By Ann Cipperly
Over the years, Dr. Patsy Parker has inspired dreams in the hearts of thousands of Opelika school children and students at Southern Union, as well as being dedicated to the community, volunteering in numerous organizations. On March 8th, Patsy was honored for serving 25 years on the Opelika Industrial Development Board. The honoree and her husband William’s son, Billy Parker, was named to the board to fill the vacancy as he follows in his parents’ legacy of service.
Born and raised in Opelika, Patsy said she cannot remember a time when she didn’t want to be a schoolteacher like her mother, Chinissa Boyd. Patsy was a go-getter at an early age, writing for the Campus Digest and a column for the Opelika News at age 16.
After graduating from J.W. Darden High School at 16, she became the first full-time black secretary at the school and attended Alabama State University during the summer months. Her father, who had been a tailor, passed away when she was 17. While this tragedy could have hindered some from attending college, Patsy said she was determined to receive a degree.
While attending college, Patsy met William, when they were married in 1957 after he graduated, and she was a junior. Patsy was active in various honor societies and graduated as valedictorian of her class. Along with a degree from Alabama State University, she has a master’s degree in counselor education from Auburn University and later received a doctorate.
William also has a master’s degree and earned a specialist degree in administration from the University of Alabama.
Patsy began her teaching career at Jeter School, while William accepted a position as physical education director for the black elementary schools in Opelika. He became assistant principal at Darden High school. Later, Patsy began teaching at Darden High School and counseling part-time.
During integration, the Parkers feel they were fortunate to have had support from the community as they worked with parents, students and school administrators in assisting in a smooth transition.
After the schools were integrated, Patsy became the first black counselor at Opelika High School. She was always interested in helping children. When she went to work as a counselor, there weren’t many scholarships given.
“I was determined that any child who wanted to go to college would have an opportunity,” Patsy said. “My focus has always been working with the kids and getting them scholarships.”
William became the first black principal in at Opelika Junior High School. He worked with Judge Lane as a volunteer advisor to the Lee County Juvenile Court System and served on the State Central Board of Control for the Alabama High School Athletic Association, which sets standards for behavior.
The Parkers’ children, Billy and Nancy, were active in school and both were in the band. Billy was the first black Key Club president, while Nancy was the first black Miss OHS.
Both Patsy and William were active in PTA, serving as presidents. When the Boys and Girls Club was organized, the Parkers were on the first board and the Youth Development board.
When William retired in 1991, he became director of the Child Advocacy Center for 10 years. He was instrumental in getting land and a new building to help children in need. He was appointed by the mayor to represent Opelika on the Indian Pines Golf Authority.
After retiring from the Opelika school system, Patsy became an advisor and consultant at Southern Union State Community College. She was also a member of the Foundation Board at Southern Union Community College for many years and the Opelika City Board of Education, serving as chairman.
She has received many honors from Alabama State University and has served on the board of trustees for more than 28 years. Patsy was the first female chairman of the board of trustees. In 2008, she was awarded the Doctorate of Humane Letters. At her 50th class reunion in 2010 she was presented the university’s first trustee emeritus.
Patsy has been a member of the College of Education’s National Alumni Advisory Council at Auburn University since l979. Patsy organized the first Black sorority, Delta Sigma Theta—Kappa Omicron Chapter at Auburn University.
She was Woman of the Year in Opelika l991, named recipient of the Woman of Achievement Award by the Camp Concharty Council of Girl Scouts of America and many other honors and recognitions. Boy Scouts of America named the Parkers Distinguished Citizens of the Year.
The Parkers feel their greatest accomplishments, pride and love in their lives has been their family. Billy went to work as a development officer at Auburn University, while Nancy became an Emmy winning anchor at Fox News in New Orleans.
Three years ago, Patsy and William experienced heartbreak at the devastating loss of their daughter Nancy in a plane crash while she was working on a story. With Nancy’s outreach and dedication to helping others, her loss broke the hearts of people around the world. Her passion for telling people’s stories inspired others to make a difference.
The celebrated news anchor interviewed the President of the United States, met the Pope on St. Peter’s Square and received numerous Emmys, honors and awards for her documentaries and dedication to excellence.
The honors for Nancy have continued, including being inducted into two halls of fame, with one at the University of Alabama, having a street named after her in Louisiana along with a park and the Fox 8 studio, among many others.
Scholarships in Nancy’s name have been established in Opelika and New Orleans to help other young people fulfill their dreams.
After Nancy’s death, Patsy and William established a community scholarship in her honor to an Opelika High School senior attending Alabama State University. This is the second scholarship the Parkers have established. The first one was in 1991.
The Parkers have also contributed to Auburn University in various departments, the University of Alabama and Southern Union.
As she learned at a young age to give back, Patsy continues her work at Southern Union and serving on various boards in the community, with little thought of slowing down.
• Dr. of Humane Services from Alabama State University
• Master of Education degree with a major in counseling psychology from Auburn University, and a B.S. degree
• Valedictorian of her class at Alabama State University.
• Member of the Opelika City Board of Education
• Member of the Family and Patient Care Committee East Alabama Medical Center
• Member of Dean’s Circle College of Education, Auburn University
• Member of Youth Leadership Board Chamber of Commerce of Opelika
• Member of the Opelika Industrial Development Board
• Member of the Opelika Parks and Recreation Board
• Member of Alabama Education Association, National Education Association and Opelika Education Association Retired Teachers
• Member of Continental Societies of America
• Former member of the Alabama Education Association Board
• Former member of the State of Alabama Women’s Commission appointed by Governor Hunt
• Member of Alabama State Board of Trustees for 28 years serving as chairman and vice-chairman for several years.
• Recipient of the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters
• Named Trustee Emeritus at Alabama State University
• Member of Alabama State Alumni Association
• Member of University of Alabama Alumni Association
• Life Member of Auburn University Alumni Association
• Past member of the National College of Education Advisory Board for 28 years
• Founder of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority first black sorority at Auburn University
• Recipient of the W.E. Morton Award for leadership and service to the Opelika City Schools by the M. L. Zuber Federated Club
• Co-recipient of the Boy Scouts of America’s Distinguished Citizen Award
• Co-recipient of the 2012 Dream Achiever Award
• Opelika Chamber of Commerce 2016 Distinguished Service Award
The Parkers sponsor a $1,000 scholarship to any Opelika High School student who attends Alabama State University and has a 3.0 GNA. Four Opelika High Schools students have received the scholarship.
Patsy has assisted hundreds of students not only at Opelika High School but also other schools throughout the United States.
WILLIAM’S HONORS AND AWARDS
• B.S. degree in social studies and physical education from Alabama State University
• Master of Science Degree from Alabama State University
• Specialist degree in administration from the University of Alabama
• Co-recipient of the Alabama State University President’s Club Award
• Alabama State’s Alumni on the Move Award
• Alabama Athletic Association Distinguished Service Award
• East Alabama Mental Health and Retardation Center Award for 17 Years of Service on the board of directors, on which he continues to serve
• Vice president and treasurer of the board of directors at the East Alabama Mental Health Association
• Co-recipient of the Boy Scouts of America’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year
• Co-recipient of the 2012 Dream Achiever Award
• Lee County Juvenile Court Award for Outstanding Distinguished Voluntary Leader in the establishment of the East Alabama Child Advocacy Center
• Certificate of Appreciation from United Way
• Member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.
• Member of Alabama State Alumni Association
• Member of the Indian Pines Golf Authority Board
• Member of the Alabama Education Association
• Member of the National Education Association
• Member of the Lee County Retired Teachers Association