David Vela

David Vela was named Deputy Director exercising the authority of the Director of the National Park Service (NPS) on September 30, 2019.
Image Credit: National Park Service

CLEMSON — David Vela, newly named deputy director exercising the authority of the director of the National Park Service, will discuss how he plans to lead the park service into its second century at the 2019 George B. Hartzog Jr. Lecture this week in Clemson. The lecture will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts at Clemson University. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The Clemson University Institute for Parks presents the annual lecture and an accompanying awards program to showcase leading figures in the field of conservation. The lecture and awards program are named for George B. Hartzog Jr., the seventh director of the National Park Service.

Vela’s lecture will focus on developing a park service that focuses on people by sharing more inclusive stories from parks and telling the stories that haven’t been told about those who helped create our nation, engaging the next generation of the National Park Service workforce, and reaching a broader, more diverse American population, both as employees and visitors.

The National Park Service balances the conservation of the nation’s natural and cultural resources while also providing for their access and enjoyment. Vela leads an agency with more than 20,000 employees and a nearly $3 billion budget. The National Park Service is comprised of 419 national parks, which attract more than 300 million visitors every year and generate more than $30 billion in economic benefits across the nation.

Vela’s 29-year career has included experiences in both park and administrative leadership roles, having served as superintendent of Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway after working as associate director for Workforce, Relevancy and Inclusion in the Washington headquarters. He has received numerous awards for leadership and performance excellence over his career.

Bob Powell, director of Clemson’s institute for parks, says that Vela’s lecture continues a longstanding tradition.

“The Hartzog Lecture Series has made Clemson a destination for park professionals and conservationists from across the country to share ideas and explore topics that are critical to the future of parks,” Powell said. “Every director who has served after George B. Harzog Jr. has given a Hartzog lecture, and we’re excited to see David Vela keep the tradition going.”

Earlier Tuesday, Vela will receive the Walter T. Cox Award, which recognizes sustained leadership and achievement in public service, during the George B. Hartzog Jr. Awards Luncheon. Other park professionals and conservationists who will be recognized and honored include:

  • Ryan L. Sharp, assistant professor of park management and conservation at Kansas State University, and Stephen C. Trombulak, Professor Emeritus of biology and biosphere studies at Middlebury College, will receive the Benton H. Box Award, which recognizes a leader who works to preserve the natural environment and an educator who inspires in students the quest for knowledge and encourages curriculum innovation.
  • Jenn Thomsen, an assistant professor of park, recreation and tourism management at the University of Montana, will receive the Dwight A. Holder Award. This award recognizes outstanding work by doctoral graduates from Clemson’s parks, recreation and tourism management and forestry and environmental conservation departments.
  • Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, will receive the William C. Everhart Award, which recognizes sustained achievements that illuminate, provide creative insights and foster an appreciation of our natural and cultural heritage.
  • Chris S. Lehnertz, president and CEO of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, will receive the Fran P. Mainella Award for sustained and innovative achievement by a woman in the management of North America’s natural, historic or cultural heritage.