Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 50
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010
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Recreation Department Director Jack Roberts Says Good-Bye After 40 Years of Service

Ellen Gilbert

“I’ve put off retiring five times,” said Princeton Recreation Department Director Jack Roberts in a recent interview. “Now is the time.”

While expressing disappointment in the fact that a refurbished Community Park Pool “isn’t further along in its construction,” Mr. Roberts described his departure, which will be effective January 1, 2011, as “a perfect arrangement.”

He will be succeeded by current Program Supervisor Ben Stentz. Current Assistant Director Ted Ernst will also assume more administrative responsibilities as the new Director of Finances and Maintenance Operations.

Mr. Roberts said that he would officially announce his retirement at the Recreation Department’s Board meeting on Thursday evening, December 16. Although his last official day is January 14, he indicated that he would remain “as part of the team to help with the transition.” He will also continue to work with the Recreation Department Foundation that was recently created to raise outside money for capital improvements. “The group of people we have advising that fund are really dynamic and it will be a pleasure to work with them,” he said.

Starting as assistant director in 1970, Mr. Roberts’s tenure with the department spans 40 years. He became director in 1990, upon the retirement of the first director, R. Donald Barr. His accomplishments include the creation of a “revolving trust” user fee system that reduced taxpayers’ costs by charging actual participants for the use of facilities and programs. As a result of developing partnerships, three new active parks were constructed under Mr. Roberts’s watch, and others were renovated and improved. Passive open space areas were increased, and new facilities such as the skate park at Hilltop were developed. Other partnerships were created with Princeton University, The Princeton Regional Schools, Corner House, the Rutgers Youth Sports Research Council, and many volunteer sports groups in the community.

Although he would consider taking another job that entailed fewer hours, Mr. Roberts said that he is looking forward to “playing golf instead of talking about it,” and to preparing his home for eventual sale. Being a “fishing fanatic” also figures in his retirement plans.

“I have been fortunate to have worked for and worked with some incredibly dedicated individuals,” commented Mr. Roberts. “My current staff and those who have worked here previously have always made it a pleasure to come to work each day. There has always been a staff passion about our mission and a goodness about what we stand for and what we do. Working in the recreation field has been a very special experience.”

In a 2009 Town Topics profile of him Mr. Roberts described recreation as “the perfect tool for teaching children and adults good ethical values. I don’t get too wrapped up in parents who are developing kids to be Division I athletes; that’s not important to me. What’s more important to me is the child who’s not an athlete who, at the end of the year, says, ‘Gosh, I had fun. I want to do this again.’”

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