Award Honorees

Richard Martin '56

Richard Martin has been recognized by many for his outstanding 43-year career with the National Park Service.

Richard graduated from Minnetonka High School in 1956. He became the first person in his family to attend college and graduated in 1962 with a degree in forestry from the University of Minnesota. Richard said the hard work he put into his education stemmed from the support he received from Minnetonka: "The profound message I got was 'You can always do better,'" he said.

Richard began his career as a Park Ranger at Olympic National Park in 1962. Afterward, he moved on to Mount Rainier National Park and then to Yosemite National Park to be a Valley District Ranger, considered to be one of the most challenging district ranger jobs in the National Park System.

When Queen Elizabeth II traveled to Yosemite in 1976, Richard served as Incident Commander for her visit. Richard and his team were among the first in the United States to use the Incident Command System, a system once used primarily for wildfires and searches and rescues, now used by the National Park Service and U.S. Coast Guard.

Richard was then promoted to Superintendent at Wrangell St. Elias National Park in Alaska where he worked informing people living in and near the park about safety and protecting the diverse wildlife from hunters.

"What I love best is that it's the wildest place I've ever been," said Richard, speaking to his time in Alaska. "I appreciate the opportunities the park service and the people of the country gave me to be able to experience it."

After that, he moved to Washington D.C. to work as Chief of Park Resource and Visitor Protection Park Ranger. The transition for Richard was a complete change: "I went from one of the wildest places, where the nearest restaurant was about an hour and a half, two hour drive away to staying in a little apartment there in urban Washington D.C., where I could walk to [more than] 50 restaurants," he said.

Not only was the new urban environment different, but so was the job. About attending meetings and congressional hearings, Richard said, "The politics were a shock to me."
After his time in D.C., Richard moved to Death Valley National Park where he worked with the Timbisha Shoshone Native American community to reach an agreement with the Park Service for restoration of homeland.

"When I transferred out of Death Valley to go to Sequoia National Park, [the Timbisha Shoshone] made me an honorary member of the tribe. I cherish that."

When he looks at what Minnetonka students are doing today, Richard is hopeful about the future. "As far as young folks coming out of Minnetonka High School, I couldn't be more optimistic," he said.

The advice Richard would give today's students is the same he had received from his mentors at Minnetonka: "You can always do better."


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