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Garrett G. Eppley

1898 - 1991

Inducted October 1997

 "The professional recreation worker... needs a broad general education, adequate knowledge, skills, and ability in the field of recreation and the proper desire to succeed."
~Garrett G. Eppley

A committed leader and father of the Department of Recreation and Park Administration at Indiana University, Garret G. Eppley was born in Wabash County, IN. Although his national involvement in the park and recreation profession required countrywide travel, he never relinquished his “Hoosier roots.” Through the infl uence of his mother, Eppley enrolled at Manchester College, North Manchester, IN, in 1915. While at Manchester he was appointed director of athletics and an instructor of history. He also served as coach of the college basketball team and captain of the tennis team. In 1919, Eppley received his Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in history. His graduate studies included a Master’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago (1947) and a Doctorate in education with a major in recreation administration from New York University (1953).

Eppley secured his fi rst full-time potion in the fall of 1919, as the principal of the Francesville, Indiana Schools’ District. For the next three years he taught courses, coached athletic teams, and established a wide variety of extra-curricular activities. He also served as president of the Principals’ Association and the Athletic Association of Pulaski County. In 1921, the Indiana High School Athletic Association elected him to their Board of Control. Eppley was the youngest member ever to have been elected to this position and was the first to be reelected. From 1922 through 1926 he served on the board and ended his time as president. Eppley took a part-time instructor’s position at Whiting, IN, High School from 1922 to 1924 in order to have the opportunity to attend the University of Chicago. At this same time, he worked summers as a playground supervisor. During the summer of 1923, he attended a six-week course at the National Recreation Association’s School for Recreation in Chicago. These early experiences nurtured Eppley’s professional career in recreation and education.

From 1925 to 1945, Eppley gained practical field and administrative experience through several public agencies and organizations. He served as director of municipal recreation in East Chicago and Evansville, IN; recreation director of the Indiana State Emergency Relief; regional recreation planner for the National Park Service; and administrator of several United States Organizations (USO) programs. During this time span, Eppley initiated numerous recreation plans consisting of special event activities, construction of recreation facilities, state park naturalist programs; and reptile education demonstrations for Army service members. Under the recommendation of the National Recreation Association’s field representative, Lebert Weir, Garrett Eppley began his duties in October 1945 with the development of the recreation and park administration program at Indiana University. He was initially appointed associate professor of recreation education and consultant in recreation for state parks, cities, and schools in Indiana.

At Indiana University, Eppley’s work was held in high regard. Among his major contributions were the initiation and development of the undergraduate and graduate recreation curriculums. By recruiting a very diverse and highly qualified faculty, Eppley was able to recruit park and recreation students possessing excellent leadership traits, making the department one of the top recreation and park administration departments in the nation. Eppley left his personal imprint on the Indiana University Department of Recreation and Park Administration and its many graduates through his numerous professional writings, his research in municipal recreation finance and administration, his books and articles on public relations techniques, his vision in developing the Great Lakes Park Training Institute, the development and support of the Bradford Woods Outdoor/Education area, and his warmth and personal caring for thousands of students, faculty, and alumni.

Members of NRPA Administrative Board. From left: First Row–Frank Vaydik, Mrs. Richard M. Colgate, Susan Lee, Mrs. Virginia Wiltbank, Endicott P. Davison, Sal J. Prezioso; Second Row–Courtney Burton, Robert W. Ruhe, J. Austin Smith, James H. Evans, James J. Curtis,Wilburn Stone James; Back Row– James S. Stevens Jr., Stewart G. Case, Conrad L. Wirth, William Penn Mott Jr., William Frederickson, Jr., and Dr. Garrett G. Eppley.
National Recreation and Park Association Archives

Eppley was active in numerous professional organizations serving in leadership positions, including several presidencies in organizations such as the College Recreation Association, the Federation of National Professional Organization for Recreation, American Institute of Park Executives, the American Recreation Society, and the National Recreation Association. He played an important role in helping to formulate and develop the strategy of the American Institute of Park Executives that led to the merger of five National Recreation and Park organizations to form the National Recreation and Park Association. He was a founding member of the Board of Trustees and served on the administrative board (executive committee). This accomplishment took the work of a master strategist and public relations expert, but most of all, the trust of all the leaders in the organizations involved.

Many organizations in the field presented Eppley with their highest awards. Among these are the American Recreation Society Fellowship Award (1958); the American Institute of Park Executives Honorary Fellowship Award (1960); Indiana Park and Recreation Association’s “Man of the Year” (1964); the National Recreation and Park Association’s Board of Trustees (1965); Manchester College’s Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree (1977); and the Society of Park and Recreation Educators’ Distinguished Fellow Award (1970). Several awards have been named in his honor.

Eppley was a forceful, dynamic, second generation pioneer in the park and recreation movement. He made a significant and dramatic impact on the park and recreation profession. The influence of his dedication, his philosophical principles, and his personal warmth will continue to live through his students and colleagues. The goal of Eppley’s life was to help mankind understand the importance and the value of park and recreation programs in order that man might fulfill and understand their leisure needs.

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 June 2, 2008 from http://www.aapra.org/ legends.html
  • Craden, M.D. (1975). Garrett G. Eppley, his life, philosophy, and professional contributions. Education. dissertation, Indiana University.

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