Philip O. Stewart (1923- ) received the Pugsley Medal in 1989 in recognition of his "extraordinary leadership of the National Park Service's land acquisition division for over a decade." He attended Creighton University, receiving an undergraduate degree in 1949 and a law degree in 1952. In 1952, he was an attorney advisor with the US Army Corps of Engineers in the Omaha District. In 1963, he moved to become chief of real estate for the Corps' Philadelphia district.
In 1966, he changed agencies to become chief of land acquisition for the National Park Service. Stewart headed the NPS land acquisition division during the greatest period of land acquisition activity that the NPS has ever known. Not only was the workload monumental, but the problems were complex. Stewart provided the determination and leadership to make hard decisions and to get the work done. Perhaps his greatest achievement through these years was that of providing a voice of great strength for the protecting of park lands through acquisition for preservation and public use, rather than letting these areas become despoiled by threatening private development. He stood forcefully for conservation, when many others were willing to recede to a less environmentally protective course.
His commitment to conservation and his leadership skills led to Stewart being promoted to assistant director of the NPS in 1976, and he remained in that position until his retirement in 1979, after completing 30 years of service with the federal government. One of the functions he took on in this capacity, in addition to continued supervision over land acquisition matters, was concessions management. A great deal of headway was made on this perpetual and thorny issue during his tenure as assistant director. When he was placed in charge of the concessions program, it was in a state of disarray. He instituted evaluations and inspections, which included safety and public health, to put the program on a business-like basis, establish accountability, and determine whether concessioners were furnishing a satisfactory public service. The improvements he instituted resulted in a renewed confidence in concessions operations in the parks. Stewart was not timid. He was known for his keen mind, quick wit, and candor. He was resolute and emphatic in his support for conservation and vigorous environmental protection of NPS lands. He brought energy, skill, tenacity, and especially an undaunted esprit to each day's duties and to each new challenge, and sustained it in both victory and defeat. Stewart became an institution in the NPS, and he also was instrumental in guiding the work of the National Park Foundation in its formative years. The Foundation chair commented:
Your singular comprehension of the parameters and possibilities of the National Park Foundation, grounded always in the practical and the pragmatic, has resulted in creating an institution which has not only survived -- a minor miracle in itself -- but one which has flourished and prospered and has begun to realize its full potential. You, alone, can claim credit for this achievement.
Among the numerous awards Stewart received were the Department of Interior's Meritorious Service Award in 1972, and its Distinguished Service Award in 1978. A statement in the Congressional Record concluded by saying; "His leadership and influence will be greatly missed by conservation, but his legacy is indelible. All who appreciate nature and our national park system are greatly in his debt, and should wish him well in his retirement." The NPS director noted that with his retirement, "The National Park Service suffered a great loss. We lost the services of an outstanding administrator, a first-rate intellect, and above all, a compassionate human being. You stand out as one of the unique human resources in the National Park Service."
Congressional Record-House, statement by Mr. Sebelius, ranking minority member of the Subcommittee on National Parks.