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Joe Bannon
Joe Bannon, right of center in sweatshirt, was central in establishing an interdisciplinary leisure research program at the University of Illinois in the 1970s.

Former RST department head Joe Bannon dies at 89

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of our dear friend, mentor, leader, and colleague, Dr. Joe Bannon. Joe was the bedrock of our field. Joe's legacy of devotion to students and the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism at the University of Illinois lives on. He was central in establishing an interdisciplinary leisure research program at the University of Illinois in the 1970s that led the way for other programs around the country. He was such an inspired and energetic leader as all his accomplishments demonstrate, but it was his friendship that we appreciated most and that we will all miss dearly. — Carla Santos, department head, Recreation, Sport and Tourism

CHAMPAIGN, Ill.—Joseph (Joe) J. Bannon, 89, of Champaign passed away March 30, 2021, at his home in Champaign.

Joe was born on May 30, 1931, in Glens Falls, N.Y., to parents Leo and Elizabeth Bannon. Joe was preceded in death by his wife, Ann, and his grandson, Keegan. Joe is survived by his two sons, Joseph Jr., and Peter, and their spouses, Jill and Amy. Joe was blessed with eight grandchildren: Kelsey, Keegan, Erin, Sophie, Regan, Doug, Leo, and Rory, and one great granddaughter, Keegan Rose.

Joe was a loving and devoted father, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin, boss, mentor, and friend. He was a wonderful role model for his family and was fiercely loyal to those he loved. When Joe was not busy working or spending time with family and friends, he enjoyed running, golf, and spending his summers with his family at his mountain retreat in upstate New York.

Professionally, Dr. Joseph J. Bannon graduated Cum Laude from Ithaca College in 1957. In 1958, he was awarded an assistantship at the University of Illinois in the Department of Park and Recreation to pursue his master of science degree. Upon graduation, he assumed the position of Superintendent of Recreation in Leonia, N.J. In 1963, he became the General Superintendent of the Topeka, Kansas, Recreation Commission where he served until 1966. In 1966, he returned to the University of Illinois to become the Chief of the Office of Recreation and Park Resources. During his tenure as Chief, he completed his Ph.D. in 1971. In 1973, he assumed the headship of the Department of Leisure Studies.

Dr. Bannon was a prolific writer, having authored or co‑authored nine books, contributed a number of chapters to edited books, and wrote more than 50 journal and magazine articles. He is a co-founding editor of the Journal of Park and Recreation Administration. Dr. Bannon was a founding member of The Academy of Leisure Sciences and the American Academy of Park and Recreation Association. He was presented numerous awards in his lifetime for his decades-long service to the park and recreation profession. In 2001, Dr. Bannon was honored with the Pugsley Award, the most distinguished award for park and recreation conservation given in the profession.

Dr. Bannon consulted extensively throughout the U.S. and Japan, China, Korea, South Africa, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, and Peru. In 1988, he spent an extended period of time in China consulting with universities as well as city officials in Beijing, Shanghai, and Suchow about fitness and recreation programs.

Joe developed the newsletter Management Strategy in 1977. The publication was dedicated to disseminating management information to parks and recreation professionals throughout the world. This led to the formation of the Sagamore Publishing Company, which he built and worked at full time, acquiring and developing titles after retiring from the University of Illinois alongside his son, Peter Bannon. Joe continued to maintain his close ties to the recreation field he loved throughout his life, advising and mentoring countless young professionals in the field.

He will be greatly missed by all of us.

— Written by Peter Bannon

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