The Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism has a long and distinguished history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The first undergraduate course in recreation, Principles of Recreation, was offered in 1937. Two years later, 1939, the first graduate course, Philosophy and Administration of Recreation, was offered. Over the next 10 years, a few recreation courses were offered. In 1948 under the leadership of Dr. Allen V. Sapora, a formal curriculum in recreation was developed that lead to a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation. Dr. Allen V. Sapora was appointed Supervisor of Recreation curriculum at that time. A few years later, 1951, Charles K. Brightbill was appointed Chairman of the Recreation curriculum. A graduate program was established and the Master of Science Degree in Recreation was approved in 1953. Nearly 20 years later, 1972, the Doctor of Philosophy degree was approved.
In 1957, the Recreation Curriculum was moved from a program status to departmental status as the Department of Recreation and Municipal Park Administration, with Charles K. Brightbill as the first department head. After the untimely death of Mr. Brightbill in 1966, Dr. Allen V. Sapora was appointed department head. To better reflect an evolving field and curriculum, the department changed its name to Department of Recreation and Park Administration in 1967. Dr. Joseph Bannon was appointed Head of the Department of Recreation and Park Administration in 1972 and served in that capacity for 14 years, until the appointment of Dr. Larry Allen as Head in 1986. In 1975, to better reflect the department’s activities and research program, the department name was changed to Department of Leisure Studies. A few years later, 1989, Dr. Bannon was appointed Acting Head for a one year period while a search was conducted for a new Head. Dr. William McKinney was appointed Head of the Department of Leisure Studies in 1990 and served in that capacity for 10 years. In 2000, Dr. Cary McDonald was appointed Interim Head for a one year period followed by his appointment as Head in 2001. In 2004, the department changed its name to Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism.