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Professor Emeritus Frank Lupton at Horn Field Campus, circa 1973.
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Members of the very first (1976) Environmental, Conservation and Outdoor Education Expedition (ECOEE) gathered with Doc Lupton at the third annual Lodge & Libations at Horn Field Campus in 2016.
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Frank "Doc" Lupton Obituary

March 15, 2021

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MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University Recreation Park and Tourism Administration (RPTA) Professor Emeritus Frank "Doc" Lupton, 88, passed away March 10 in Minnesota.

Lupton, who retired in 1993, joined the RPTA faculty in 1971. He served as acting chair from 1972-73, and was named chair in 1980. He was recognized as one of the national leaders in outdoor recreation programming and led several WIU outdoor living laboratories at the National Outdoor Leadership School in New York. Lupton also led WIU's Outdoor Leadership minor, also known as the Environmental, Conservation and Outdoor Education Expedition (ECOEE), for many years, leading hundreds of WIU students through the wilderness, typically out west, for a semester-long experience to earn Wilderness Steward Certification.

"There is truly so much amazing in this world," said WIU Alumnus Nate Bricker. "Kelly (Bricker) and I, and so many others, have Dr. Lupton to thank for turning us on to that; for helping us to see beyond the confines of our own self-imposed limitations, expanding our comfort zones, and for realizing 'the sun is shining, the birds are singing and it's a great day to be alive.' Both of us have spent a fair amount of time in higher education and we've learned heaps, but the greatest educational impact in our lives has always been ECOEE."

Lupton was actively involved in the RPTA's curriculum revision and expansion, developing numerous courses, including Outdoor Education Administration, Trends and Problems, Camp Administration and more, and he co-authored a proposal to WIU for funds to develop the Horn Field Campus (HFC) into an outdoor and environmental education center. In 2015, Horn celebrated its 50th anniversary being part of Western. A pavilion is currently under construction at Horn, which will bear Lupton's name.

"I would say my vision for it (Horn) probably started when I interviewed for the position in 1971. I liked Western, and I very much liked the field campus," Lupton said in an interview for a 2014 edition of Western News.

Lupton was named the WIU Faculty Lecturer in 1976 and was named the Phi Eta Sigma honorary Society Faculty Member of the Year in 1978. During his years at WIU, Lupton was active in state and national organizations, including the National Recreation and Park Association, the American Camping Association, of which he served on the Board of Directors for the Illinois section, the Wilderness Education Association, which he co-founded and served as president, and the Illinois Park and Recreation Association.

"Doc Lupton was an Outdoor Education Pioneer at WIU. His founding of the ECOEE program offered something unique that no other institution of higher learning offered at the time and has yet to be truly replicated anywhere. This was one of the key pieces that led to RPTA being a signature program on campus. Doc was instrumental in helping found the Wilderness Education Association," said Mike Lukkarinen, interim RPTA chair. "He was a tireless advocate of outdoor education for all age groups his entire life. His phrase, 'The sun is shining, the birds are singing, it's a great day to be alive!' has been the mantra of RPTA students, faculty and many alumni for decades. He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten."

Lupton received his Ph.D. and master's degree from the University of Illinois and his bachelor's degree from Harris Teachers College in St. Louis. Prior to joining WIU's faculty, Lupton created and administered the camping program for Rockford Park District's Atwood Park for five years, created the Stronghold Camp and Convention Center and created and administered the camping program for the Illinois Presbyterian Synod in Oregon (IL) for five years, and was an instructor and field work supervisor at the University of Illinois from 1968-71.

A private family funeral will be held March 20, and a Celebration of Life will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 5 in Lake City, MN at the United Methodist Church. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Mahn Funeral Home in Rochester.

He is survived by his wife, Yvonne, of Rochester, MN; his three daughters, Chris Lupton of Lake City MN, Cathy (Jeff) Roepke of Rochester MN and Cindy (Doug) Erdal of Eden Prairie MN; six grandchildren; and five great grandchildren. The family prefers memorial contributions to WIU's Horn Field Campus in lieu of flowers.

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