At 84, Parker enjoys his work at North Texas as much as he enjoyed his student days in the ’30s. Pictured with his horse, Reno, he also retains his zest for life and work on his ranch.
BUILT MAN WITH A creased brow whose deep, steady voice suggests
all thoughts are weighed carefully, Walt Parker (40) wears
his authority with quiet humility.
comfortable with the notion that hes a leader who inspires
confidence, Parker says he just tries to accomplish as much as possible.
dont have a lot of natural talent, but I do have a strong
desire to use what Ive got, he says.
most of his 84 years, the UNT Systems vice chancellor for
governmental affairs has dedicated his desire and talent to public
joined North Texas administration in 1979 after serving five
consecutive terms in the Texas Legislature representing Denton County.
As a state
representative, Parker championed all of public higher education,
with special concern that Denton universities receive the highest
possible level of funding and status.
1979 he has worked tirelessly to ensure the states continued
support and recognition of North Texas. But Parkers role at
the university and in Denton didnt begin with
his public service.
at the age of 18, Parker finished high school and took a 12-hour-a-day,
six-day-a-week job at Montgomery Ward in Fort Worth to help his
family make ends meet. A year later, when his father worked at the
railroad, he encouraged Parker to attend college.
With a $30-a-month
stipend from home that covered the cost of his room and board, Parker
left his native Fort Worth for Denton.
college, he no longer had to work all day, every day. The responsibilities
of school and the few odd jobs he held (delivering laundry and selling
flowers) to help pay his way werent enough to fill his time.
saw these guys out on a field running fast, working hard and I figured
Id go see about joining them, he says.
asked to join the football team, admitting he had no prior experience,
then-North Texas football coach Jack Sisco laughed but agreed to
let Parker try out. Siscos teams won seven conference championships
and tied for three others from 1929 to 1941.
determination and deep-rooted work ethic earned him a running back
position, and he went on to letter twice in football and play on
the 1939 Lone Star Conference championship team.
is one of only two North Texas players to play in a Cotton Bowl
game. During World War II, Parker served as a fitness officer in
the Army Air Corps, ensuring that the pilots were physically fit
to fly. In 1944, the Randolph Field Ramblers, the air corps team,
faced the University of Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Parker and another
North Texas player, Leiland W. Killian, were on the team. The game
ended in a 7-7 tie.
Parker, right, served five consecutive terms in the Texas Legislature.
home from active duty in the Pacific, Parker resumed his athletic
and business careers.
hed earned his degree in business, his North Texas football
career sparked a passion that led him to pursue work as a coach.
Eventually, his string of jobs at schools in Texas led him back
to Denton to head Denton High Schools athletic program.
down in Denton again, Parker started a number of businesses. For
more than 20 years, he operated a farm and ranch while also working
as a general contractor with his W-P Building Co., which he still
owns. He also owned and operated the Sports and Toy Center in Denton
and Arlington for more than 10 years.
for fun, he worked as a referee for the American Football League
and continued as an official once that league merged with the National
Football League in 1965. As an NFL referee, Parker officiated more
than 300 games, including two Super Bowls, several conference championship
games and three Pro Bowls.
As a referee
for the NFL, Parker saw a lot of action up close. He kept an
eye on Roger Staubach in this 1973 game.
works for the NFL as an official observer, monitoring referees
rule calls and proving that at no point in his life has he
ever been satisfied to sit on the sidelines.
learned a lot of important things in life, but football taught me
that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but when youre
down, youve got to be able to recover and get started again,
he says. That fundamental lesson has taken me a long way in
everything Ive done.
was particularly poignant during his time in the Legislature.
takes a great deal of patience to accomplish anything in government,
but you can do a lot if you stick with it, he says.
years Parker has shown great tenacity in ensuring the universitys
success. He has played a key role in securing funding for the universitys
initiatives and improving services for students. In addition, he
worked to establish the Texas Higher Education Assistance Fund to
provide money for construction and renovations to universities that
dont receive assistance from the Permanent University Fund
and to provide an opportunity for non-flagship universities to receive
always just wanted to help people, and if that means working in
the Legislature, in the community or in the schools, Ill do
it, he says. I hope there is some lasting impact to
what I do, but I know that, at the very least, Im having fun
getting it done.