Press Release Oct 3, 2022

Clemson Institute for Parks Honors NPCA Leader on History and Cultural Resources

For more than twenty years, Alan Spears has been a powerful driving force for protecting many chapters of our country’s diverse history.

Clemson, S.C. – Alan Spears, Senior Director for Cultural Resources at the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), will be honored at the George B. Hartzog, Jr., Awards program on Oct. 4th with the Robert G. Stanton Award from the Clemson University Institute for Parks in recognition of his sustained achievement in protecting America’s historic and cultural resources.

“For more than twenty years, Alan Spears has been a powerful driving force for protecting many chapters of our country’s diverse history,” said Kristen Brengel, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association. “Alan has a wit and sense of humor that endears him to everyone from colleagues to some of the highest public officials of the land. For Alan, ensuring our national parks tell the full story of America is more than a job or even a vocation – it’s a calling. There is no one I trust more to work with communities, Congress, and chroniclers of history at the Park Service than him.”

Alan’s long career at NPCA has included leading and contributing to campaigns to establish national park sites like Pullman, Birmingham Civil Rights, and the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monuments, which help tell the story of the Civil Rights Movement. He has also served as a leader in campaigns to establish Fort Monroe, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad, and Colonel Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monuments, park sites that tell stories about America’s legacy of slavery, discrimination, and abolition. Alan has also worked to connect national parks across the country to new audiences of racially and ethnically diverse constituents.

Most recently, Alan has led NPCA’s efforts to establish a national park site in Mississippi commemorating the legacy of Emmett Till, his mother Mamie Till-Mobley, and the foot soldiers of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. He has dedicated years of leadership and labor to a campaign to establish America’s first national park dedicated to a Jewish American, Julius Rosenwald, and the schools Rosenwald built to fight racial injustice.

“Receiving an award that the bears the name of Mr. Robert G. Stanton is an extraordinary honor,” said Alan Spears. “I’m so very grateful to the Clemson Institute for Parks for the award and to Mr. Stanton, who set standards of commitment and excellence in the service of our public lands that I have done my best to follow. National parks protect invaluable American history that we cannot bear to lose. In turn, our job is to protect them.”

The Institute for Parks presents the annual awards program, named for George B. Hartzog Jr., the seventh director of the National Park Service, to showcase leading figures in the field of parks and conservation.

The Robert G. Stanton Award is named in appreciation of the remarkable career of the first African-American Director of the NPS. The award recognizes sustained and innovative achievement in promoting racial or ethnic diversity in the management of North America’s natural, historic and cultural heritage.

Among Stanton’s many accomplishments were the expansion of the interpretation of diverse cultural meanings inherent in national parks and increased participation by racial and ethnic minorities as both visitors and employees. Alan Spears’ work to bring awareness, designation and access to numerous cultural landmarks supports Stanton’s lifelong desire to bring diversity to the NPS.

“As Alan advocates for the designation and protection of historical sites and monuments, he also engages a more diverse segment of the population in important conversations about our nation’s cultural heritage,” said Robert Stanton. “Access to these sites will help further our mission to see more minority participation in our nation’s parks.”

“I am thrilled Alan is being honored with this award. His ability to advocate for park protection, engage communities and influence legisture is nothing short of heroic,” said Bob Powell, director of the Clemson University Institute for Parks. “His dedication, energy and talent for connecting with his audiences have led to monumental victories in the designation and preservation of our cultural heritage.”


About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.5 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit

The Clemson University Institute for Parks (CUIP) provides research, education, training, and outreach that enhances the management of the world’s parks and protected areas. It accomplishes this by providing park and protected area managers with innovative research to support science-based decision-making; and by developing current and future leaders in the park movement by providing interdisciplinary and transformative education and training programs. The Institute currently consists of 35 Fellows and 10 Scholars working on park-related research.

Visit the Institute for Parks website for more information about the George B. Hartzog, Jr. Environmental Awards program and its recipients.

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