- School of Public Health W.W. Patty Distinguished Alumni Award (2006)
In the state of Louisiana, Gene Young is known as "Mr. Recreation" because of his leadership and accomplishments at both the local and national levels. He retired in January 2003 after having worked 50 years for BREC (Recreation and Park Commission for East Baton Rouge Parish), the last 42 years as head of the department. Gene Young dedicated himself to whatever was necessary to bring BREC to the nationally recognized and award-winning status that it enjoys today. His career was distinguished by perseverance and unlimited energy as he fought for land to build parks, and interacted with the general public to understand their recreation needs. He worked for public trust to generate acceptance for tax revenues, and worked with limited funds and volunteers on many occasions to build recreation facilities to meet public demands for diverse interests in recreational programs. At the conclusion of his tenure with BREC, budgets had increased to over $28 million, attendance had increased from less than two million to over nine million visits a year; many major facilities were built, including a zoo, a 15-acre arboretum, two major stadiums, a velodrome, a $3 million horse activities center, a $3 million performing arts center, an historic plantation park, an art gallery, a swamp nature center park, an astronomy observatory, a handicapped children park, three 18-hole golf courses, six tennis centers, and many others. Over $5.5 million in land was donated to BREC during his tenure as superintendent.
The legacy of Gene Young is the outcome of a vision and life-long struggle to provide close-to-home neighborhood parks for every citizen. He began his career in parks and recreation at Camp Rio Vista, a summer camp for boys in Ingram, Texas. In 1951, as a Playground Director and part-time Center Director for the Austin Recreation Department, he developed and supervised programs ranging from athletic sports to story telling, talent shows, pet shows, puppet shows, band concerts and quiet games. In 1953, he completed his master's degree in recreation from Indiana University. Previously, he completed a B.S. from the University of Texas at Austin, and an associate of arts degree from Lamar State University.
During his professional career, he also served on many boards and councils, including membership on the Board of Trustees of the National Recreation and Park Association; he was named a Life Trustee in 1998. His involvement included service on numerous committees. He is also a member of the American Recreation and Park Society Branch and served on its National Facilities Standards Committee, Awards Committee, and represented APRS on CAPRA and the Congress Program Committee. He was selected as a Fellow, American Academy for Parks and Recreation Administration in 1994, and has served five years as its representative to the Commission on Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies. In 2002, he was awarded the Cornelius Pugsley Medal by the Academy, the highest award given in the recreation and parks field.