LC in History: Out of the Park Professor

Dr. Clifton Potter, LC History Professor~

As we as a nation turn our attentions from the threats from North Korea to more important matters like the World Series, my thoughts turn once again to Miss Laura Jeter Parker who taught in our English department from 1947 until 1972.

During the twenty-five years she was a member of our faculty, she left an indelible mark upon her students.  She took first years who had only a minimal acquaintance with the mysteries of the English language and over two semesters transformed them into men and women who had at least a basic knowledge of grammar. She was truly the grammarian’s grammarian—if you failed her class you took it again.  I have never met a single student who did not value her classes because she changed their lives in a positive way.  I had Dr. Ellis Shorb for first-year English, but during my senior year I spent a semester in Miss Parker’s English lab.  I have word dyslexia, and so spelling has been my curse since the first grade. Miss Parker provided a partial cure by teaching me techniques to use in dealing with this problem. They held me in good stead until the invention of spell check.

The first-year term paper which was produced at the end of the second semester was supposed to bring together the knowledge one had mastered to that point. Some students began working on it in January after the end of first semester exams, while others waited until the weekend before it was due.  One of Miss Parker’s students, who was counted among the latter group, decided to write his paper on baseball.  In several days he threw together a ten-page paper with footnotes and a bibliography with faux annotations. After all Miss Parker was an unmarried female, what did she know about the national pastime? The bogus paper was submitted, and a week later it was returned covered with red ink and a large F.  What the student did not know was that Laura Jeter Parker had been an avid baseball fan since she was a little girl. If you wanted to know about the World Series of 1928, all you had to do was ask her.  She loved to tell this story.  The student flunked the course, but when he repeated it, they became fast friends, sharing their love of baseball.  His second term paper on the same subject was an A.

I had only been a member of the faculty for three years when my father suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of fifty-seven.  Miss Parker was one of the first people to reach out to me at that time of personal bereavement by relating the loss of her own father under similar circumstances. She was always there when her colleagues and students needed her.  Miss Parker’s discovery that she was terminally ill with cancer led to her retirement. The campus was devastated by the news, but she took it in her stride, facing death with the same grace she had demonstrated through her entire life.  During her final months we visited her regularly, and her sense of humor never waned.  For those of us who knew her, Jeter can never really be replaced.