Tony Mobley: The Youngest NRPA President

By Sonia Myrick | Posted on August 12, 2015

Tony-Mobley350This 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 second interview is with Tony Mobley, the youngest NRPA president.

Tony A. Mobley’s educational and professional accomplishments inspire admiration. After graduating in 1960 from Georgetown College in Kentucky, Mobley completed his master’s degree in recreation and park administration just two years later. By 1963, Mobley obtained his doctoral degree and soon after began a career in academia at Western Illinois University in Macomb in 1965. In the ensuing years, Mobley earned many awards and accolades and served as NRPA’s youngest president. Below, find a truncated interview with Mobley — check out Parks & Recreation magazine for the full interview.

Parks & Recreation magazine: What is the greatest accomplishment of your career?

Tony Mobley: To see so many of the students that I’ve worked with go on to do so well in the field and all of their accomplishments, I think, are probably the greatest highlight of my career. To be able to see how well they’ve done and to follow their careers is probably one of the most rewarding things. And, then of course, being president of NRPA was quite an honor. 

P&R: What is the most important issue facing the field today?

Mobley: The economic situation at the end of 2007 and then the move toward everybody wanting to pay fewer taxes and cutting back the funding for public parks and recreation. That’s forced agencies to do more with fees and charges, which then begins to exclude some of the very people that the field started with in terms of the settlement houses and San Gardens in Boston and in other major cities around the country. The other thing is that when we look at the whole field, and NRPA has done this in a way, and I can’t say it’s the wrong thing to do, but it’s gone exclusively toward public parks and recreation. But, when you look at recreation in its broadest sense, you’re talking about the entertainment industry, you’re talking about all the different things people do for recreation that are not done in public parks and recreation places. And, NRPA has sort of limited itself to that, and I understand why, but I think, to help people understand that it’s a much broader concept is one of the issues we need to deal with. 

P&R: What would you like to see from NRPA in the next 50 years?

Mobley: NRPA is becoming more like a trade association and an advocacy group, too, and that gets close to another thing I think we need: more public visibility, public awareness and advocacy. But, I’d like to see NRPA bring in more strong citizen participants and broaden the concept of recreation and parks to go beyond just public parks and recreation.


Sonia Myrick is NRPA's Managing Editor of Parks & Recreation magazine.