W. Robert Parks

W. Robert Parks (1915-2003), a native of Tennessee, received his B.A. (1937) from Berea College in Kentucky, an M.A. (1938) from the University of Kentucky, and a PhD (1948) from the University of Wisconsin. All the degrees were awarded in political science, with a minor in economics. He has also received honorary degrees from the University of Kentucky (1973), Bear College (1966), Westmar College (Iowa) (1968), and Drake University (1968).

From 1940-1948, he was employed in a research and administrative capacity with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. During World War II, he also served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. Dr. Parks moved to Iowa State College and became a professor of government (1948-1956); a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Wisconsin (1956-1958), and returned to Iowa State as the Dean of Instruction (1958-1961). In 1961 he became the Vice President of Academic Affairs until he was named the President of Iowa State (1965-1986).

During his presidency, Parks served as head of several national organizations, including the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, the Association of American Universities, Council of Presidents, Mid-America State Universities Association and the Association of Iowa College Presidents.

He also served as a member of the board of trustees of the Teachers Insurance and Annuities-College Retirement Equities Fund and was on the board of directors of Northwestern Bell and Central Life Assurance. In 1969, he was named an honorary alumnus of ISU, the second person so honored. He also received the first Christian Petersen Design Award for his leadership in the establishment of Iowa State University's College of Design. In 1984, the main library building on Iowa State University’s campus was named the W. Robert and Ellen Sorge Parks Library.

In 1940, Dr. Parks married Ellen Sorge (1914-1999), the first woman to graduate with a PhD (1940) in political science from the University of Wisconsin. They had two daughters, Andrea (Van Howeling) and Cynthia (Hamilton).

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W. Roberts Parks

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This is a historic exhibit and the information provided within it may be out of date. Please contact the Special Collections and University Archives Department with questions about Iowa State history (archives@iastate.edu).


Resources available online

W. Robert Parks Papers

RS 2/11
University Archives, Iowa State University Library