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Harold D. Meyer

1882 - 1974

Inducted October 1995

 "Professional groups give to people in Recreation, and those preparing to enter the field, a chance to pool their common interests for the benefit of the movement and themselves."
~Harold D. Meyer

Harold Diedrich Meyer was born in August, GA, where he received his high school education at the Academy of Richmond County, a boys’ school emphasizing military training. While at the Academy, he enjoyed many extracurricular activities including the dramatics club, the glee club, and the tennis team. He was elected class president during his junior year and graduated with the honor of class valedictorian in 1908. That fall he began his social science studies at the University of Georgia. In addition to being an outstanding student, he was president of the Debator’s League, president of the literary society Phi Kappa, and held memberships in the national literary fraternity Sigman Epsilon, the Dramatic Club, the University Glee Club, the Junior Cabinet, and the tennis team. Meyer graduated among the most popular and prominent of his class members, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1912.

At the age of 19, Meyer entered public service as a high school principal and head football coach at Statesboro, GA. After one year, he was promoted to superintendent of schools for the 1913-1914 school year. His term as superintendent was complete in one year when he resigned and returned to the University of Georgia for graduate work in 1914. While pursuing a degree in sociology, Meyer had the good fortune of studying under the tutelage of Dr. Howard W. Odum, a nationally know sociologist. In 1915 he received his Masters of Arts degree, with a major in sociology and secured a teaching position in sociology and history in Athens, GA, at the Georgia State Normal School, an institution that later became part of the University of Georgia. Six years later he accepted a position of associate professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Harold Meyer presents his recommendations to the Work Group on Leisure at the White House Conferenceon Aging.
American Recreation Journal, February 1961

In 1926 Meyer was promoted to professor of sociology. Concerned about society’s responsibility to youth and the emergence of leisure, he developed an undergraduate curriculum in recreation within the Department of Sociology in 1932. Meyer served as chairman of the recreation curriculum from its conception in 1932 until 1963. Meyer’s work in recreation education resulted in his becoming recognized as one of the foremost recreation authorities of the twentieth century. He was awarded three honorary degrees; Doctor of Laws from Florida Southern College in 1941, Doctor of Recreation Science from Salem College in 1948, and Doctor of Humanities of Learning from Catawba College in 1951. At age seventy, Meyer relinquished his position as Chairman of the recreation curriculum in 1963. He continued to teach recreation courses on a part-time basis at the University of North Carolina until 1965. After his retirement, he served as a visiting lecturer at the University of Colorado, the University of New Mexico, and Michigan State University.

Meyer was an active member of many professional organizations dedicated to the advancement of recreation: the North Carolina Recreation and Park Society; the South Carolina Recreation and Park Society; the Georgia Recreation and Park Society; the American Association of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation; the American Recreation Society; the American Institute of Park Executives; the National Industrial Recreation Association; the National Recreation Association; the International Recreation Association; and the National Recreation and Park Association. Due to his dedication in several state associations he was awarded life membership in each of the organizations. Meyer is recognized as one of the founding members of the North Carolina Recreation and Park Society, which is recognized as one of the first state recreation agencies, established in 1944. Meyer is also acknowledged as the first person to be elected to two consecutive terms as president of the American Recreation Society and the first director of the North Carolina Recreation Commission.

Although Meyer’s schedule was very busy, he found time to make a valuable contribution to recreation literature. His first major involvement was a series of twenty volumes entitled The Extracurricular Library. As editor of this series between 1929 and 1935, Meyer’s cumulative efforts with members of the educational field addressed such issues as finance, safety education, and student participation in school government. He joined Charles K. Brightbill to coauthor four texts in recreation services including Community Recreation: A Guide to its Organization. This book was considered “A guide and source book for every professional recreation worker by ‘front-line’ authorexperts.” In addition to the numerous books Meyer’s authored, he served on many editorial boards and wrote numerous articles for professional publications.

Over his career Meyer was recognized with a number of distinguishing awards. In 1962 the University of North Carolina presented him with the first Taylor L. Grandy Professor of Art and Philosophy of Living Professorship which is given to those who exemplify “the philosophy of living— teaching how to live and how to make a living.” To honor his contributions, the University established the Harold D. Meyer Award which is given annually to the most outstanding senior majoring in recreation administration. Other notable awards include the American Recreation and Park Society’s Award of Merit (1969), the Society of Park and Recreation Educators’ Distinguished Fellow Award (1969), and the National Recreation and Park Association’s National Distinguished Professional Award(1973).

Meyer will long be remembered for his contributions to the recreation profession. His dynamic personality, his enthusiasm, his keenness as an observer, his willingness to fight for his beliefs, and his ability to analyze and interpret trends in recreation enabled him to exert a marked influence on the recreation profession. Meyer was without a doubt one of the foremost authorities on recreation in the twentieth century.

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.

  • North Carolina Recreation and Park Society (1974). Harold D. Meyer, 1892-1974, North Carolina Recreation & Park Review, Memorial Issue.
  • Sellers, J.R. (1971). The contributions of Harold D. Meyer to the recreation profession. Educat.D. dissertation, University of Georgia Retrieved May 16, 2008, from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text database. (Publication No. AAT 7211037).

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