R. Dean Tice was the Executive Director at the National Recreation and Park Association for 15 years, 1986-1991, which was a remarkable period, initially of consolidation and subsequently of growth, during which the organizations’ financial status was transformed and its influence greatly enhanced.
Dean Tice is the son of a farmer from Topeka, Kansas. He entered the U.S. Army as an enlisted man and 40 years later retired from the Army after a long and distinguished career with the rank of Lieutenant General. He commanded at every level from company through division, and served more than 14 years overseas. During early commissioned service, he served in various command and staff positions at the battalion level. In Vietnam (1967-68), he served as Deputy Brigade Commander of the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, and later commanded the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry of the 25th Infantry Division. Upon completion of his Vietnam tour, he directed the Military Manpower Procurement Program in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
In 1970, Tice joined the 1st Infantry Division, where he commanded the 1st Brigade and later served as the Chief of Staff. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1972, and assigned to the Pentagon in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel. General Tice assumed command of the Berlin Brigade in 1974 and remained in that capacity until 1976, when after being Promoted to Major General, he became the Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel, for the U.S. Army, Europe, and Seventh Army Heidelberg, Germany. In 1977, he assumed command of the 3rd Infantry Division, Wuerzburg, German.
From 1976 to 1983, Tice served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for personnel policy and force management, a position in which he directed policy for all Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs. In that role, he initiated and chaired the Defense Department’s MWR Coordinating Committee. Tice retired, initially in 1983, only to be recalled to active duty three months later by President Reagan and Defense Secretary Weinberger to become Director of the Department of Defense Task Force on Drug Enforcement.
During his military career, Tice earned a BS in military science and engineering, and MBA from George Washington University. In his senior roles in personnel in the Army he was responsible for MWR programs for hundreds of thousands of troops, and in his active leadership role on the battle field he had learned how important recreation opportunities were to the morale of his troops.
These experiences prepared him well for his second distinguished career which commenced in July 1986 when General Tice left government service to become the Executive Director of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). At the time of his appointment he was serving on the NRPA Board of Trustees as the armed services representative. Thus he was aware when he assumed the Executive Director position that NRPA was at a critical stage in its evolution. The organization had a total net worth of $430,000, having spent much of its historic capital endowment to cover operating expenses. Membership had declined to 14,000 and the annual Congress attendance was stagnant. There was much dissention throughout the organization about the perceived lack of leadership at all levels and the overall lack of direction. Morale was low.
By the time Tice retired from NRPA in 2001, he had transformed the organization. NRPA’s net worth increased from $430,000 to $9 million; membership had increased to 23,500; the organization had over $5 million in reserves and an operating budget of $10.5 million; and annual advertising revenues from Parks & Recreation magazine had grown from $90,000 in FY 1986 to $1.3 million in FY 2001.
Tice traveled extensively to promote the benefits of parks and recreation. He made appearances in all 50 states; testified before Congress; met with U.S. presidents and White House officials; and established NRPA’s international presence, most prominently with protocol agreements with seven nations. His foresight, leadership and planning brought NRPA to a strong financial position. He established standards and business practices that enabled the organization to acquire and better allocate financial resources to support its goals. During Dean’s tenure, the Association developed its first Membership Needs Survey followed by a Strategic Plan to focus the efforts of its leadership on issues important to the membership. Once developed, this strategic plan was implemented by his creation of a closely integrated staff workplan and budget specifically tied to the strategy priorities chosen by the leadership. Many of the successes of the organization can be linked to the membership and staff working closely together as a result of this planning initiative. He streamlined the organization and implemented a standardized budget and work plan process, which held staff members accountable for their projects.
Tice led by example, as he had done throughout his military career, and his personal frugality with the organizations’ resources, his efficiency and hard work inspired adherence to those values among NRPA’s staff. It was not uncommon to see Tice leave for the airport on a Friday night to attend an event in the west, return on the Sunday "red eye," and still be first in the office on Monday morning.
Membership growth and retention was essential to the long-term stability of NRPA. The creation of additional membership sections (National Aquatics Section, Commercial Recreation and Tourism Section, and Leisure and Aging Section) came under Tice’s tutelage and was a factor in the increased membership numbers. Recognizing the key role of citizens in NRPA, he made special efforts to encourage growth in their membership. When he retired, NRPA’s membership was at an all time high of 23,500, representing a growth of over 30% in the 15 year period.
Tice knew that new programs and a commitment to dedicated service were needed if the membership was to grow. The National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI) was developed during his tenure, which certified 6,700 Playground Safety Inspectors across the country. Agency accreditation began in 1994, and by 2001 more than 30 agencies held this title. The accreditation of higher education park and recreation programs (university and college curriculums) increased by more than 40% during his tenure.
Development of the NRPA National Programs Office added to the benefits offered NRPA members by facilitating partnerships with entities such as the National Football League and the United States Tennis Association. These resulted in both new programs and financial grants to member park and recreation agencies.
NRPA developed messages to communicate to the public the benefits of park and recreation services. A landmark anti-drug television public service announcement campaign featuring the slogan "Exercise the Right Choice" reached millions of people. The development of the "Parks and Recreation...The Benefits are Endless "Discover the Benefits" campaign was a landmark initiative that recognized the importance of publicizing the fields’ benefits to capture public support.
Tice reached out to those in the park and recreation industry, asking for their support both in terms of exhibiting at trade shows, supporting Parks & Recreation magazine with advertising, and making annual donations to the Association. He emphasized to them that an investment in NRPA was beneficial because it was a reinvestment in the park and recreation community, which in turn, would benefit the support companies. His efforts resulted in more than 800 booths being purchased at the annual NRPA Congress & Exposition. During his tenure the Congress expanded from 137 to 197 educational sessions (almost 50%) and attendance grew to over 10,000.
NRPA’s efforts in the legislative front reached a new peak. With the help of the Internet and partnerships developed with allied organizations, NRPA argued successfully to refund the Land and Water Conservation Act. Once thought to be dead, this important legislation became an issue that both political parties supported in the 2000 national election. NRPA’s prominent role in the issue raised the Association’s status on Capitol Hill to new levels.
One of the most significant reasons for the Association’s astounding growth in net worth was the fundraising campaign generated by a $1 million challenge grant gift from Claude Ahrens in response to his personal friendship with Dean. This campaign activated the membership toward a single goal in a way that had not been done before, building a new headquarters building. As a result, the Association was able to move in 1997 from a leased headquarters building to a new, permanent home in Virginia. More importantly, the campaign gave the organization’s leadership and membership renewed "self esteem" whose power cannot be overstated. It also became the impetus for additional fundraising efforts including creation of an annual fund, an endowment program and a planned giving campaign.
Dean Tice’s administrative and organizational accomplishments were accompanied by a deep passion for the parks and recreation field. His leadership was untiring and inspirational, and his stamina remarkable. His personal charisma, sincerity and compassion were apparent to all. The persistence, drive and forcefulness in getting the job done exhibited in his "can-do" attitude, consistently inspired those around him. All who interacted with Dean Tice appreciated his mentoring, friendship and counsel. Perhaps most of all, it was his dignity, integrity and high standards of excellence which made his evangelical fervor for this profession persuasive to all he met.