Leslie M. Reid, Ph.D., who founded the Department of Recreation and Parks, later named the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences in Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, passed away on Nov. 5 at age 94.
Through his vision and leadership, Reid began the department from scratch, starting in 1966 after coming to Texas A&M from Michigan State University at the behest of Texas A&M’s first president, Major General James Earl Rudder.
Dr. Leslie Reid – a motivated visionary
“Dr. Reid was a charismatic and highly effective academic leader,” said Brian King, Ph.D., current head of the department, which was recently reformulated into the Department of Hospitality, Hotel Management and Tourism, HMGT. “When interacting with Dr. Reid, I was impressed by his warmth and humanity and by his continued interest in our evolving department. It was an historic moment in April at the 2023 HMGT Awards Recognition Banquet when we introduced him as our founding head to current students and faculty.”
John Crompton, Ph.D., Reid’s friend and colleague, said as head of the department Reid transformed his department from a fledgling entity to its ranking as the No. 1 department of its type in the U.S.
“Les always had a vision of what he wanted to do with the department and had the contacts to help make that happen,” Crompton said.
He said Reid was greatly respected among his peers and colleagues across the university and throughout the country. He added that while the department has evolved in focus over time, it was Reid who built the foundation that led to critical faculty hires and gave support to its students — many of whom have made a significant impact on their profession.
“Since Dr. Reid’s passing, I have received a number of messages from his former students who have praised him for his interest and involvement in their academic success,” he said. “Many of them even said Dr. Reid had changed their lives by giving them a sense of direction and purpose.”
He said Reid’s personality, vision and drive also attracted many top academics to the department, helping cement its top rankings and national reputation.
Ron Kaiser, Ph.D., who Reid hired in 1980 and who remained in the department for 40 years, described him as a “visionary leader in the area of parks and natural resources.”
Kaiser said throughout his career Reid forged friendships with people in other departments in the university and always sought to bring the “best and brightest” from throughout the U.S. to work in his department.
Reid as an instructor and leader
Kaiser added thar Reid’s ability to find and recruit top people for his department — and give them flexibility in their teaching and research — helped create a positive environment that reflected back on the students.
“We had some awesome students come through our department and they benefited a lot from the way Les organized and ran the department,” he said.
Louis Hodges, who received his Ph.D. in 1971, was the first graduate student in the department. He was hired by Reid after graduation and remained in the department for 40 years.
“Dr. Reid was an engaging instructor who was able to speak extemporaneously on a wide variety of topics,” he said. “His classes were always interesting, and you knew he was always going to have something memorable to say.”
Hodges said his educational and career experience in the department was made all the more interesting because of Reid’s multidisciplinary approach.
“There was a diverse and exceptional group of people in the department,” he said. “Dr. Reid brought in faculty from a variety of disciplines, and this provided students with a more complete and well-rounded learning experience.”
Experience, education, affiliations and honors
Before coming to Texas A&M, Reid was an assistant professor in the Department of Resource Development at Michigan State. His professional experience also included service as an assistant park commissioner in Topeka, Kansas, and landscape forester in Wyondotte, Michigan.
Reid earned his Ph.D. in conservation at the University of Michigan, his master’s degree in land and water conservation at Michigan State, and his bachelor’s degree in forestry from Michigan Technological University.
During his time at Texas A&M, Reid served as president of the Academy of Leisure Sciences, was elected as a founder/member of the American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration and was a member of the executive committee of the National Advisory Board of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. He was also president of the Society of Park and Recreation Educators.
Reid earned various honors and awards, including a Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award in Administration from Texas A&M, and served on numerous national committees.
Visitation for Reid will be Friday, Nov. 17, from 10 a.m. to noon at Memorial Funeral Chapel, 2901 Texas Avenue South, College Station. A graveside service at College Station Cemetery, 2530 Texas Avenue South, will be held at 1:30 p.m., following the visitation.