Marc Sagan

Marc Sagan, a leader and innovator in the field of interpretive planning for parks and historic sites, died at his home in Loudoun County, Virginia, on May 24, 2017, at the age of 88.

He was born in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, the son of David and Celia Sagan. He attended Boston English High School and graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a degree in biology. He received a master’s degree in natural history from the University of Pittsburgh.

Marc served in the Army during the Korean War, then took a job managing Cunningham Falls State Park in Thurmont, Maryland. He transitioned to the National Park Service (NPS) while he was in Thurmont, working as the park naturalist at Catoctin Mountain Park. It was while he was there that he met and married his wife of 64 years, Jean Kelbaugh Sagan. From Catoctin, Marc went on to serve as a naturalist at Grand Canyon National Park.

Marc’s career flourished under the NPS’s 10-year program, Mission 66, which aimed to dramatically expand visitor services by 1966, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the NPS. Marc was one of a generation of innovators in the field of interpretation who transformed the national park visitor experience. These planners and designers moved away from the “book on the wall” convention of using text-heavy exhibits to explain the import and context of each park’s key features. Besides visitor center exhibits, they used audiovisual tools, outdoor exhibits, publications, living history demonstrations and other means of engaging visitors’ attention by bringing to life the story of each park site.

Eventually, he became manager of the NPS Interpretive Design Center in Harpers Ferry, WV. In that role, he had the opportunity to travel and advise park systems worldwide, including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan and Saudi Arabia. When he retired, he continued to serve as a consultant for state parks and international sites.

He is survived by his daughter, Harriet “Hatsy” Sagan Cutshall, his son, Paul Sagan, his grandchildren Kati and Alex Cutshall, and his brother, Lester Sagan of Barrington, RI. He was preceded in death last year by his beloved wife, Jean.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to one or more of the following organizations: National Park Foundation, Lung Cancer Research Foundation and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.

A memorial service will be held in the fall. The time and venue will be announced at a later date.

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