Ross Lombard Parks '43
Ross Lombard Parks is a man who has changed the world. It was clear from his first days at Davidson that he would do so. As a student at Davidson, he was a member of the ROTC, Scabbard and Blade, and Pi Kappa Alpha, and he participated in track and wrestling. He also was the salutatorian of his class, a winner of the Howard Chemistry Award, a Distinguished Military Student, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Gamma Sigma Epsilon.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in chemistry, he served active duty in the U.S. Army from August 1943 until May 1946. He was awarded a Purple Heart for his service and served in the Active Army Reserve until 1972.
He returned to school to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry, which he received from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1952. He began his career as the chief chemist for the nylon plant for America Enka Corporation and ended his career as Group Leader for Organic Research for Monsanto Research Corporation.
The greatest challenge of his life came, however, in May 1975, when his oldest child Betsy was murdered in Raleigh, North Carolina. After this terrible tragedy, he and his wife Betty found comfort in a support organization called Parents of Murdered Children. Determined to share what they learned with others similarly situated, the Parks founded Parents of Murdered Children chapters in Dayton, Ohio, in 1980 and western North Carolina in 1986. In addition to hosting support group meetings and publishing a newsletter, they travel throughout western North Carolina to meet with families of murder victims. They attend trials in support of the families of victims. In 1992, they were honored by the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network with the Advocate Award for “outstanding service on behalf of crime victims.”
In recent years, the Parks have taken a traveling memorial to the victims of homicide, “The Murder Wall . . . Honoring Their Memories,” across the state of North Carolina. As a result, additional Parents of Murdered Children chapters have been formed in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and Durham, North Carolina. They have been active in the victims’ assistance and victims’ rights movements locally and nationally.
Because you have taken the lessons learned from a parent’s worst nightmare and shared them with those suffering; because you have made the world a better and safer place to be; and because you make Davidson proud to claim you as her own, the Alumni Association presents to you, Ross Lombard Parks, the John W. Kuykendall Award for Community Service, on the occasion of the Class of 1943’s 55th Reunion, October 24, 1998.