This week is special with Friday, August 14 marking the official anniversary date for NRPA's 50th! Leading up to Friday, we will be taking a look back at some of the professionals who helped shape NRPA and move the organization forward. Our first interview is with R. Dean Tice, NRPA's most-traveled executive director.
R. Dean Tice, like his colleague Robert Toalson, also began his professional life in the military, first serving 40 years and retiring as a Lieutenant General in the U.S. Army, and later serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for personnel policy and force management, directing policy for all Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs. In 1986, he took the helm of NRPA’s Board of Directors and made the most of his position, visiting all 50 states to promote the benefits of parks and recreation. Here, find an abbreviated version of our discussion with Tice — for the full interview, check out Parks & Recreation magazine.
Parks and Recreation magazine (P&R): Tell us about one of the most memorable moments of your career related to NRPA.
R. Dean Tice: Our NRPA Congress in Phoenix in 2000 was the first time we got all the old-timers together to reflect back on where we’ve come. The achievements of the national organization are great, especially in fulfilling its mission of trying to bring recreation and park opportunities to all people in the country. There’s no other organization that really promotes having fun, staying healthy and caring about one another like the National Recreation and Park Association.
P&R: What do you feel is the most impactful change that’s taken place in the parks and recreation field during the past 50 years?
Tice: I’d say the biggest change occurred after WWII when everybody was coming home and the country was getting back on its feet. During the war years, the country’s focus was on fighting and winning the war, and suddenly, the war ended and people began to take a look at what we could do to better the lives of the people who live here. Parks and recreation played and awfully big part in forming the kind of communities that we all look to today as wholesome places to live.
Also, don’t forget the idea of bringing the citizen and professional together. That’s really what makes NRPA unique — what we’re trying to accomplish, we do through people. People sometimes ask me what kind of business is NRPA in, and I say “we’re in the people business,” and don’t ever lose sight of that because if you do, you’ll soon be like the dinosaur: you’ll disappear from the Earth.
P&R: What would you like to see from NRPA in the next 50 years?
Tice: I don’t want them to get sidetracked on a single purpose. What a great opportunity to have the collective wisdom of all the communities around the country — small and big. I would like to see them continue on that path.
I get high on NRPA. It has a vital role to play in the future of our nation, the culture and the people, because we have that mission of trying to make people healthier, feel better about themselves and also have fun. Don’t forget fun.
Sonia Myrick is NRPA's Managing Editor of Parks & Recreation magazine.