Before Jonathan B. Jarvis became director of the National Park Service, Walter Diehl knew him as a classmate and fraternity brother.
Diehl, now associate dean of Mississippi State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, said he and Jarvis were both biology majors at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and they were both part of the Sigma Chi fraternity.
“He was a great guy. He was a good friend and one of these people that was fun to interact with,” Diehl said. “That’s why, even though we haven’t kept up over the years, I didn’t hesitate to give him a call and see if he’d be willing to come here and talk to our students.”
Jarvis accepted Diehl’s invitation, and he will give a presentation titled “National Parks and American Values: A Field Guide” at 6 p.m. Tuesday in McCool Hall’s Rogers Auditorium at MSU.
Diehl said this presentation is Jarvis’ primary reason for visiting Mississippi, but he is also visiting the headquarters for the NPS’s Natchez Trace Parkway and the Bynum Mound and Village Site. The latter is one of the oldest mound formations on the Natchez Trace, and a team of MSU archaeologists is slated to give Jarvis a briefing on this site.
“(These archaeologists are) faculty and students at our department of anthropology and Middle Eastern cultures,” Diehl said. “A number of them work on mounds of the same age as Bynum throughout Mississippi, and they set up a small presentation there every year for Mississippi Archaeology Month (in October). I just asked them if they would do that again for him when he comes by to visit (Tuesday) morning.”
If weather permits, Diehl said Jarvis will travel from the headquarters to Starkville via the Natchez Trace for a tour at midday Tuesday. He said this is not only the first time he is aware of that Jarvis has visited MSU, but it is also the first time Jarvis has visited the Natchez Trace.
“He started his career in the National Parks Service in 1975 when he graduated from college and has worked up through the ranks primarily out west,” Diehl said.
During the afternoon, Diehl said, Jarvis will also meet with students in the colleges of agriculture and life sciences, arts and sciences and forest resources to discuss highlights of his career.
“What I’m trying to do is not only give our faculty ... (and) students an opportunity to hear what he has to say but also showcase some of the work we’re doing at the university,” Diehl said. “So, we have a variety of ... opportunities for him to talk to people here who have worked with the National Park Service over the years who might do so again and students who have the idea that they would like to work for the National Park Service.”
Diehl said he knows few details about Jarvis’ presentation itself, but he was able to get some explanation of how national parks and American values will intersect in the presentation.
“I’ve talked with his program officer, and it is my understanding that he’s put together a public talk that matches an American value with each of our national parks,” Diehl said.