Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott, renowned ecologist and geographer Lee Talbot, recently retired Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis, and S.C. State Park Service Director Phil Gaines were recognized for their exemplary leadership in addressing environmental issues at Clemson University’s George B. Hartzog, Jr. Luncheon.
Scott received the Fran P. Mainella Award, given for sustained achievement by a woman in the management of North America’s natural, historic or cultural heritage. Talbot accepted the Benton H. Box Award, awarded to an educator who inspires students and encourages curriculum innovation and an environmental ethic. Francis and Gaines received the Walter T. Cox Award, given for exceptional leadership in public service and natural and cultural resource management.
In 2004, Scott became superintendent of Grand Teton National Park — one of the nation’s most high-profile national parks — after serving nearly 25 years in National Park Service positions across the country. Scott is one of 10 senior park managers, and currently the only female Senior Executive Service (SES) superintendent, in the 401-unit National Park System.
During her tenure in Grand Teton, Scott brought several major capital projects to completion totaling approximately $150 million. These projects included construction of the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, the park’s premier visitor facility; the conveyance and opening of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve within the park; and a significant renovation of Grand Teton’s headquarters campus through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to reduce the park’s deferred maintenance backlog. Scott also advanced critical land acquisitions and directed more than a dozen National Environmental Policy Act planning efforts.
An ecologist and geographer with work spanning six decades and 134 countries, Talbot is a professor in the environmental science and policy department at George Mason University. He has served as chief scientist and foreign affairs director of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality for three U. S. Presidents, head of environmental sciences for the Smithsonian Institution, director-general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and senior environmental advisor to the World Bank and U.N. organizations.
A prolific researcher and shaper of international environmental policy, Talbot also conducted pioneering ecological research on the Serengeti-Mara Plains of East Africa.
A Clemson graduate and a National Park Service employee for more than 40 years, Francis became superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2005 after serving several years as deputy/acting superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
During his career, Francis helped create several nonprofit partners, including the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, which provides in-depth education programs; Experience Your Smokies, a program designed for local residents to get a behind-the-scenes look into the national park; and Discover Life in America, which inventories all species found in the Great Smoky Mountains park.
An employee of the South Carolina parks system for more than three decades, Gaines has been S.C. State Park Service Director since 2005. Under his leadership, the system has become one of the most self-sufficient in the nation, using state park-produced revenues to offset most park operational costs.
A graduate of Clemson University, Gaines serves on various national and statewide boards and is an instructor at the National Association of State Park Directors State Park Leadership School in West Virginia. He also serves on the Clemson University External Advisory Board for the College of Health, Education and Human Development and the Clemson University Curriculum Advisory Committee.
Clemson’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management gives the Hartzog awards annually. The awards program, and an accompanying lecture series, is named for Hartzog, the seventh director of the National Park Service.
As the featured speaker at this year’s lecture, Talbot shared a historical perspective on international conservation as well as vignettes of his career in the field. The day also included a dinner featuring Allan Kijazi, director general of the Tanzania National Parks, who spoke about the challenges facing the Tanzania parks system and the opportunities for collaboration.