The New Superintendent: Part Ranger, Part Academic
“I just met your new superintendent,” said a sprightly seasonal employee from the University of Michigan. “He’s a professor at Ann Arbor.” The small group of full-time staff gathered in conversation just laughed at her remark and then patiently explained that whoever was chosen as superintendent would come from within the National Park Service, certainly not from a university. “Whenever the selection is made,” the seasonal intern was assured, “we’ll let you know who it is.” Several days later it was announced that Donald R. Brown, an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan, would be the lakeshore’s second superintendent. The appointment was not, however, as unlikely as it first appeared to be. Brown was a career park ranger with experience at Rocky Mountain National Park, Sequoia, Olympic, and Blue Ridge Parkway. During his nineteen years in the park service Brown had shown a flair for planning and education. He served for a time at the Albright Training Center before becoming the director of the University of Michigan’s International Seminar on National Parks, part of the School of Natural Resources. The forty-four year old was a native of Michigan and a graduate of Michigan State University. 
Brown first came to Sleeping Bear as the acting superintendent in June 1977. He officially became the superintendent in October of that year, after Martinek elected to retire. The two men were in stark contrast. Martinek was a traditional park ranger, tested through years of self-sufficient backcountry management. One former colleague described him as “an old Smokey the Bear type, in the very best sense of that style.” Brown was more of a team player, anxious to hear from everyone, open to ideas from outside the service. While his predecessor was a “take charge guy,” Brown was more low key and deliberative. The new superintendent was comfortable with ideas and concepts, disposed to deliberation. He was well-suited to a park that had a rapidly growing staff and which was about to embark on a critical strategic planning process. 
While Brown had the academician’s love of the give-and-take of ideas, he was in his own way a thorough park ranger. He loved the outdoors and was determined not to let the demands of the job to keep him locked in the office. He loved to ski and he personally worked with his staff to lay out more cross-country trails throughout the lakeshore. “We have to know how to use this park under all conditions,” he announced to the staff his first winter at Sleeping Bear. He then led the entire group on a weekend winter camping exercise. “We thought it was great,” recalled one of the rangers. The outing taught basic winter survival skills, oriented the staff to how year-round use of the lakeshore could be promoted, but most important of all, it quickly drew the staff and the superintendent together as a team—a vital concern as a crucial and trying planning process was underway.