Dr. Olin Griffith Parker
February 28, 1922 – August 5, 2019
Long time Athens resident, Olin Griffith Parker, 97, died peacefully, surrounded by family, at his home in Greenville, North Carolina on August 5th.
He was born during a blizzard on February 28, 1922 on a wheat farm near Plains, Kansas. At Plains High School Olin was active in chorus, drama, and band (performing on five instruments) and lettered in football, basketball, and tennis. He was president and valedictorian of the senior class (1940).
Olin’s collegiate education at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas was interrupted when he was called to serve in the U. S. Army during World War II. He returned to earn his Bachelor of Music in Music Education, minoring in clarinet and economics, in 1947. At Bethany he played clarinet, sousaphone, violin, and viola with the band, orchestra, and Blue Dozen Pep Band. He was president of Alpha Sigma Nu (social fraternity) and active in Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, National Honorary Music Fraternity. At the University of Kansas he earned his Master of Music Education degree, minoring in educational psychology (1949) and Doctor of Education degree, minoring in guidance (1961). E. Thayer Gaston, Olin’s major professor, was one of the founders of music therapy in the United States. Parker’s dissertation was A Study of the Relationship of Aesthetic Sensitivity to Musical Ability, Intelligence, and Socioeconomic Status. At KU, he was active in Phi Delta Kappa, was elected to membership in Pi Kappa Lambda, National Honorary Music Fraternity, and was the first to perform a full-length solo clarinet recital at the University of Kansas on January 7, 1951.
Olin joined the U. S. Army in March 1943, becoming a commissioned officer the following year. He served in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines as well as in the Army of Occupation in Japan through May 1946. Subsequently he joined the U. S. Army Reserve and was recalled to active duty (1951-53) as a unit commander on the front lines of the Korean War, primarily at Old Baldy. More than three of First Lieutenant Parker’s four years overseas were served in combat. The Bronze Star for Meritorious Service was one of the honors of which he was most proud.
Excerpts from his commanding officer’s evaluation summarized the personal traits that spanned his entire career: “outstanding leader; admired and looked up to; courteous, respectful; outstanding moral qualities; superior executive ability and orderly organization of missions assigned to him.”
Olin’s contribution to the field of education traversed 64 years. He often stated, “Music is the essence of humanness.” Initially he taught public school music in Kansas for fourteen years--elementary music, high school band & chorus (Macksville, 1947-48) and elementary, junior, and senior high band (Leavenworth, 1949-51). His most renowned student was Gary Foster, who became one of the most prominent woodwind players in Hollywood studios. Following Olin’s return from Korea, he taught band, orchestra, stage band, and music theory at Salina High School (1954-64). He conducted annual productions of Broadway musicals/stage shows as well as countless private lessons and small ensembles. For a dozen summers he was on the faculty at the High Plains Music Camp at Fort Hays State University. In 1962 he directed the Kansas State Lions Club Band, personally selecting the 244 members from over 500 applicants.
The family moved to Athens in 1964 where he taught full-time at the University of Georgia until 1992 and served as Associate Head of the School of Music for many of those years. Olin taught 31 different courses, supervised countless student teachers, and occasionally taught applied clarinet and saxophone. He established the jazz program and the guitar major at UGA, directed the clarinet choir and brass choir, and performed with the Faculty Brass Quartet and the Faculty Woodwind Quartet. In 1968, through his efforts, the music therapy program (now regarded as one of the nation’s best) was instituted at the University of Georgia. Dr. Richard Graham, the first African American professor employed by the University, was hired by Dr. Parker to direct that program. Following his state-mandated retirement at the age of 70, he was granted the title of Emeritus Professor of Music and Associate Director Emeritus. Dr. Parker continued to teach part time (graduate level Psychology of Music and supervision of student teachers) until the age of 92.
