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Edith L. Ball

1905 - 1996

Inducted October 2003

 "The elderly need economic security, adequate health services at reasonable cost, and challenges that give them a sense of the worth of living."
~Edith L. Ball

Originally from New York City, Edith Ball earned her Bachelor of Science degree in health and physical education and a Master of Arts degree in higher education from Columbia University. Her professional career began in 1925 as a Girls Club Leader for the York Settlement House in New York. For the next 25 years Ball served with distinction in many leadership positions while teaching health and physical education classes at Kent State College, Columbia University, and the University of Maryland. In the early part of the 1930s, Ball was appointed director of physical education and recreation in the Western Reserve School of Nursing. For the next six years she taught classes and developed recreation programs for students, hospital staff, and patients. Out of this experience, therapeutic recreation became an interest and she began using recreation as motivation for giving patients a will to live.

From 1937 to 1943, Ball was employed by the Works Projects Administration where she served as supervisor of recreation, district director of communities, and director of War Service Activities for Maryland, DE, and the District of Columbia. Among her numerous responsibilities was organizing community recreation services in 23 Maryland counties, developing specialized programs for preschool children, and developing recreation services in hospitals and homes. The belief of recreation as a therapeutic tool in working with these populations helped to advance her programming efforts and lead to her involvement in the organization of recreation activities and services for military personnel.

Ball was appointed in 1943 as assistant director and then director of recreation and education for the Office of Residence Halls, Washington, D.C. She was responsible for the organization and operation of programs in four recreation buildings and 18 residences for 11,000 women government workers and their friends. In 1947, she left the federal government to become the executive director of Stuyvesant Neighborhood House in New York City, a position she held until 1950. At Stuyvesant House, she directed the operation of a full settlement house program for 1,500 members and the operation of a summer residential camp. She also began a doctoral studies program in recreation administration at New York University, which she completed in 1953.

Edith Ball presides at the annual American Recreation Society Awards and Citations Luncheon, 45th National Recreation Congress, St. Louis, MO.
American Recreation Journal, November-December 1963.

For the next 23 years, Ball served as instructor, assistant associate, full professor, and chairman in the School of Education at New York University. Through her teaching and providing leadership and direction to the program in the areas of recreation leadership, administration, and hospital recreation, Ball created the precursor to what is now known as therapeutic recreation. In 1973, when she retired, Ball was appointed professor emerita. She continued to teach as an adjunct professor at both New York University and George Washington University, until 1975 when she moved to Tucson, AZ. While in Tucson, she taught courses at the University of Arizona and Texas Woman’s University, served as a member and chair of the Therapeutic Recreation Advisory Council for the City of Tucson Parks and Recreation Department and was active in the state society.

Throughout her professional career, Ball was active in local, state, and national organizations. From 1937, when she served for three years as chair of the Division of Girl’s and Women’s Sports for the Maryland State Association of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, until 1994, she was involved as an officer or committee chair in numerous organizations. During the period 1956-1962 she served, in succession as chair of the Hospital Section, secretary second vice president, first vice president, president elect, and president of the American Recreation Society. From 1962- 1965, Ball served on the national committee, which brought together eight organizations to form the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). After the merger, she served on the Board of Trustees from 1965 through 1973. During this period she was also a member of the Boards of Directors of the Society of Park and Recreation Educators (SPRE) and of the National Therapeutic Recreation Society (NTRS). She was appointed as chair of the National Accrediting Committee of SPRE in 1967 and was instrumental in the development of the Council on Accreditation formed by NRPA and the American Association for Recreation and Leisure in 1976. She served as chair or member of the Council for several years. In 1970, she became a founding member of the Scholarship Committee of the World Leisure and Recreation Association (WLRA) and remained an active member until 1996.

A number of prestigious awards, citations and honors were bestowed upon Ball. Among the most notable are: the SPRE Distinguished Fellow Award (1971); the NTRS Distinguished Service Award (1974); the American Association of Leisure and Recreation J.B. Nash Scholar Lecturer (1979); and the Ernest O. Melby Award for Distinguished Service in Human Relations (1980) by the Alumni Association of the School of Education, New York University. In 1980, Ball became a Charter Fellow in the Academy of Leisure Sciences and in 1981, a Charter Fellow of the Academy of Parks and Recreation Administration. She was made a Life Trustee of NRPA in 1993 and was the recipient of the Ralph C. Wilson Award, established by the Board of Trustees of NRPA and awarded each year to the person who best exemplifies leadership and commitment to the Association. Upon her retirement in 1972, the School of Education Program in Recreation and Leisure Studies at New York University established the Edith Ball Therapeutic Recreation Fund.

Ball was highly respected among her peers. Tony A. Mobley, Dean of the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Indiana University commented, “Dr. Edith Ball was one of the giants in the recreation, parks, and leisure services movement. Always scholarly and challenging in her approach to professional issues, students, and colleagues, she inspired everyone to reach out to ‘do their best.’ She was always extraordinarily gracious and sensitive to other people. She was a consummate professional and a great lady.”

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.

  • Academy of Leisure Sciences (October, 1995). The Academy of Leisure Science celebrates its fifteenth anniversary.
  • American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration. (1993). 21st Century management. Champaign, IL: Sagamore Publishing.
  • American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration. (1983). Legends of the American Park and Recreation Association. Downloaded on May 22, 2008 from http://www.aapra.org/legend.html
  • National Recreation and Park Association (May, 1997). In memoriam: Dr. Ball remembered, Parks & Recreation. 94-98.


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