By Sue CasseauJuly 2, 2013
Lifetime achievement usually refers to the recipient, but in the case of Rachel Garren, her achievements affect the lifetimes of thousands of others.
Rachel Garren retired June 28, 2013 as the Interpretative Services and Outreach lead for the St. Louis District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Her career with the District began as a student intern at Lake Shelbyville, Ill., and over thirty-one years grew to bring national attention to her skills and educational efforts.
"I like being able to educate the public and the staff," said Garren. "It is the most critical thing we do at the lakes because we are trying to save lives on the water."
Her passion for education came from her father, she said. As a biology professor, he influenced her choice to become a ranger. On a canoe trip with her church group, she helped save the life of a fellow boater when swift water pulled their canoe into brush. The terrifying experience made a permanent impression on Garren about the importance of wearing life jackets.
She was determined that this important message had to reach anyone on and around the water. As a Natural Resource Specialist in Interpretive Services and Outreach, her talents for teaching became apparent.
From 1995 until 2000, Garren served on the National Water Safety Team. She said that the educational efforts at that time primarily consisted of posters. She encouraged broader message placement through promotional items, kid-friendly mascots, and eventually the Web.
After serving on the Water Safety Team for five years, Garren was appointed policy advisor to the National Operations Center for Water Safety, a position she held until 2009.
During this time, she worked to develop training programs that would encourage the knowledge and expertise of Corps of Engineers' Interpretive Services and Outreach rangers to be passed on to future staff. Thousands of Interpretive Services and Outreach rangers serving the public across the nation have been through the training program developed by Garren.
There were very specific issues Garren pushed to address. She and others determined that in order to reach the growing and diverse visitor population at the 420 lake and river projects that the Corps of Engineers manages, messages needed an accurate translation into Spanish. She also worked to develop a National Life Jacket Loaner Program policy to establish and maintain programs across the country.
"The most fulfilling part of my career has been working with people who have excelled within their agency," said Garren in retrospect. "It's been my pleasure to work with several people that have gone on to be lake and regulatory managers throughout the Corps and other agencies."
The National Water Safety Congress, a non-government, nationally recognized water and boating safety organization, awarded Garren the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2013.
The award affirms what hundreds of interpretative professionals have learned over past decades from Rachel Garren: A lifetime of achievement is best shared with the next generation.