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John Parker

John Parker

Hall of Fame Class of 2023

John Parker is perhaps best known as the founder and first director of the University of Missouri's Lifespan Learning Program, the learning in retirement program now known as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at MU. As a retired volunteer, Parker led efforts to offer regularly scheduled, noncredit short courses and lectures in academic settings and taught by retired professors from MU and Columbia College plus experts in the community in various fields of expertise. This not only gave many residents a deeper sense of affiliation with the academic community, but also fundamentally transformed how continuing education for the senior population is addressed and carried out.  

While serving as a continuing education specialist for MU's extension program, he developed and implemented noncredit short courses and lectures around the state for adult learners on a variety of topics, including creative writing, understanding and using the internet, Latin American history, the basics of electricity around the home, horticulture, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, basic photography, the legal aspects of journalism, and dozens of others.

After spending 10 months in Thailand as a Fulbright Fellow, Parker wrote an Aid for International Development grant to bring 15 officials of the Thai Ministry of Education to Missouri for two weeks of intensive environmental education training, during which he became an advocate for efforts to share the benefits of adult education in Thailand. He has made more than 15 trips to Thailand, visiting and working with various universities, including Suan Dusit, Silipakorn, and the various campuses of the Prince of Songkla University.

With two or three Thai universities, Parker has arranged for retired professors from the U.S. to have faculty appointments for a period of time. Parker, following retirement, served as campus liaison to MU Extension retirees, setting up lectures for them in locations throughout the state and serving as their campus contact. Also, following retirement, Parker served as a member of a team sponsored by the International Nargis Foundation to conduct a nationwide needs assessment to replace books and educational materials in schools and libraries in Myanmar, following a devastating typhoon in that country.

Parker has developed several hundred adult classes and lectures for adult learners around the state of Missouri, including 275 since retirement. He started a group of six friends in 2005 called the Committee on Global Analysis, which has met monthly, with individuals involved either delivering a presentation or getting an expert to deliver the lecture. Topics have included the latest research on Alzheimers, a history of Afghanistan, an academic look at Egypt, the Nile and the Exodus, and a judge’s view from the bench. Membership now exceeds 135 adults from within the Columbia community. He continues to serve on the board of directors of the University of Missouri's School of Music and the Daniel Boone Library Foundation.