While students at Berea College, Franklin ’49 and Betty Parker ’50 each found a treasured classmate, the love of a lifetime and the groundwork for great success.

It all started when Franklin and Betty were sitting together in class in September 1946.  Coincidentally, Betty’s maiden name is Parker, so as a student she found Franklin often was her neighbor in class. According to Franklin, they soon started walking hand in hand and have been doing so ever since.

Franklin came to Berea after serving several years in the U.S. Air Force, so he was eight years older than Betty when they met. Franklin worked in the library, wrote for the campus alumni news publication and served as a teaching assistant. Betty visited Berea as a high school student singing with a choir group. She loved her time on campus and decided Berea was the place for her. Her home in northern Alabama was not in Berea’s territory at the time, but she didn’t accept no for an answer. While on campus, she went and spoke to then-President Francis Hutchins and pled her case—despite being out of territory, she was one of 10 children and had no other options to afford a college education. Her outgoing nature secured her a spot at Berea.

Betty and Franklin Parker hold a picture of their wedding day
Photo by Crystal Wylie ’05

Betty recalls that one of her favorite memories as a student was the singing of “Berea Beloved” in Phelps Stokes Chapel. “Franklin was a few years older and had mature goals,” Betty said. “He also has a beautiful speaking voice. I remember with what pride I heard him read Scripture during a Phelps Stokes service from the balcony.”

“Berea is a second home for us,” she added. “a place where we became adults and dreamed of travel and accomplishments.” 

Following their time at Berea College, the pair went on to travel domestically and internationally as they worked side by side. Franklin pursued his Ph.D. in history and philosophy education at George Peabody College for Teachers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. His dissertation focused on George Peabody’s life, philanthropies and the Peabody Education Fund’s influence on later U.S. funds and foundations. Franklin and Betty traveled to various higher-education institutions to discuss the dissertation. He also authored numerous published pieces and Betty, who earned a master’s degree at Peabody and served as an English instructor at both high school and post-secondary levels, edited his work. The couple donated published writings, books, compilations of writings and journals to Hutchins Library at Berea College. Franklin retired after 20 years at West Virginia University as Claude W. Benedum Professor of Education.

“Though Berea and the world around us have changed immensely,” Betty reflected, “Berea is faithful to its founding values. It still serves those deserving an education and opportunities. We are proud to support Berea.”

Franklin Parker swimming in a pool
At the age of 101, Franklin Parker still swims nearly every day.

Today, Franklin and Betty are in assisted living, a part of Uplands Village, a continuing care retirement community in Tennessee. Franklin, at nearly 101 years old, swims almost daily and is quick to give a heel-clicking jump when he is excited about various activities or new visitors. He and Betty, now 92, take long walks together through the grounds, often still hand in hand like they did in college. After 27 years living in the Uplands Village community, Pleasant Hills mayor declared June 2 to be “Franklin Parker Appreciation Day” and urged “all citizens to honor every elder and rededicate their lives to being the best person they were meant to be.”

“Because of our roots at Berea, we had opportunities and experiences that fulfilled our fondest dreams,” Betty said. “Berea made possible the satisfactions and the joys of our lives.”

Author

Abbie Darst '03 is an article writing, husband loving, kid raising, cheer coaching, God serving, busy woman. Whether it's been in sports, law enforcement or higher education, Abbie has dedicated her career to telling stories that speak of mission, passion and the best parts of human experience. She's been telling Berea's amazing stories since 2017.

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