Phil Francis retired this year as superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Philip A. Francis Jr. ’74

Protector of special places

For 41 years, administrative management major Phil Francis devoted his career to helping protect our country’s national parks and special landmarks. This year he retired from the U.S. National Park Service as superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Since joining the Park Service in 1972 at Kings Mountain National Military Park, Francis served in parks from coast to coast — including Shenandoah, Yosemite, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

In 1994, Francis transferred to the Smokies after serving for three years as associate regional director for administration in Southwest Regional Office in Santa Fe, N.M. He was deputy/acting superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In 2005, he became the sixth superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

His leadership was instrumental in the creation of new nonprofit partners that included Blue Ridge Parkway 75 Inc., the Institute at Tremont, Experience Your Smokies and Discover Life in America. Discover Life in America, which is conducting the first all-species inventory of a national park, named a new species after Francis in appreciation for his support of the project. His many awards include the Department of Interior’s Superior Service Award.

In retirement, Francis hopes to continue to stay close to the great outdoors — and he certainly knows all the special places to see and visit.

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