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Parks, William Robert : Home

Written by Heather Dent, Edited by Sona Apbasova

William Robert Parks

William Robert Parks

Early Life and Education

William Robert Parks, the son of Benjamin Newton and Minnie Taylor Parks, was born on October 13, 1915 on a farm just outside of Mulberry Village, Tennessee. He graduated from the Lincoln County High School in 1933 and entered Berea College as a freshman in the fall of that year. He received his M.A. in political science from the University of Kentucky in 1938. He then pursued a doctorates degree in the University of Wisconsin, but was interrupted by World War II. He served in the United States Navy as a Lieutenant from 1943-1946. When he returned from the war he came back to the University of Wisconsin and earned his Ph.D. in political science with a specialization in agricultural science, in which he was regarded as one of the most outstanding scholars in the country. 

Early Career

Dr. Parks served as an economist in the Department of Agriculture, but after his graduation his attention turned to education. From 1948-1956 he taught government at Iowa State. In 1956-1958 he became a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Wisconsin. In 1958, he returned to Iowa State as the Dean of Instruction, and from there he was appointed Academic Vice-President in 1961. He was appointed President of Iowa State University in 1965. 

About the Iowa State University

Iowa State University was the first of the land-grant colleges to be established under the provisions of the historic Morrill Act which became effective in 1862. As with most American Universities its beginnings were quite modest. Its first freshman class consisted of a mere 173 students. It has grown substantially since then, transforming from a “cow college” to a university and finally to a multiversity. Its original mission was to serve the needs of a predominantly agricultural population. It still maintains this focus only in a contemporary manner rather than traditional. 

The founders of this university valued remarkably similar principles to those of Berea College. It strove to provide an educational opportunity for all. It’s only admissions requirements were in terms of scholarship, and was coeducational from day one, an unusual practice for its day and age. It has been said about Iowa State that, “No one has ever been turned away because of sex, creed, race, lack of wealth, or inability to play football.”


Berea College honored William Robert Parks with an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 1966.

Works Cited

Smith, Louis. “Presentation of William Parks for the Honorary Degree of Law.” June 5, 1966. Print. 

Additional Resources

  • Berea College Vertical File, Special Collections and Archives
  • RG 11 – Honorary Degrees II, Berea College Archives