2009-2010 Featured Alumni

Larry Williamson ’69 - Alumni Recognition Award

Larry Williamson has made noteworthy contributions in the field of conservation and natural resources since graduating from Penn State with a B.S. Degree in Recreation and Parks Administration in 1969. His efforts at the state level have had far reaching impact today and will for decades. His goal to help Pennsylvanians make the most of our natural resources has significantly influenced our communities. Larry began his career with the Department of Community Affairs in 1969 where he administered the local government portion of federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grants program. Throughout his career he managed various community park, recreation and conservation programs of the Bureau of Recreation (Project 500, Rural Parks Program, Young Adult Conservation Corp Program, SBA Tree Planting Program, Demonstration Community Center Program), and was Director of the Bureau from 1985-95. At the end of this month, Larry will retire as Special Advisor to the Secretary of Pennsylvania for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) following his position as Deputy Secretary for Conservation and Technical Services. After 38 years with DCNR, his contributions will be greatly missed. Larry has been an integral part of the implementation of conservation programs such as Gateway Gardens, PA Recreational Trails, Keystone Recreation Park and Conservation Fund (Key 93) and the Growing Greener program. He received the DCNR Secretary’s Award for Performance Excellence in 1997, the Fred M. Coombs Honor Award from the PA Recreation and Park Society in 2000 for his outstanding service and significant contributions to the field, the 2001 Conservation Professional of the Year Award from the PA Audubon Society, PA Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy, the Schuylkill River Leadership Award from the Schuylkill River Greenway Association in 2002, and the Heritage Partnership Award from the Heritage Conservancy in 2003. As an alumnus of our department, Larry has continued to support Penn State and RPTM. He has offered counsel as a practitioner, accepted students as interns and employees, and collaborated with faculty on programming and research projects in outdoor recreation. Larry has been a participant in our end of the year banquets and other social programs to encourage alumni-student relations. Thank you Larry for your contribution to the field and for your continuing support of RPTM.

Chris Phillips ’00 - Emerging Professional Undergraduate Degree Award

Chris Phillips graduated from RPTM in 2000 and accepted a position with the Hyatt Corporation. He was invited into the Corporate Management Trainee program and placed at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. Within a year Chris was promoted to front desk manager of the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich. Chris then saw an opportunity to return to his home town when he became ticket account manager at the Altoona Curve Baseball organization, an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Chris managed ticket sales and developed fundraising and programming goals. In 2005, Chris accepted a position with the minor league expansion team, the State College Spikes. He helped establish this new franchise and worked with the Pirates to expand their minor league offerings. His duties included hiring and supervising sales and ticket/seating staff, revenue analysis, ticket sales, and team sales. Chris was the top ticket salesman for 5 consecutive years and saw a 240% revenue increase in sales. He continued to support the Altoona Curve in CC while building a fan base for the State College Spikes. Paralleling his professional successes, Chris began making significant contributions to the community. As Director of Ticket Sales with the Spikes, Chris initiated a partnership with the United Way that generated over $15,000 in contributions. He was nominated as Vice Chair of the CC United Way Young Leaders Group and served on the CC United Way Communications Committee. He served on the Sponsorship Committee for Second Mile and as Board Chair for the CC American Heart Association Heart Walk. He served as Sponsorship Chair for CC Alzheimer’s Association and is a VIP member of CC Chamber of Business and Industry. Chris contributes to RPTM by serving on RPTM-APG board. He attends most RPTM alumni events and is a frequent guest speaker in our classes. He welcomes our students for pre-internships at the Spikes and Medlar Field is a popular site for internships. Chris works with undergraduates through the RPTM Student Society and donates numerous items for our alumni socials that are coveted prizes. When we need help, support, or advice of an alumnus, Chris is usually first on our list. We celebrated with Chris in January when the Spikes appointed him Assistant General Manager. Congratulations Chris!

Dr. Brijesh Thapa ’96g, ’00g - Emerging Professional Graduate Degree Award

When considering candidates for this award, Dr. Brijesh Thapa immediately came to mind because of his significant contributions to the field of RPTM in the area of tourism and eco-tourism through his excellent research, teaching, and advising. His focus in tourism issues that impact management of natural resources, ecotourism, and cultural heritage tourism in geographic regions of great diversity and disparity have worldwide implications. Brijesh accepted a faculty position at the University of Florida at Gainesville after receiving his doctorate in Leisure Studies from Penn State in 2000. He currently serves as Graduate Programs Coordinator for the Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management at Florida and is also the Senior Associate Director of the Center for Tourism Research and Development. As an Associate Professor, Dr. Thapa is responsible for course development, graduate and undergraduate advising, research, and service. Brijesh is an affiliate faculty member in additional programs at Floridaincluding the School of Natural Resources, Warrington College of Business, Tropical Conservation and Development Program, and Center for African Studies. Dr. Thapa’s work with state, regional, and international agencies has helped to elevate the role of tourism across numerous settings. He provided leadership in understanding the special circumstances that promote indigenous tourism development in regions with social and political conflict. Botswana, Nepal, Kazakhstan, and Ethiopia are a few countries where Dr. Thapa’s research, teaching, and service have made an impact. In 2006, he was recognized as the International Educator of the Year by U of F and he recently received funding to support a tourism partnership to strengthen research, service, and faculty development with international universities. Dr. Thapa’s record is well-balanced and reflects his commitment to translational tourism research, mentorship of students, and service to indigenous populations in developed and undeveloped tourism destinations. He continues to be sought out by international organizations and academic institutions to discuss the impacts of tourism on marginalized populations. The RPTM scholarship and awards committee has selected Dr. Thapa for recognition of this award for his continuing support of RPTM. He offers counsel and collaboration with RPTM faculty and graduate students and interacts with our students and faculty at state and national conferences. Thank you Dr. Thapa!

Marcia Meehan ’81 - APG “Deb Kerstetter” Outstanding Alumni Award

Marcia holds a BS degree from Penn State University in Recreation and Parks (as the department was called then) and graduated in 1981. She currently is the President and CEO of the Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center in York, PA. Marcia was nominated for this award by Matt Leininger (who is now serving as an Executive Director for the American Red Cross), a friend who met Marcia in 1977 when they were both freshmen at PSU Behrend. Matt says “In the thirty years that have passed [since he met Marcia], I have seen her grown and achieve in ways that should make all Penn Staters proud.” Marcia received the Fred Coombs scholarship award her senior year at PSU. Since then, her career has taken her to Florida, Ohio, South Carolina, Maryland, and PA. One of these positions took Marcia to inner city Baltimore, where her nominators tell us her determination to serve poor children in the city led her to work tirelessly to obtain grants and funding support to keep open a YMCA child care center that was in danger of closing. In Greenville South Carolina, she was in charge of the building expansion project that doubled the size of the current YMCA, adding an indoor pool, weight room, locker rooms, and tennis courts for local kids and families.