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Charles E. Doell

1894 - 1983

Inducted October 1995

 "Nobody works all of the time. Everybody plays some of the time. Everybody, in all ages, has played some of the time. A lot of that play, grouped with all sorts of leisure time pursuits, is now called 'recreation.'"
~Charles E. Doell

A native of Minneapolis, MN, Charles Doell spent the majority of his life in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” In 1916, he graduated from the University of Minnesota, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering. Upon graduation, he served with the United States Army Transportation Corps in France at the end of World War I from 1918-1919, attaining the rank of fi rst sergeant. Charles Doell went on to become an articulate and imaginative leader in the national park movement.

Doell started working with the Minneapolis Park Board in 1911 as a part-time draftsman while a student at South High School. After his military service, he rejoined the park staff as an engineer, surveyor, and aide to Theodore Wirth, founder and long-time director of the city’s park system. While serving under Superintendent Wirth, Doell played an intricate role in the acquisition and development of land for the Grand Rounds Parkway System, a linking series of park areas in Minneapolis making a circular path around the city.

Doell served as secretary of the Board of the Minneapolis Park Commission for 30 years, during which time he was closely involved both with public politics and expansion of one of the country’s most prestigious urban park systems. In 1945, he was named superintendent of the Minneapolis Park Commission, a position he occupied for 14 years with distinction and honor until his retirement in 1959. While superintendent, Doell formed partnerships with the city’s schools and churches. Through this unique joint venture, Minneapolis was able to provide adequate land and facilities for their recreation programs.

Minneapolis Park Superintendents Christian Bosen, Charles Doell, and Theodore Wirth, September 15, 1948.
Minneapolis Park System 1983-1944, Minneapolis Park Legacy Society

Known for his congeniality and his genuine interest in people, Doell was widely accepted as a prominent leader. He served as president of the Minneapolis Athletic Club, president of the American Institute of Park Executives, and was a member of the Board of Trustees in the early development of the National Recreation and Park Association. He is also credited as a founding member of the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration. Toward the end of his career with the Minneapolis Park Commission, Doell worked as a park and recreation consultant. In 1957, upon request of the United States Secretary of the Interior, he served as an expert on a needs assessment survey for the National Capital Parks System in Washington, D.C. In the same year, he participated in similar surveys for the Westchester County Park System in New York and the Tulsa Park System in Oklahoma.

Doell was a great student of park philosophy and history. He wrote several chapters in Lebert Weir’s two-volume manual Parks: A Manual of Municipal and County Parks. He collaborated with Paul J. Thompson, an attorney, to write the book Public Park Policies and with Gerald Fitzgerald of the University of Minnesota on Origin and Development of Parks and Recreation and A Brief History of Parks and Recreation in the U.S. As a consistent contributor to Recreation magazine and Parks and Recreation magazine, he on occasion also contributed to other Canadian and English publications. He was editor of the Minnesota Engineer, a publication of the Minnesota Federation of Engineering Societies.

In 1957, Doell was awarded the Cornelius Armory Pugsley Medal “in recognition of his long and distinguished service in the field of municipal parks and recreation and his valuable contributions to the nation at large through his writing, lecturing, and consultations.” After retirement, Doell was appointed as a visiting professor of park administration at both Michigan State University and Texas Technological University (1960 to 1966). While developing and instructing courses at Michigan State University, he wrote the textbook Elements of Park Administration (1963). To honor his academic contributions, Michigan State University created the Charles E. Doell Student Leadership Award, which has been presented annually to an undergraduate majoring in park and recreation administration since 1972.

As a national spokesman for the park profession, Doell advocated adamantly for providing quality in public service. He insisted that park professionals should provide both a quality product and quality service within a framework of morality. “This [morality] should be of a high degree and as close to the array of the virtues of a Galahad or a Lancelot as reality will permit in both private and public business. But, it may be observed that while desire for high quality is prevalent in private business, it is essential in public business.” Doell’s contributions to the park and recreation profession exemplify both quality product and service, and show how persistence in dedication to the field can lead to excellence.

Adapted from: Hartsoe, C, Sanders, D & Bridges, M (eds) (2009), Profiles in Leadership: Robert W. Crawford Recreation and Park Hall of Fame. National Recreation and Park Association and American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration.

  • American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration. (1983). Legends of the American Park and Recreation Association. Downloaded on May 10, 2008 from http://www.aapra.org/ legends.html
  • Crompton, J.L. (2007). Twentieth century champions of parks and conservation: The Pugsley award recipients 1928-1964. Volume I. Champaign, IL: Sagamore Publishing.

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