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Update: A public memorial service for W. Robert Parks will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 20, in the Memorial Union Sun Room. The service will be from 2 to 3 p.m., and a reception will follow from 3 to 4 p.m. There will be no charge for parking in the Union parking ramp during the service.

As a memorial to Parks, a mural of the Iowa landscape has been commissioned to be painted by Kurt Anderson for permanent display in the W. Robert Parks and Ellen Sorge Parks Library at Iowa State University. The mural will be painted by Kurt Anderson, a Tucson, Ariz., artist. Formerly from Iowa, Anderson painted the Robert and Ellen Sorge Parks portrait displayed in the lobby of the library.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be given for the mural. Contributions should be designated for the W. Robert Parks Memorial in care of the Iowa State University Foundation (2505 Elwood Drive, Ames, IA 50014).


Contact: Annette Hacker, University Relations, (515) 294-3720


W. Robert Parks, Iowa State University's longest serving president, died early Sunday, July 13. Parks was 87 years old.

Parks was ISU's 11th president, serving from 1965 to 1986. During his 21 years of leadership, Iowa State experienced the most dramatic growth in its history, adding three new colleges (Education, Design and Business), approximately 40 undergraduate and 30 graduate majors to the curriculum, and 37 new buildings. Enrollment increased by almost 90 percent and approximately 88,000 degrees were awarded during his presidency. Under his leadership, Iowa State's research budget increased by 300 percent and several new research and technology transfer programs were started.

"Everyone in the Iowa State University family is deeply saddened by the death of W. Robert Parks, and we extend our sympathy to Dr. Parks' family and his many friends," ISU President Gregory Geoffroy said. "President Parks was one of the truly great Presidents of Iowa State University, and he directed in so many ways its development from a college into a truly broad-based, international university. Iowa State is an outstanding university today thanks in large part to the leadership of Dr. Parks, and he will be missed."

In 1984, the library was renamed the William Robert Parks and Ellen Sorge Parks Library, in honor of Parks and his wife.

Parks was born Oct. 13, 1915, in Mulberry, Tenn. He received a B.A. from Berea College, Berea, Ky., in 1937, an M.A. from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, in 1938 and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1948.

From 1940 to 1948, he served in a research and administrative position with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in Washington, D.C., and served 30 months in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He also was consultant to the Secretary of the Interior in 1952.

Parks was a government professor at Iowa State from 1948 to 1956 and an agricultural economist for the University of Wisconsin, Madison, from 1956 to 1958.

He returned to Iowa State as dean of instruction in 1958. In 1961, he was appointed vice president in charge of academic affairs and in 1965, he was named president of the university.

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.

Parks held four honorary degrees: doctor of laws from Berea College and Drake University, doctor of humane letters from Westmar College, Le Mars, and doctor of science from the University of Kentucky.

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 ISU's College of Design.

He was the author of a book on soil conservation and several articles on education policy and agricultural economics and public policy.


MEDIA: A downloadable photo of W. Robert Parks is available at

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