Olin published over fifty articles and presented 48 scholarly papers at professional conferences on every continent except Africa and Antarctica, lecturing in 39 states and 45 countries. He served as a guest lecturer at East Carolina University yearly from 1988 through 2013. Professional memberships included the American Music Therapy Association, College Music Society, Council for Research in Music Education, European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, Georgia Association of Educators, Georgia Music Educators Association, International Society for Music Education, National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors, National Band Association, and many others. He served in leadership positions with the Athens Area Retired Teachers Association, Georgia Music Educators Association, UGA chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia (10 years as Province 36 governor), the UGA chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, and the UGA Retired Educators Association.
He was a founding member of the Classic City Band in Athens, serving as co-director of that organization for two years and director for three. For forty years he played tuba, clarinet (E-flat, B-flat, alto, and bass), alto saxophone, and baritone as required. Olin’s final conducting appearance with the band was at the age of 94.
Olin’s awards were many: Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Orpheus Award (1977); Distinguished Service Award (Georgia Music Educators Association, 1977 & 1990); Distinguished Career Award (1996, Georgia Music Educators Association); and the 50 Years of Service Certificate (2002, Music Educators National Conference); American Music Therapy Association Presidential Award (2011); Love of Learning Award (UGA chapter of Phi Kappa Phi (2017).
A lifelong Methodist, Olin Parker was a man of deep religious faith. He was member of First United Methodist Church in Athens, where he sang in the Sanctuary Choir and was a member of the Pacesetters Sunday School class. Numerous former students have commented on his kind, empathetic, and caring nature and how he helped them land their first jobs. Many also mentioned that Dr. Parker always made each student feel as though he/she was the most important person in the room. As a teacher of music teachers his influence will be evident for many years to come.
Olin Griffith’s parents, Arthur Roscoe and Ida Lee Griffith Parker, his sisters Gladys Marie Parker and Myrtle Lucille Parker Hudson, and his beloved wife of over 51 years, Melba Joy Burwell Parker, preceded him in death. He is survived by son, Craig Burwell Parker and wife Susanna (Manhattan, Kansas), daughter Michelle Joy Parker Hairston and husband Charles (Greenville, NC), six grandchildren: Monica Joy Bocaner (Barry), Damon Glenn Parker (Lindsay), Jeremy Thomas Parker (Emily), Olin Grant Parker (Rachael), Miranda Joy Hairston Dunn (Anthony), and Kimberly Michelle Hairston (Carl Crawford) and twelve great-grandchildren: Marielle Joy Bocaner; Dorothy Rose, Olin Griffith & Georgia Marie Parker; Corinne Bea & Doak Gregg Parker; Seth Joseph & Natalie Louise Parker; Michael Anthony, Madilyn Joy, and Gabriella Alyse Dunn; and Parker Edwin Crawford. The family extends their heartfelt appreciation to Julia Stewart, Olin’s kind and devoted caretaker during his last years.
The funeral and reception will be Sunday, August 11, at 2:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall at the First United Methodist Church in Athens. Private burial will follow. Memorial contributions can be made to the Olin G. and Melba Joy Parker Scholarship for music education students at the University of Georgia’s Hugh Hodgson School of Music.
Bernstein Funeral Home is in charge of local arrangements. www.BernsteinFuneralHome.com
- Funeral Service Sunday, August 11, 2019
Dr. Olin Griffith Parker
August 11, 2019
I have a very fond memory of escorting Dr. Parker to the altar at Racheal and Grant's wedding. Condolences to all who loved him.
August 8, 2019
Dr. Parker was one of my favorite professors, genuinely kind, knowledgeable and understanding. My deepest sympathy to his family.
August 8, 2019
"Dr. P." Was a Dictionary definition of a gentleman! I’m so fortunate to have been able to know him. The Tar River Community Band enjoyed having him sit in on rehearsals with us when he would visit Greenville (always wearing his suit and tie!) and in later years, after relocating here, as one of our "groupies".
He will be missed, but the countless students he influenced will carry his legacy forward!
August 8, 2019
Wow! What a life! During my days at UGA, Dr. Parker was always the nicest, most helpful man (even when I didn’t deserve it - he treated everyone well). It’s wonderful to read his obituary and learn that he was an even “better man” than I even recalled! Condolences and love to Michelle and Craig, who I knew in my UGA days, and everyone else in the family.