Clemson Institute for Parks honors five environmentalists
Clemson University’s Institute for Parks honored five individuals for their life’s work helping to manage and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of local, state and national parks during the George B. Hartzog Jr. Awards Luncheon on Oct. 23.
Among those honored were a U.S. National Park Service regional director, the leader of an African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a leader in environmental education, a researcher and teacher in park and wilderness management, and a forest ecologist.
Each year, the luncheon precedes the annual Hartzog Lecture, which showcases leading figures in the field of parks, environmental conservation, and outdoor recreation. The luncheon and lecture are named for George B. Hartzog Jr., a South Carolina native who was the seventh director of the National Park Service. Through his leadership, he oversaw the largest expansion of the National Park Service.
Bob Powell, director of Clemson’s Institute for Parks, said this annual event is hosted to honor the legacy of Hartzog and the people who continue to promote and preserve parks and protected lands across the globe.
“The Institute for Parks is honored to recognize these five individuals,” Powell said. “They have contributed significantly to the appreciation and conservation of our local, regional and national parks and important historic and natural places.”
The five awards presented are named for Benton H. Box, former dean of Clemson’s College of Forest and Recreation Resources; Walter T. Cox, former president of Clemson University; Dwight A. Holder, former chairman of the South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism Commission; William C. Everhart, a field interpreter, researcher, author and creator of the National Park Service’s Stephen T. Mather Training Center at Harpers Ferry; and Robert G. Stanton, the first African-American director of the National Park Service.
The award winners are as follows:
Nicole Ardoin, an associate professor at Stanford University, was the recipient at the William C. Everhart award for recognition of sustained achievements which provide creative insights that foster an appreciation of our natural and cultural heritage.
In her professorship, Ardoin researches environmental education and other activities that motivate pro-environmental and sustainability behaviors, connection to place, and environmental learning. Her Social Ecology Lab includes interdisciplinary social-science scholars who address pressing environmental challenges through collaboration with community and nonprofit partners.
A graduate of Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with a doctorate in social ecology, Ardoin has a joint appointment in the Stanford Graduate School of Education and the Woods Institute for the Environment. She is the director of the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program on Environment and Resources in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, in addition to serving as an advisor for several other organizations at Stanford.
Ardoin is also an associate editor for the Environmental Education Research journal and a consulting editor for the Journal of Environmental Education and Children, Youth and Environments. She is a trustee of the George B. Storer Foundation and an advisor to the Blue Sky Funders Forum, the North American Association for Environmental Education, NatureBridge, the Student Conservation Association, and Teton Science Schools.
Stan Austin, regional director of the National Park Service’s Pacific West Region, received the Walter T. Cox Award, which recognizes sustained leadership and achievement in public service.
In his role, Austin provides leadership for the more than 60 national park sites within the states of California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, portions of Arizona and Montana and the territories of Guam, American Samoa, as well as the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.
A New Jersey native, Austin earned a bachelor of science in environmental sciences from Rutgers University, and began his career with the National Park Service at Gateway National Recreation Area as an interpretive park ranger, resource management specialist, and law enforcement ranger.
He later served as deputy superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, superintendent of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah and Arizona, acting deputy superintendent at Yosemite National Park in California, and superintendent at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. As a Mike Mansfield Fellow, Austin also spent two years in Tokyo, Japan, working with the Government of Japan’s Ministries of Construction and Environment.
Brent Leggs, director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, was the recipient of the Robert G. Stanton Award for sustained and innovative achievement in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the management of North America’s natural, historic and cultural heritage. The fund he manages is a $25 million fundraising and preservation campaign of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
A Harvard University Loeb Fellow, he co-authored the National Trust’s booklet, “Preserving African American Historic Places,” which is considered the seminal publication on preserving African American historic sites by the Smithsonian Institution. He’s also led efforts to create the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument in Alabama, which former President Barack Obama designated in January 2017.
His other campaign successes include the protection of icons like Villa Lewaro, the estate of Madam C. J. Walker in Irvington, New York; Joe Frazier’s Gym in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, New Jersey; A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham. Brent is currently advising historically black colleges and universities such as Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland and Howard University in Washington, D.C., to ensure these campuses are preserved for future generations.
Brent is also an assistant clinical professor at the University of Maryland’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation.
Stephen McCool, professor emeritus of Wildland Recreation Management at The University of Montana, was the recipient of the Benton H. Box Award. This award recognizes a teacher who inspires in students the quest for knowledge and fosters the development of an environmental ethic as well as demonstrates leadership in preserving and enhancing our natural environment.
McCool began his career in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota during the mid-1960’s and has continued working with wilderness and protected area managers since– focusing on management of visitors and tourism, public engagement and new paradigms of planning. A graduate of the University of Idaho, he holds both a master’s and doctorate degree from the University of Minnesota.
He has authored over 200 publications about protected area management and provided advice and service to park and protected area agencies in the U.S. and abroad such as Canada, South Africa, Mozambique, Brazil, Iceland and New Zealand. He has held faculty positions at Utah State University and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and is the former director of the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana.
McCool has also worked in Brazil with a U.S. AID and Forest Service funding project, as well as served as a co-leader of the social sciences staff for the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project – a large-scale ecosystem assessment process for the U.S. Pacific Northwest. He is a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas and currently serves on its Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group.
Lauren Pile, a research ecologist with the USDA Forest Service – Northern Research Station, received the Dwight A. Holder Award. This award recognizes outstanding work by doctoral graduates from Clemson’s Departments of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management or Forestry and Environmental Conservation.
A graduate from the American Military University with a degree in environmental science, Pile attended Clemson University and earned both her master’s and doctorate degrees in forest resources. Her research focuses on using vegetation management approaches to solve emerging ecological issues such as plant invasion and disturbance.
During a two-year appointment as a Presidential Management Fellow, she served as an ecological monitoring coordinator for a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project in Sierra National Forest in California. There she worked with district staff specialists to coordinate and lead efforts to monitor and restore 154,000 acres. She has also worked with the Northern Research Station in Warren, Pennsylvania, examining growth characteristics of oak seedlings in varying soils and the response to climate warming. In addition, Pile worked with the USDA Forest Service – Washington Office in 2018 to help guide national wildlife research for the next five years.
Pile has also served in several leadership positions with the Society of American Foresters and is currently serving as the chair of the 2019 National Silviculture Workshop.