By Vaughan Ryan, Staff Writer
Published 29 April 2013
With season tickets, they attend almost every school sporting event, match and meet. Parents and players know them by name and always greet them on the sidelines. They’re arguably Chapman’s most avid athletic fans – and have been for nearly 60 years.
Bill Parker, 85, and Barbara Parker, 83, graduated from Chapman College, as it was formerly known, in 1952 an++d 1964. But the couple never strayed far from its alma mater. The Parkers support Chapman’s 19 athletic teams simply because they value the relationships created with athletes over the years.
“We connect with the athletes more than anyone,” Bill Parker said. “We just share a love for competition and the relationships built when being part of a team.”
The pair grew up in California and met at a church conference in 1949. Bill’s older sister, a 1943 Chapman graduate, introduced him to the campus and he committed to Chapman soon after. Barbara also made the move after a year at El Camino Community College.
A small private school at the time, Chapman College had just three sports. The baseball, basketball and track and field teams were stacked with the same nine students, including Bill.
“When we had a game, all nine guys had to be there or there was no game,” Bill Parker said.
The Parkers had two children while at Chapman and had their third son following Bill’s graduation. Their fervor for athletics soon leaked into their parenting, as they enrolled all three children in football and basketball at an early age.
While die-hard sports fans, both Bill and Barbara are also interested in students that aren’t athletes, eldest son Bob Parker said.
”Though they religiously follow the sports, they truly care about all of the students,” Bob Parker said.
Bob didn’t attend Chapman, but witnessed his parents’ enthusiasm for teaching young athletes life lessons off the playing field.
“They’re proud to keep the athletes and students educated and always know everything happening at Chapman,” Bob Parker said.
Graduation didn’t stop the Parker’s attendance to the Panthers’ sporting events or their dedication to improve their alma mater. Bill and Barbara each played a leading role in the 2012 launching of the Chapman Alumni Lifelong Learning program, which allows alumni over 50 years old to audit classes for free.
Freshman Samara Hanna, a dual-sport athlete in volleyball and basketball, has already felt the Parker’s presence in just one year at Chapman.
“I’ve never met people that love life and love this school so much,” Hanna said.
The pair has watched Chapman expand as students and athletes come and go, but that isn’t the end of the road for the Parker’s relationships. Bill is writing a letter to his grandchildren with a list of more than 200 relationships. He not only remembers athletes’ names, but also the lessons he’s learned from them. His grandchildren will open the letter when he passes away.
And the Parkers don’t plan on leaving campus after their passing either. Bill and Barbara have each reserved a space at the Chapman Columbarium in the Fish Interfaith Center. The Columbarium, a large marble wall, will hold the Parker’s ashes and forever sport their names chiseled into the marble.
“We’ll be involved and go to games as long as we can function. We’ve been here so long and the Columbarium will let us be here forever,” Barbara Parker said.
Bill echoed his wife’s emotions and their increasing ties to Chapman’s athletes.
“Chapman is more than a home for us. We identified with the sports from the time they started here and they’ll always have our support,” Bill Parker said.