When Norm Parsons came to the University of Miami nearly 43 years ago, he expected to find tons of sunshine and a golf course near the beach. Instead, he found a campus with pingpong tables scattered around the University Center, which at the time, was known as the Student Union.
As years have passed, campus has evolved. Thanks to leaders like Parsons, our school has become a top-tier institution that shapes students into leaders.
On Friday, Pat Whitely, vice president for Student Affairs, announced Parsons’ retirement, effective in October, in a memo sent to student leaders, administrators, faculty and staff.
So, to Mr. Parsons:
When students go to college, they expect to learn lessons in the classrooms, from their professors and from expensive textbooks. And, while that might be true for students who attend other schools, here at the U, we learn from people like you. We learn from administrators who become our friends and mentors.
While many of us have had the opportunity to work closely with you, many others haven’t. So, for them, and for students in the future who won’t get that opportunity, we put together a few of the lessons you’ve taught us throughout the years. Consider this letter a small textbook of sorts for the “course” you taught through your exemplary leadership on our campus.
From you, Mr. Parsons, we’ve learned the value of humility. We’ve learned to listen to others and rarely speak of ourselves. We’ve remembered the importance of equality through your actions, such as when you refused to accept the invitation to join Iron Arrow Honor Society, the highest honor attained at the University of Miami. You didn’t wear the jacket until women were accepted into the honor society, too.
We’ve learned the importance of a hard work ethic. Yes, even though you don’t like talking about yourself, it’s no secret you wake up at 4 a.m. each day just to go to work. We know your workday begins at 6 a.m., when most of us are still soundly sleeping, and ends at 6 p.m. Your dedication to your job is incomparable – it’s our hope that we are able to mirror that long after we’ve left our beloved U behind.
You teach us that while it’s important to be humble, it’s also important to remain ambitious and true to your dreams and goals. Over the years, the Wellness Center has more than doubled in size, and under your leadership, it has evolved from just a small recreational space to an elite fitness center. Now, you are overseeing a similar expansion for the Miller School of Medicine’s wellness center. No project has ever been too big for Norm Parsons, and therefore, no project should ever be too big for us.
Lastly, while all these traits are crucial to becoming successful leaders, you remind us to remain well-rounded individuals. Yes, prioritizing academics is important, but practicing campus involvement and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are also crucial to what makes a college experience so meaningful. You remind us to take time to take care of ourselves – after all, if we don’t do it, no one else will.
Mr. Parsons, you’re a man of many talents, and we could easily say on behalf of students who’ve worked with you during your time at UM, you’re irreplaceable.
Some may even say that your departure will end an era at the U. We know better than that, though. These lessons you’ve taught us will keep you in our hearts forever.
It’s our hope that the next director could be half of the person and leader that you’ve been to this campus for the past four decades. To say that you will be missed is an understatement.
Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.