Bell tower and blue sky


Extraordinary Service

Alumna ends historic 29-year tenure on Washburn University board of regents

Blanche Parks posing in front of Morgan Hall

Blanche Parks, b ed ’71, m ed ’76, poses at Ichabod Plaza outside Morgan Hall. The remodeling of Morgan Hall is among the endeavors Parks is most proud of during her 29 years as a regent. Photo by Jeremy Wangler

From The Ichabod - Winter 2023 
By Annie Flachsbarth

This summer, Blanche Parks ended her tenure as the longest-serving member of Washburn University’s board of regents. During that time, she saw significant changes and helped Washburn grow to what it is today – and even became part of Washburn’s history. But if you ask Parks, b ed ’71, m ed ’76, it was business as usual.

“I wasn’t trying to make history, I was just trying to do the job,” Parks said.

First appointed under former Topeka Mayor Butch Felker, ba ’67, jd ’72, in 1993 to represent the 19th senatorial district on the board, she held the esteemed position for a total of 29 years, before moving out of the district (under state law, mayoral appointees must reside in the district they represent).

Building a Legacy

As the governing body of the university, the nine-member board of regents oversees and approves academic programs, building plans, as well as the university’s calendar and budget. In 1997, Parks was part of the nationwide search committee that hired Jerry Farley as the new university president and was the chair of the board during Farley’s first two years as president.

“It was an honor to work with President Farley, and I truly enjoyed taking part in the decisions to grow Washburn,” Parks said.

In her time on the board, Parks helped make decisions about major campus renovations and building projects, including the KBI building, Washburn University Institute of Technology, Morgan Hall and the Indoor Athletic Facility.

One of the first major changes she remembers was the decision to remove the married student housing on the southeast corner of campus near 21st and Washburn Ave.

“It was painful to see the married student housing being torn down – and it was also sentimental because I had actually lived there,” Parks said. “But it needed to be torn down to move things forward. That was the beginning of our campus growing and becoming more modern.”

According to Parks, the toughest part of the job was ensuring any decision fit in line with the university vision and strategic plan.

“We had to prioritize projects and programs to make sure we were doing things at the best time in the most cost-effective way. We had to decide whether we had the money to pay to have the buildings built or if it we needed to raise funds.” Parks said. “More than anything, we want to make sure we meet the needs of the students and continue to have excellent academic programs.”

“Blanche has been an outstanding contributor to the board and to the university,” said former Washburn President Jerry Farley after her retirement. “She has brought a strong sense of the mission of Washburn to the task and has helped us grow the university into the institution that it is today. We 
were fortunate to have her service for so many years.”

Rooted in Dedication

Parks is part of a family with deep roots in the community and in Washburn. In fact, she is one of eight members of the Parks family who claim Washburn University as their alma mater. The line began with the Hon. Sherman Parks, Sr., bba ’49, jd ’55, h ’90, the first African American appellate judge in Kansas. His twin brother Sheridan Parks, bba ’49, and his son Sherman Parks, Jr., ba ’72, jd ’75, h ’90 – Blanche Parks’ late husband – were also alumni. Blanche earned her degrees in education. In 2021, the Parks family received the Washburn University School of Law Legacy Family award.

No stranger to hard work, Parks held a successful career in public service – holding multiple management positions at the State of Kansas Treasurer’s Office and other state agencies before retiring in 2011. At the treasurer’s, she created and directed the Kansas tuition savings program Learning Quest, which finance media outlet Money ranked a top five such program in the nation.

Parks volunteered with multiple organizations over the past 50 years. Most notably, she was the governor of the Kansas Rotary and was the first Kansan on the YWCA USA national board of directors.

As a lifelong volunteer and a teacher by trade, Parks brought a viewpoint to the board perhaps other regents didn’t have. And although the position was unpaid, Parks felt it was an honor to serve.

“Seeing the accomplishments of our work through the students was more than enough payment,” Parks said. “No amount of money could have given me the pride I had seeing the students at graduation – that was by far my biggest thrill and favorite part of the job.”

In fact, Parks attended every graduation in her 29 years on the job.

Now in retirement, Parks plans to do a lot of traveling across the country and the world.

“I have had a valuable and unforgettable experience working with wonderful people. Thanks for the memories,” Parks said.

Spring 2023 Ichabod magazine cover, roses and a rock wall in front of Morgan Hall

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions


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