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Kathryn E. Krieg

1904 - 1999

Inducted October 2005

 "Make up your minds that you know what you are doing. Like people and learn how to work with people."
~Kathryn E. Krieg

Originally from Indiana, Kathryn Krieg grew up in Omaha, NE. Upon graduating high school, one of her teachers persuaded her to continue her education and in 1926 she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in physical education, from the University of Nebraska. In 1927 she attended the National Recreation Association’s Recreation Leadership School. During a video interview, the American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration’s Living Legends Series, Krieg refl ected on this experience, “This was a chance to see New York City. I lived in the Bronx in a settlement house and worked there too and did offi ce work for a half day for the National Recreation Association.” Krieg was among the fi rst class of students to graduate from this one-year training school.

In 1928 Krieg returned to Iowa and became the director for Girls Recreation in Council Bluffs. Due to a lack of program funding, nine months later she was headed for the Chicago-Milwaukee area for a fulltime position when Lewis Barrett, Des Moines Playground director, asked her to stay and work for the summer. This temporary position became a 46-year career in Des Moines for Krieg. After the departure of Barrett in 1931, Krieg became the superintendent of recreation and eventually retired as the director of recreation in 1974.

Before the term, “collaborate” was a buzz word, Krieg created alliances with partners from all lines of public and private agencies and organizations such as the parks, schools, adult education, conservation groups, YMCA, YWCA, Campfire Boys and Girls, Boy and Girl Scouts, Parent Teacher Association, Federation of Women’s Clubs, and settlement houses to name a few. Here are a few examples of her outstanding and lasting contributions:

  • Development of one of the first organized playgrounds in the country through efforts of the Chancey DePew Club
  • Introduced square dancing for adults needing a positive diversion during the Great Depression.
  • Operated the largest adult softball program in the state and was later inducted into the Des Moines Softball Hall of Fame
  • Maintained a positive partnership with the schools, beginning in the 30s by sharing facilities and running yearround community centers in the public schools
  • Organized training through the annual Governor’s Conference on Recreation for literally thousands of volunteer leaders
  • Created a Des Moines tradition, Beggars Night, in response to the growing number of vandalism reports on Halloween. Beggars Night became the night for tricks or treats for kids’ safety and separated it from adult Halloween parties
  • Operated Camp Dodge Swimming Pool on the Iowa National Guard property so that the public had use of this pool, the second largest in the world, when the war ended
  • Operated Ewing Park Day Camp, a fullday camp for kids to learn camping and outdoor recreation skills, which became a “right of passage” for kids growing up in Des Moines.

July 1992, Great Lakes Regional Council Awards Dinner: Kathryn Krieg is honored and receives a replica of the NRPA Charter. Also pictured are Dave Sacco, Ohio, Christine Page, Iowa, and Walt Johnson, Great Lakes Regional Council Chair.
Courtesy of Christine Page, Fundbrokers, LLC.

Krieg’s dedication to the recreation field was exemplified by her diligent commitment to create and develop strong professional organizations. She was a Charter Member of the original Iowa Association of Municipal Recreation Executives, serving as its second president in 1947. This organization later became the Iowa Park and Recreation Society and finally the Iowa Park and Recreation Association. In 1966 Krieg was presented with an Award of Merit and voted a life time member of the Iowa Park and Recreation Association, in recognition of her efforts.

In addition, Krieg was a pioneer at the national level where she helped to organized the Society of Recreation Workers of America, Inc., which later became the American Recreation Society and finally the American Park and Recreation Society. She worked as the Midwest Geographical Representative of the American Recreation Society in concert with field staff. In 1965 the American Park and Recreation Society recognized Krieg with its highest honor when it selected her to receive their “Fellow Award.” During this same year, she was also among the founding members of the Board of Trustees for the National Recreation and Park Association. She felt a personal victory in seeing that “Recreation” came first in the Association’s name.

On March 20, 1974, Krieg was presented a plaque by the Iowa Park and Recreation Association which read; “Distinguished Service Award to Kathryn E. Krieg for Outstanding Professionalism in 46 Years of Dedicated and Unselfish Community Service.” She was modest and humble about her significant accomplishments, which not only shaped professional organizations, but also her contributions to the quality of life in her community.

Of all her accomplishments, Krieg told the Journal of Iowa Parks and Recreation, that she derived the most enjoyment from seeing others have fun. “You shouldn’t just try to be an administrator...you’ve got to be interested in people.” It is often said success in life is not measured by financial wealth or position, but rather by the number of people you have touched. As one of the few women who held a major administrative position in recreation during the early years, this statement exemplifies Krieg who was focused on the total holistic needs and wellbeing of the people in her community, state, and nation.

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. (1994). Legends of the American Park and Recreation Association. Downloaded on March 23, 2008 from http://www.aapra.org/ legends.html
  • Kremenak, C. (1974). Thanks to Kathryn. Journal of Iowa Parks and Recreation, 3(2), 1.
  • National Recreation and Park Association (May 2005). Nomination for Kathryn E. Krieg for the Recreation and Park Hall of Fame. Unpublished document.
  • National Recreation and Park Association (July, 1999). Obituaries, Parks & Recreation.

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