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RPA / PRTM History

RPA Logo 1969PRTM 50th LogoThe Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management (PRTM), formally known as the Department of Recreation and Park Administration, at Clemson University celebrated its 50th Anniversary during the 2015-16 academic year. Many may be unaware of the impetus for the founding of the department in 1966. In 1963, in the face of racial integration, the legislature voted to close all state parks. At the time, Clemson did not have a parks program, but Clemson University President R.C. Edwards served as an ex-officio member of the State Forestry Commission, which managed the state parks. Anticipating the reopening of the parks with the state’s tricentennial, there was concern regarding the preparedness of the state to reopen its parks as the state ushered in a new era of park management. Modeled on the University of North Carolina and Indiana University recreation and park administration programs in place at the time, the Clemson University Department of Recreation and Park Administration, led by first Chair Dr. Herbert Brantley, opened in 1966 with two faculty, Drs. Brantley and Thomas Johnson. In 1967 four additional faculty were hired: Drs. Revis Frye, Gordon Howard, Jim Sellers and Marvin Keith, the originator the Outdoor Lab concept. By the fall 1967 the department had approximately 120 students.

Today, the department maintains its link to the past with traditional undergraduate programs in community recreation; sport and camp management; parks and conservation area management; recreational therapy; and an on-campus M.S. degree. The department evolved during the 80s, reflecting changes in the PRTM field, with a name change to the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management and the addition of an undergraduate program in travel and tourism and a Ph.D. degree. The turn of the century saw continued expansion with the establishment of the professional golf management program and an online M.S. degree. The growth of the department continued during 2014 and 2015 with three additional degree programs joining PRTM: both a B.S. and M.S. (non-thesis, online) in youth development leadership and a master's of public administration.

With the addition of YDL and the MPA program, as well as two additional recent hires (Drs. Mariela Fernandez and Harrison Pinckney), the department currently has 33 faculty, over 500 undergraduates and approximately 200 graduate students. The department also houses six additional programs (Leisure Skills, the Outdoor Laboratory, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the Pre-collegiate Program Office, the Institute for Parks and the US Play Coalition) as well as a certificate/minor in non-profit leadership.

Pictured r.: Dr. Bert Brantley, 1st Department Chair, Dr. Ann James, Dr. Larry Allen, Dr. Bob McLellan, Interim Chair, Dr. Fran McGuire, Interim Chair twice, and Dr. Brett Wright.

The Department has enjoyed consistent leadership during its 50 years in existence as only 4 individuals have served the Department as permanent chair and two as interim chair. Each one of these individuals shepherded the department as it grew and continued to shine on the national stage for both its research reputation and innovation in curriculum design. Pictured left to right: Dr. Bert Brantley, 1st Department Chair; Dr. Larry Allen; Dr. Ann James; Dr. Bob McLellan, Interim Chair; Dr. Fran McGuire, Interim Chair twice; and Dr. Brett Wright.

One recent innovation was the approach PRTM takes to preparing its undergraduates with foundational knowledge of the field, developing a one-semester integrated core curriculum. Recognized for its innovative approach to education, the EDGE program, Engaging in Diverse Guided Experiences, was recently presented with the Phil Prince Innovation in Teaching award by the University community.

The department claims alumni throughout the world in a variety of interesting career paths. Clemson University PRTM alums can be found in high-level positions with the National Park Service, First Tee, the US Forest Service, the National Football League and the Shepherd Center, a renowned spinal cord injury and brain injury rehabilitation center, being just a few examples. In addition, alums are currently working with CBS This Morning, at the summer and winter Olympics, with hundreds of county and city recreation departments, at the Bureau of Land Management, Hilton, at both Pebble Beach and Kiawah Island Resort and with Major League Soccer. Graduates from the Ph.D. program are represented in numerous academic programs including Penn State University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Utah and Texas A&M University, to name a few, as well as internationally throughout South Korea, Turkey, Libya, Africa and many other locales.

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