Jack Parker, vice president for finance and operations at Sam Houston State University, spent his final days before retirement on Oct. 1, receiving calls from well-wishers and employees who wanted to thank him for overseeing their careers.
During his four decades with the university, he has been a driving force in much of the progress that has taken place with physical growth and improvements on campus.
SHSU President Jim Gaertner praised Parker’s record of consistent stewardship of the university’s budget and his contributions to the institution’s growth.
“For more than 40 years, Jack Parker has provided exemplary service and financial leadership to our university,” said Gaertner. “He has guided our physical expansion and has brought integrity, discipline and wisdom to his responsibilities. He has been passionately supportive of Sam Houston State University, and his daily presence will be greatly missed not only on our campus but throughout The Texas State University System.”
Parker graduated from Sam Houston State in 1964 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting and served as a Rotary International Fellow the following year in Birmingham, England. He later earned a Master of Education degree at Texas A&M University and became a Certified Public Accountant.
For 14 years, he served as a Medical Service Corps Officer in the United States Army Reserve, attaining the rank of major.
Parker worked for Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. CPAs before coming to Sam Houston State as the associate director of admissions in 1967. In subsequent years, he served the university as business manager, comptroller, and vice president for finance before being named vice president for finance and operations in 1987.
Since 1981, he has invested over $470 million for construction projects at the university, and he has overseen the work of SHSU’s physical plant employees to ensure that all campus facilities and structures were properly maintained. He has worked with five master planners and provided insight for the university’s growth.
When reflecting on his accomplishments at the university Parker said one of the things he was most proud of was the role he played in the purchase of the Sam South Complex. The Complex houses offices for physical plant administration, crafts, vehicle maintenance, stores, central receiving/warehouse, property, computer services, the Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies, University Police, the Small Business Development Center, and residence life maintenance.
The complex was originally built as a $7 million shopping center, but became a victim of the savings and loan financial crises in the 1980s. It went on the market for $1.7 million and Parker was able to negotiate a deal for SHSU to buy the property for $450,000.
He was also instrumental in the university’s purchase of the Gibbs Ranch, the selling of Country Campus, and the acquisition of the property on which Bowers Stadium, the York Track Complex, and the Don Sanders Baseball Stadium and Bearkat Softball Complex are now located.
Many of his financial decisions kept the university in good standing during times of economic uncertainty. When other universities were investing funds in derivatives 25 years ago, Parker chose not to invest Sam Houston State University dollars in those instruments, thereby saving university monies when other institutions lost theirs.
During the times when the state of Texas has mandated budget reductions, Sam Houston State University never experienced personnel layoffs, largely because Parker found other ways to cut expenses.
He is especially proud of the fact that Sam Houston employees have not had to worry about receiving their paychecks.
“My mentor was Dewitte Holleman, and he told me two things that I’ve tried to let guide me: ‘Put people first, money second, and things third,’ and ‘Don’t miss a payday---it makes the troops very unhappy,’” Parker said.
His decisions often benefitted students. He recommended that the university not invest in privatized housing, which kept Sam Houston students from having to absorb costs associated with those structures.
He did, however, encourage and support construction of three on-campus housing complexes---Bearkat Village, Sam Houston Village, and Raven Village.
In addition to his role as a university administrator, Parker has also been a leader in the Huntsville area, serving as a member and president of the Huntsville Rotary Club which named him a Paul Harris Fellow, director on the Huntsville Memorial Hospital Board of Directors, organizer and chairman of the board of Lake Area National Bank, director of the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce, director of the Walker County Fair Association, and Huntsville City Council member. He is also an elder and served as chairman of the board for First Christian Church of Huntsville.
In 1995, he was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Sam Houston State University.
Parker and his wife, Ruth Lynn, are the parents of two daughters, Quincy Parker and Kelley Wilkinson.
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