It all began with Ninety Six,” says Lawrence Benenson, long-time donor of NPCA, who visited Ninety Six as a child. What is Ninety Six? It is a national historic monument in South Carolina with various legends about how it got its name. It is rich with Cherokee tradition and was the site of two Revolutionary War battles. “But one of my favorites is the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site in Baltimore, which commemorates the first female president of a bank and the first African-American bank president/owner: The same person!”
Many of Lawrence’s interests had their beginnings in national parks, “My life has been enriched by them,” he says. “So much of what I know I learned at a national park.” America’s national parks bring history and culture to life through interpretive programs that help visitors form intellectual and emotional connections with the inherent significance and meanings.
He loves New York City’s rich cultural offerings, citing Teddy Roosevelt’s birthplace, a national historic monument on 20th Street, “How many people have been there or even know about it?” he asks.
“He is a Renaissance Man,” says Lynn Davis, Nevada Program Manager for NPCA, who has gone with Lawrence on many hikes. “His interests are sophisticated and wide-ranging, and his knowledge is deep, but he acts like a happy child when he learns something new.” He often visits Tule Springs, the site of a potential future national park in Nevada’s Mojave Desert, where he feeds his interest in fossils and his love of open space. “I feel safe in national parks,” said Lawrence, trying to articulate the feeling of peace, serenity and infinity he feels in one of America’s magnificent spaces.
Lawrence once described himself as “philanthropically militant,” a thought that is reflected in his statement: “I look at the parks as this wonderful gift that our government has given us. We must protect them from political shenanigans that threaten them. Our government gives us much more than we give in return.” He believes that philanthropy is essential to a healthy society. “I give to NPCA because I want to ensure that there is always money in the Federal budget for parks so that we can conserve these beautiful lands as well as our history and heritag