Mildred J. “Mickey” Little
Mickey Little was born on October 7, 1929, in Schulenburg, Texas, and was raised on the family farm. As with most families living on farms, all their food came from their own efforts. The foundation of her work ethic and the love of the outdoor world began in this environment. Mickey was 2 years old when her father died. Her siblings, Skip and Hazel, had to “grow up” and help their mother manage all the farm’s chores. During her senior year at Schulenburg High School, Mickey had to decide where she was going to college. She was quick in her decision and chose The University of Texas at Austin. To fulfill her dream her brother, Skip, financed her education and to this day she is deeply grateful for his kindness.
Little earned three degrees from The University of Texas: Bachelor of Science (1951), Master’s of Education (1955), and Doctor of Education (1969) in Physical Education. In 1951 Little began her teaching and coaching career at Georgetown High School in Georgetown, Texas, then she moved to Luther Burbank High School in San Antonio, Texas, and finally to St. Stephen’s Episcopal High School in Austin, Texas. Once she completed her master’s degree, she then taught at Mary Hardin-Baylor College from 1955-1971 and became department chair in 1964. She served in this capacity for 7 years. In 1971 she joined the faculty at Texas A & M University where she reached new professional heights. Little served on numerous committees at the departmental, college, and university levels and was very active in outdoor education at the state and national levels. She retired in 1988.
Impact and Career Highlights
Little has been described as an organizer, visionary, and a true “trailblazer” in outdoor education. She brought state and national recognition to Texas A&M University by creating the Outdoor Education Institute in 1978. The institute served countless students, educators, and recreation specialists by providing courses, workshops, and seminars. Students had the option to earn a specialization or an undergraduate or graduate degree in outdoor education. Little directed the Outdoor Education Institute until her retirement in 1988.
In addition in 1979, through Little’s leadership, the Texas Outdoor Education Association was formed. Soon thereafter she worked numerous hours with the Texas Education Agency to include outdoor education in the physical education curriculum. Outdoor education remains a component of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.
Some of Little’s additional involvement in outdoor education include serving as educational coordinator for the American Wilderness Leadership School, Safari Club International, in British Columbia, Canada, July 1977 and Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming, July 1978.
Little authored and co-authored many articles and books and presented on topics ranging from sports, fitness, to outdoor pursuits such as canoeing, hiking and camping. The Gulf Publishing Company published The Camper’s Guide Series that included 9 books Little authored and 2 she co-authored with Lillian Morava. In 1988 her book the Camper’s Guide to Texas Parks, Lakes and Forests celebrated its 20th anniversary and received the following reviews:
- “…the best book available on the subject…” – Texas Outdoor Writers Association
- “… a vast amount of information in a concise and usable fashion…” – The Houston Chronicle and finally (it’s) “… as valuable to Texas as dry matches on a raining night.”—Southern Living.
Experiential Adventure Experiences
Paddled (canoe, kayak, raft) for 36 years in 19 states, 5 rivers in Canada and Mexico, rafted the Grand Canyon 3 times, canoed 34 different rivers, streams, and bayous in Texas. She rafted all the beautiful canyons in Big Bend National Park, sea kayaked in the California Baja and Glacier Bay in Alaska and canoed the Minnesota and Canadian Boundary Waters several times.
Backpacked for 25 years in 17 different states including Chilkoot Trail, 33 miles in Alaska and the Napali Coast, 22 miles round trip, in Kauai, Hawaii; Backpacked 100 miles of the Continental Divide in Colorado, and through 6 states of the Appalachian Trail, and backpacked the Grand Canyon rim to rim twice. She summited Mt. Harvard, elevation 14,420, and Mt. Oxford, elevation 14,153 in Colorado. Many of these trips were taken to hone her own skillset, or as she guided experiential assignments from the Outdoor Education Institute in which the students applied skills studied on campus.
After she retired, she supervised the building of her home, a log cabin on 45 acres, in Johnson City, Texas. Since 1993 she has completed 20 mission trips including trips out of the country and 8 states in the USA.
- Gulf Publishing Company’s Hall of Fame, Inductee, 1998
- Recreational Professional of the Year, Southern District American Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and Dance, 1988
- Recreational Professional of the Year, Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 1987
- Texas A&M University Distinguished Achievement Award for Continuing Education & Extension, 1984
- AAHPERD Council on Outdoor Education, Secretary (1979-1984), President (1982-1983), and Past-President (1983-1984).
- Julian Smith Award, American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. (“the most prestigious award in the field”), 1983
- Honor Award, Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 1973
- First woman appointed to the Texas A&M University Athletic Council and served from 1976-1984