was founded by Elizabeth Paepcke (pictured below) in 1968. Elizabeth and her husband Walter had come to Aspen from Chicago after World War II. The Paepcke family also established the music festival and school, the Aspen Institute, the design conference, and the skiing company.

In 1969 Elizabeth Paepcke donated her 22-acre property in the West End of Aspen for the development of an environmental center and preserve. She was motivated by the “Aspen Idea” of harmony between mind, body, and spirit, and envisioned a place that would provide a bridge to nature for an increasingly urbanized society and to provide a sanctuary for wildlife in the heart of Aspen. Additionally, she had been influenced as a child by her experiences with Enos Mills, the father of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Elizabeth Paepcke was joined in her efforts by a number of founding trustees, notably science teacher Bob Lewis and botanist Stuart Mace. They hoped their center would provide programs in ecology and the natural sciences for everyone from school children to leaders and decision-makers.

Tom Cardamone, Elizabeth Paepcke, and Jody Cardamone.   c1981                                                   Elizabeth Paepcke, ACES' founder.   c1974

In 1975 Jody and Tom Cardamone came to live at Hallam Lake. Jody was ACES first director, and then later Tom and Jody become co-directors and over their first fifteen years developed an education program in partnership with local schools and the Naturalist Field School. In 1990 Jody stepped into her preferred role as head naturalist, and Tom stayed on as director.

For the next few decades Tom lead the organization through steady growth, including four primary sites: Hallam Lake, Rock Bottom Ranch, The Catto Center at Toklat, and Spring Creek. In the summer of 2012, Tom transitioned into the role of President and Chief Ecologist, and gave the helm to Chris R. Lane, our Chief Executive Officer.