National Recreation and Park Association honors professor emeritus

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Geoffrey C. Godbey, professor emeritus of recreation, park and tourism management (RPTM) at Penn State, has been awarded the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Distinguished Professional Award. NRPA will present the award publicly at a special reception at the association’s 2014 NRPA Congress on Oct. 15 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Godbey’s current research interests include leisure and health; public recreation and parks and health, futures research and leisure behavior; leisure in urban China; leisure and aging; and tourism. Past president of the Academy of Leisure Sciences, Godbey obtained his doctorate from Penn State. He has authored 10 books and more than 100 articles concerning leisure, work, time use, aging, recreation and parks, tourism, health and the future. He is currently Sir Yue-Kong Pao Visiting Professor at the Asia Pacific Center for the Study of Leisure at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.

“I can think of no other academic who is more deserving of this award consideration,” said Karla Henderson, professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University. “Dr. Godbey has been associated with Penn State University throughout his career. He is currently retired from Penn State and heading a consulting company. He remains highly connected to the parks and recreation field. Geof was the co-founder and is currently the editor of Venture Publishing Inc., which has been a critical publisher for leisure, recreation and park literature for classroom use. Dr. Godbey has served as a mentor formally and informally for dozens of young professionals. He has chaired over 20 Ph.D. committees and many of those individuals are currently teaching in higher education in the U.S. as well as around the world.”

Previously a faculty member at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, Godbey has undertaken research for the American Association of Retired Persons, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Recreation Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He has been a consultant to the National Science Foundation; State Government of Sao Paulo, Brazil; and the U.S. Department of the Interior; as well as many advertising agencies and public and private recreation, park and tourism organizations. Godbey has testified before committees of the U.S. Senate and the President's Commission on Americans Outdoors. A frequent public speaker to diverse groups, he has given invited presentations in 24 countries.

He also advised and was the spokesperson for Hampton Inn’s Year of 1,000 Weekends campaign and served on Hilton Hotel’s Leisure Time Advocacy Board. From 2002-04, Godbey helped develop the LifeTrail, a series of stretching and strengthening stations for older adults, for Playworld Systems Inc. Currently he is an adviser on the future of leisure for The Next Thousand Years Project, sponsored by the Foundation for the Future.

Recently, Godbey has conducted research on the impact of ethnic change on outdoor recreation, relations between health and use of leisure, and the impact of changing demographics on the tourism function of the National Park Service.

Each year, NRPA National Awards are presented to individuals and agencies across the U.S. to honor their efforts — both professional and personal — in the field of parks and recreation. There are 10 award categories in the NRPA’s National Awards program. Recipients are selected from a pool of applicants by NRPA’s National Awards and Scholarship Committee, and are chosen for excellence in a variety of topics, including professional and voluntary service, programming, leadership, research and public outreach. 

The Distinguished Professional Award is presented to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the field through their leadership, research, advocacy, community outreach and program development. 

For more information about The Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management at Penn State, visit For more information about NRPA, visit

Last Updated January 09, 2015