Laurie Quay is Editorial Assistant at Kappa Delta Pi.
Discovering the value of membership in Kappa Delta Pi is sometimes possible only after hearing personal accounts, especially those created over a lifetime. This became clear to me after speaking with Dr. Franklin Parker, a lifetime member since 1978. He is one example in KDP’s history of how this Society can forever influence the course of a career—or even a life.
Dr. Parker’s story could not be told without including his wife Betty—his partner in writing and research and herself an educator—in the narrative. Married now for 63 years, Frank and Betty first met in 1946 (both having the same last name!) at Berea College in Kentucky.
The ensuing years found them involved in worldwide travel and university teaching positions, but their real adventures began while taking graduate courses at George Peabody College for Teachers at Vanderbilt University. Their studies and connections created life-changing circumstances, including an international research opportunity made possible by KDP.
“The most interesting year of our lives” was how Frank and Betty characterized their 1957–58 educational trip to Africa, which was made possible by a $5,000 KDP International Education Fellowship awarded to Frank, and still very fresh in their minds.
Winning that competitive fellowship allowed Frank to study African education in the formerly multiracial Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, a British self-governing territory in south central Africa (now Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi). Peabody College’s Dr. Harold R. W. Benjamin, then a KDP Laureate, provided the funding, although assistance came from other sources, too. “I was so very grateful,” Frank said.
The Parkers arrived in a part of Africa where education was seen as a key to success, though the ruling class of minority Whites often held native Africans back, and the White education department inspectors were wary of outsiders wanting to improve African students “too much.” Frank recalled, “We were told to just teach them fundamentals.”
Their school visits and reviews of education records and government archives allowed Frank to write the account of their trip, African Development and Education in Southern Rhodesia (1960). “It was a good experience for him to get something published under the banner of KDP,” Betty said.
Looking back, Frank and Betty remain grateful for the opportunity. “It was a good investment all the way around,” Betty said. Among their favorite memories was driving a Volkswagen across the alternately rough, sandy, and muddy African roads. “We skidded here and there,” Frank laughed. “But we liked that VW.” After their trip, Franklin was asked to contribute entries about education and African countries for several encyclopedias.
A year after returning stateside, Frank became a KDP member while teaching at the University of Texas’ College of Education. He also was faculty advisor to the KDP Chapter at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, from 1964–68, after getting that chapter re-instated.
During his 40 years of teaching, Frank continually advocated for international education, believing that teachers with intercultural–international understanding could help new student generations build a more peaceful world. He and Betty wrote several books about comparative international education. He also was a long-time member of the KDP Committee on International Education and edited its newsletter.
Ironically, Frank and Betty now live close to where they first met, in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, and are enjoying a full life in retirement. Frank’s KDP publications are sent to the teachers at nearby Pleasant Hill Elementary School.
Every KDP member has a different story, but each has common themes—a meaningful career in education, rich with opportunities, and a supportive partner along the way.
KDP and its Educational Foundation continue to offer opportunities for recognition, classroom teacher grants, and scholarships for all levels of education. This is a most valuable membership indeed!