- Dr. Peter Witt, 1999 – 2013
- Dr. Gary Ellis, 2017 – present
The Elda K. and Joseph Bradberry Recreation and Youth Development Chair is commonly known as the Bradberry Recreation and Youth Development Chair.
A Short History
In 1999, Dr. Peter Witt (Department Head for Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences) was invited by Henry Nimcek (Development Officer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) to attend a meeting at an Austin country club with two representatives, Jim Smith and Joe Bradberry, of the Sequor Foundation. At the time, Sequor was a new, small foundation with a commitment to enhancing programs and services for youth. Henry asked Dr. Witt to come to the meeting prepared to discuss Sequor’s interest in funding a camp in the San Antonio area, with the possibility of RPTS running the camp and using it as a training opportunity for RPTS and other TAMU students.
After hearing the proposal, Dr. Witt indicated that since there was a proliferation of camps in Texas, Sequor might want to concentrate its efforts on other areas of youth services. After further discussion, Joe and Jim became interested in RPTS efforts to build a youth development program and the ongoing research and outreach activities in which that Dr. Witt was currently involved.
At this point, Henry suggested that maybe Sequor could put up a $100,000 endowment to help fund a graduate student to assist Dr. Witt in his research. Sequor seemed interested. But then Henry told Jim and Joe that Bum Bright, Texas A&M Regent and owner of the Dallas Cowboys, had put up a $10,000,000 fund, which was being split up to match gifts for 20 endowed chairs. He also indicated that 19 of the chairs had already been funded, and one remained. So, he asked Jim and Joe if Sequor was interested in putting up $500,000 to be matched by the Bright funds, the catch being that they probably had to act immediately. At that point, Jim, who was President of three man Sequor Board, said he thought that was a good idea, especially if they could name the chair after Joe’s wife, Elda K. Bradberry, who had recently passed away (Elda Kay was an educator and longtime advocate for children and youth). In tears, Joe said he thought it was a good idea. Peter sat stunned as Henry went to call his office and get the necessary paperwork agreement faxed to the country club for Jim to sign…and the rest is history. Peter and Henry went to the parking lot accompanied by Jim and Joe. Peter gave a still tearful Joe a big hug and congratulations were extended by Henry and everybody left.
Thus, began a long and productive partnership with the Sequor Foundation. The initial purpose of the chair was to promote the identification of best practices with an emphasis on after school, recreational and educational programs. The purpose has since broadened to include a broader spectrum of youth development programs
In 1999, Dr. Peter Witt was named the first Elda K. Bradberry chair holder. Dr. Witt has a long history of leadership as a professor and scholar. Prior to serving as Department Head at Texas A&M, Dr. Witt was Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of North Texas. He also served as department head at the University of North Texas, and he is a leading scholar in parks, recreation, and tourism. His entire research agenda has focused on youth, beginning with studies as a research associate in the University of Illinois’ play behavior laboratory early in his career. He is a Fellow in two national academies, and held leadership positions in both of those, including service as President of the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration. Dr. Witt is also deeply committed to public service and has provided leadership to a number of key community organizations. He is a recipient of the prestigious George H. W. Bush Award for extraordinary public service.
Funding from the chair endowment has been key to enabling the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences to build its graduate and then undergraduate youth development programs. Two additional faculty were hired to assist in developing the program. The graduate program has led to the graduation of a number of professional and academic leaders in the field. An undergraduate specialization in youth development began in September 2010.
Joe Bradberry passed away in 2005. To honor his memory, the Sequor Board authorized a change name change for the chair to the Elda K. and Joseph Bradberry Recreation and Youth Development Chair, shortened to the Bradberry Recreation and Youth Development Chair in most publications and official documents.
Peter Witt retired from the University in August 2013. The Chair position remained vacant until Dr. Gary Ellis was appointed as Chair in 2017. Dr. Ellis also has an extensive history of contributions to research, education, and professional service. His research has focused on the quality of immediate experiences of youth and assessment of how development of youth is influenced by their recreation and leisure behavior. Dr. Ellis is past-president of the Society of Park and Recreation Educators, the Academy of Leisure Sciences, and he has held a number of leadership positions related to accreditation and research. He served as Head of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M from 2008 through 2016. Prior to that appointment, he was department chair at the University of Utah for 22 years.