Museum lecture to bring Parks Service founder to life

CARSON CITY, Nevada – A bronze plaque at Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada memorializes Stephen T. Mather, the founder and first director of the National Park Service. Stephen T. Mather (1867-1930), an industrialist and conservationist, was the first director of the National Park Service. Photo provided by Nevada State Museum. The inscription reads: “He laid the foundation of the National Park Service, defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be developed and conserved unimpaired for future generations. There will never come an end to the good that he has done.” Indeed, anyone who visits a national park in the United States owes a debt of gratitude to Mather, who grew up in Northern California and developed a love for nature in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Though he died in 1929, his story is very much alive and will be told in his own words in a Chautauqua presentation at the October Frances Humphrey Lecture Series at the Nevada State Museum. The event is Thursday, Oct. 26, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and the program at 6:30 in the museum’s South Gallery. Historical reenactor Steve Hale takes on the persona of Mather, a millionaire industrialist who retired young in order to follow a passion to create more parkland in the United States. Hale will describe the inspired vision that was sparked in the Sierra, then spread nationally during a fierce battle over building the Hetch Hetchy Dam in Yosemite National Park. More than a century later, Mather’s story of fortuitous events that led to the creation of “America’s Best Idea,” remains an inspiration to those who cherish the nation’s parks. Hale has been professionally performing reenactments for nearly a decade, traveling to many venues on the West Coast including national and state parks, historical societies, statue dedications, Chautauqua celebrations and fundraising events. His recent appearances as Stephen Mather have been at Yosemite Valley Theater, Death Valley National Park and the Furnace Creek Inn. Admission to the lecture is $8 for adults; free for museum members and children 17 and younger. Seating is limited and those planning to attend can reserve a seat by contacting Mary Covington at or (775) 687-4810, ext. 224. For more information, contact Bob Nylen at or call (775) 687-4810, ext. 245.