DCCC celebrates a champion of community college education

By David Schwartz

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Loretta Bevilacqua, executive assistant to former DCCC President Jerry Parker, vividly recalled the time Parker and his wife Sue went to a student’s house to deliver a computer.

According to Bevilacqua, there was a surplus sale for computers in the cafeteria one day. After the sale was over, the student expressed disappointment to Parker that she missed the chance to obtain a new computer.

Parker and his wife decided to offer one of their own computers to the student, and went to the student’s house to set it up the next day.

“He was a champion of the college,” Bevilacqua said. “He was so passionate about the college and would do anything for the students. Every decision he made had the school, students, and faculty at the forefront. He’s the kind of person you want to work for.”

Parker, who served as president for 14 years before retiring in July, started working at DCCC in 1977 as an assistant to the vice president for administration.

Prior to becoming the president, he also served as executive assistant to the president, dean of Management Systems, Planning and Enrollment Management, and vice president for Community and Corporate Education.

“When he became president, he offered a lot of freedom to do what you wanted,” said Jeanne Anastasi, former director of Community and Professional Programs.

Among Parker’s achievements as president of the college was the opening of the Advanced Technology Center in 2009, which houses technical programs to prepare students for jobs in the trades.

“Career training is a part of our core mission at DCCC,” Parker said. “That means adapting the curriculum and services around local job demands and business needs. Throughout the years, we met with regional employers and began to build partnerships. We listened. It was through these conversations and partnerships that we were establishing DCCC as the go-to resource for the workforce, and fulfilling careers for the underserved population.”

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To recognize and honor Parker’s commitment to technical education, the college held a dedication ceremony on Oct. 6 to rename the Advanced Technology Center after Parker.

Numerous people spoke about Parker at the ceremony, including current DCCC President Joy Gates Black and Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC) President Gary Smith, emphasizing what Parker has meant to education and training in Delaware and Chester Counties.

Smith told the crowd how Parker wanted to build the bridge between Delaware and Chester Counties and how education and work force development were important throughout his tenure. He was “the pioneer out in [Chester County],” according to Smith.

Under Parker’s leadership, DCCC’s expansion into Chester County began in 1994 with the Chester County Center in West Chester, Pa.

Today, five out of eight campuses are located in Chester County.

“Jerry basically helped me understand the history of the college and how to connect with people in the community,” Gates Black said, remembering her transition into her new role as president. “He helped me become familiar with the area and everybody was so welcoming. I was able to take advantage of it.”

Gates Black wishes to have a photograph of Parker with one of his quotations installed at the entrance of the building at some point in the future.

Parker’s family also attended the ceremony as many faculty and friends complimented him on his successes. At the ceremony, members from the crowd took photos of Parker unveiling the new name, the Jerome S. Parker Advanced Technology Center.

“Not all community colleges had the same vision that [Dr. Parker] had,” former DCCC Provost Dr. Ginny Carter said. “One of his legacies was his commitment to technical education and his commitment to access and opportunity. He had an open door for everyone and would always be available to talk to and follow up.”

Parker was also responsible for the opening of the STEM Center in 2010, which features classrooms and laboratories for science, engineering, and mathematics.

“He was always visionary in the expansion of the college,” Vice Provost Mary Jo Boyer said. “He always had that collaborative nature and was willing to take chances.”

In March, Parker was inducted into the Chester County Business Hall of Fame by the CCEDC for his leadership and lasting relationships with business owners and manufacturers in Delaware and Chester Counties.

“From the beginning, neighboring Chester County was always regarded as a natural extension of the college’s service area, our manifest destiny,” Parker said during the CCEDC Business Achievement Awards dinner in March. “It does mean paying more in tuition to make up for the absence of sponsor taxation, but that hasn’t deterred the 6,000 plus students now attending from all parts of Chester County and for all kinds of reasons, most often to transfer to a four-year college or university.”

Parker received his bachelor’s degree in American studies from Wesleyan University, his masters’ degree in adult education from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and his Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

In addition to his responsibilities as president of the college, Parker was a member of the Board of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, the Crozer Keystone Health System Advisory Board, the Chester and Delaware Counties Workforce Investment Boards, the Delaware County Industrial Development Corporation Board, the Delaware County Chief School Administrators, the Delaware County Suburban Study Council, and the Community Action Agency of Delaware County, Inc.

He also served as chair of the Chester Higher Education Council, the Collegiate Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development, the Chester County Economic Development Council, and the Riverfront Alliance Board.

In the book, “A Fifty-Year History of Delaware County Community College: 1967- 2017,” Parker wrote that with student success at the core, the school has responded by expanding their services, enhancing the curriculum and facilities, and altering the processes.

According to Parker, without a vigilant, guiding hand, many of the students in the college’s care likely would not endure the demands of an increasingly competitive society.

“[I see the college] continuing the successful collaboration with local employers that will continue to benefit the students, making it easier to achieve their career goals,” Parker said, regarding the direction of DCCC within the next five to 10 years. “The goal is to see students complete their programs, getting them past everyday hurdles and personal constraints that sometimes get in the way of success.”

Contact David Schwartz at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu