by Dariel Chaidez
A message from the Office of the President was delivered to the North Park community in February. This email detailed the announcement that President David Parkyn and Dr. Linda Parkyn will be retiring after the end of the 2016-17 school year. News of the couple’s retirement evoked surprise and disbelief from some in the community, as well as gratitude for each of their substantial contributions over more than a decade.
I sat down with the Parkyns to ask a few questions regarding their decision to move on from their positions at North Park. The transition centers around both career and family factors. The couple has ultimately decided to say goodbye to the Windy City and head to Philadelphia. The Parkyns have many ties to the East Coast, as their children reside there, and they want to dedicate more of their time to their roles as grandparents.
The time is right for a professional move as well, according to President Parkyn: “We both have experienced deep professional development. It’s been really satisfying but we’re ready to move closer to our children.” As we have seen in a multitude of times before, the Parkyns have truly dedicated their lives to serving others. This set of grandparents are prepared to engage with their family full-time.
In regards to their choice to accept positions at North Park initially, President Parkyn explains that there were three reasons: “I saw North Park as an institution of faith balanced by a deep commitment to hospitality. I saw an opportunity to make North Park ready to advance the student body towards diversity, and its urban context in its location within Chicago.” Professor Linda Parkyn replied to the same question, saying: “I followed him. David was interested in a school like that and it was a choice he made. I’m grateful that he made it.” This was a decision that gave way to more than a decade dedicated to the North Park community.
The couple has been a significant pillar of the university for 11 years. The Johnson Center, a new parking lot, and an updated schedule are some of the more recent features instituted during President Parkyn’s tenure. Along with these physical achievements, more abstract features have also been updated. Our president’s tenure has seen the campus become exponentially more diverse in not only the student and faculty population, but in ideology as well.
David Parkyn has undoubtedly left North Park University in a position for continued growth. In recent years NPU has made valiant strides to not only encourage growth among students and faculty, but to open its doors to Chicago. This is due in large part to the efforts of the president. He has brought North Park to the forefront of what it means to be a modern, Christian university in the middle of an urban environment. The pieces have always been there - our location, our mission, our people - and North Park has always had the formula for success. Yet, the university needed a special person to put all the pieces together: President Parkyn. With a long list of experiences as both an educator and an administrator in higher education, President Parkyn was able to fill the role entirely.
Dr. Linda Parkyn has served as a professor of Spanish since 2006, as the director of the Honors Congress, and as North Park’s Fulbright Program Associate. The program is a prestigious government scholarship program designed for the most qualified of students to teach English abroad. She has helped 19 students through the program which is a stunning statistic for just one institution of North Park’s size. Dr. Linda Parkyn was recently awarded the Student Government Association Service Award, which is given to a staff member who “actively engages with students and embodies the mission of North Park University.”
From her interest in Latin American studies, she has developed a keen sense of Latin American culture, and has used her curriculum as a base to share a wealth of knowledge with her students. I had the honor of having been enrolled in her Mexican History and Culture class. Along with a trove of information she provided, my peers and I were exposed to Latin culture in a way that only Dr. Linda Parkyn could present. She has made it her mission to bring a new sense of value and pride to not only Latinos studying their heritage, but to people of all backgrounds who wish to delve into the depths of a rich Latin culture.
The Parkyns have intricate ties to Latin America and its people, and a single visit to their home makes this appreciation obvious. A myriad of beautiful art pieces, primarily from Latin American, adorn the walls of their house just north of campus. Dr. Linda Parkyn has also been devoted to helping new immigrants in the United States, and plans to continue her work on the East Coast.
The Parkyns will be greatly missed here at North Park by students, staff, faculty, and more members of our community, but what will they miss about the university? President David Parkyn states that he will miss commencement, because “It represents the accomplishment of a dream - I’ll miss celebrating the accomplishments of the students.” Dr. Linda Parkyn says she will miss: “Giving value to a culture that students had undervalued. At North Park my life came full circle, I never realized I would get people to look at their culture and recognize that there is something worth looking at.”
When asked about the future of the university after this semester, President Parkyn replied, “Chicago is a global city, North Park has the opportunity to become a global university. We really stand in a position to become a distinguished, Christian, city-centered university. The future of the world is urban.” We as a college community are poised and prepared for a world that is increasingly urban and interconnected. Thanks to the Parkyns, North Parkers are ready and willing to continue connecting with the city. This sense of fulfillment has led to the end of a full career for the pair.
As we move to accept the reality that the couple will leave North Park, we also look to the future through a bright lens put in place by the Parkyns. As the atmosphere on campus has shifted to further emphasize diversity and learning through the urban setting, the progress made by the Parkyns has created: “an opportune time for a new president to come in. The timing is right”, according to President Parkyn. The North Park University community can look forward to a new era of leadership that will continue to usher our school into its calling. Thanks to the in efforts put forth by President Parkyn and Dr. Linda Parkyn, North Park can continue on its mission of intentionality.