Under the direction of Dean O. N. Hunter, The Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism evolved from one of three units that split from the College of Education in 1968 to form the College of Health. In that year, Dr. Linn Rockwood was hired from Wisconsin to head up the Recreation Division.
In 1972, Dr. Dale Cruse became head of the division which gained departmental status in 1984. The current name for the department was approved in 1995. Dr. Gary Ellis, who joined the faculty in 1985 and served many years as Director of Graduate Studies, was appointed Chair in 1996 and led the faculty until 2005. Dr. Joseph Arave served as Interim Chair in the 2005/2006 academic year. Dr. Daniel Dustin joined the faculty as Chair in 2006 and served until 2013. Dr. Kelly Bricker was appointed Chair in 2013, and continues to serve as Chair of the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, within the College of Health.