50 Influencers: Dr. Curtis Parker, the vision

INA, Ill. (Feb. 12, 1987) - Dr. Curtis Parker, a Mt. Vernon optometrist, initially became involved with the birth of Rend Lake College via the local Jaycees organization. Eventually, Parker was chosen to co-chair the steering committee to facilitate the development of RLC. On December 21, 1966, Parker was named Chair of the newly formed Board of Trustees of Rend Lake College.

Parker is credited as being the primary force behind the establishment of the Rend Lake College Foundation as a non-profit organization with the State of Illinois.

Board Parker Simmons WIn this photo from the 1968 yearbook, Dr. Curtis Parker, center, watches RLC president Dr. James M. Snyder, left, count the "yes" votes for the creation of the new community college district.. Mr. Holland Simmons, right, was also a founding board member and the subject of next week's profile. Click on the image for a larger view.

Like Baker, Parker sat on both the Steering Committee and the Executive Committee during his service to the institution.

In the spring of 1970, at the completion of his latest term of office, Parker chose not to run for re-election. Albert Gulley was elected to fill the vacated position.

Parker was satisfied to serve only four years on the Board, from 1966-70, before bowing out. “I didn’t come to be a perennial Board member. I came to get a job done,” he said. He was 35 years of age when he assumed the chairmanship of the original Community College District 521 Board.

His accomplishments were considerable, beginning with the formal proposal in February 1966 that resulted in the overwhelming acceptance of the Class I Public Junior College and the hiring of Dr. James Snyder as its first President following a nationwide search. The interviews were conducted in Parker’s home.

Parker was honored in November of 1998 by RLC when the college officially named the board room on the first floor of the Student Center the Curtis A. Parker Board Room.

The patient honoree, according to longtime Rend Lake College Attorney and colleague, Donald G. Musick, “was greatly instrumental in (the college’s) formation, organization and early success.

“Curt Parker’s quiet leadership, and the confidence which he gained from all members of the informal Steering Committee, were perhaps the prime ingredient which led to a successful organization effort. The citizens of the district voted to incorporate the college, and to assess themselves additional taxes for its construction and operation, by the affirmative vote of 87 percent of those voting on the proposition; that stands as the all-time record for an affirmative vote establishing a junior college in Illinois.”

Professionally, Parker retired from active optometry in January 1995. He has been in the business for 42 years and had worked with an estimated 65,000 patients. He spent all 42 years practicing in Mt. Vernon. 

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