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ATC President focuses on school and community


4388a.jpgAlbany Technical College was buzzing with activity recently on a hot, humid weekday.

Students of all ages walked to and from their classes as part of the 48-year-old school's largest summer enrollment - 2,932 students.

Although summers typically were the school's lowest enrollment time, the 25-percent increase from last summer exemplified the vibrancy now common on the campus.

Many credit Albany Tech's incredible growth to President Anthony Parker, who marked his 14th anniversary at the helm of the institution this month. Since his arrival, Albany Tech has completed a capital campaign and doubled enrollment. New facilities have also been constructed or renovated on the Dougherty County campus, a campus was constructed in Early County and a learning center was built in Randolph County. He has also aimed to improve adult literacy.

"He's a phenomenal leader because he's totally committed and totally devoted to the mission of Albany Tech, which is work force development for the community. And, he's committed to students, faculty and staff," said Shirley Armstrong, a 26-year school employee and dean of academic affairs. "His major attribute is his devotion. You can look around the campus and see how much it's grown since he's been here."

Students and others have cited Parker's approachability and sincerity as some of his best qualities.

"Dr. Parker cares about everybody from what I've seen," said Atlanta's Waylon Jones, a sophomore and basketball player at Albany Tech. "He attends our games and yet he's a busy man. It means a lot when you see the president of the school attending your games. When you see him on campus, he's never too busy to meet and greet. I got his card and he said to call him if I ever needed anything. He's never too busy for Albany Tech students; no matter if you're a basketball player or regular student."

Albany Tech's Georgia Occupational Award Leadership (GOAL) award winner, Bridgett Morris, said she had appreciated Parker's outgoing personality.

"He knows you. It's like he knows me by name. He's very personable," said Morris, who graduates Sept. 15 from the school's technical nursing program. "Every time I see him, he's got a smile on his face. He's down-to-earth and he does his best to make sure that everything works out for the student body. Whether it's to improve a program or reinforce standards that already exist."


Parker said his love of the job has made it easy for him to excel at his job and connect with those around him.

"It really has breezed by," said Parker of his 14 years with Albany Tech. "I love doing what I do. It's a hard job, but a great job and when you have that combination then certainly there's no day that drags by. There's certainly lots to do."

One of those things Parker has done is make Albany Tech safer for students. He has implemented more enforcement of students displaying their college identification around campus, added Albany State University police officers to patrol the grounds and recently had Lowe Road closed so it wouldn't cut through the campus any longer.

"It's a better place for enrollment because it's safe," said Macon's Tremain Hardwick, a sophomore shooting guard for the men's basketball team. "Dr. Parker has made it a point for people being on campus period to show ID."

Armstrong said moving Lowe Road may have taken years to pull off, but Parker and other administrators demonstrated their commitment to students' safety by making it a priority.

"He moved Lowe Road because of the endangerment it presented for our students, running throughout campus," Armstrong said. "It took seven years to do, but he stayed right at it."

Albany State University Police of Chief Roberson Brown said ASU Sgt. Roycherd Hill and ASU Officer Adrian Jones have been patrolling the Albany Tech campus since 2008. Brown said the safety partnership came after getting approval from the Board of Regents following four-six months of negotiations. Albany Tech pays all the expenses incurred from using ASU's officers.

"(President Parker) didn't want security officers, he wanted sworn officers with full arrest powers," Brown said. He said the officers have "zero tolerance," like they do at ASU, for drugs, alcohol, etc. Brown said police matters on the Albany Tech campus are handled by him and administrative issues are taken care of by Albany Tech.

Besides looking out for his students' safety needs, one of Parker's favorite aspects of his job has been seeing people take hold of their lives and better themselves through the educational opportunities offered at Albany Tech.

"I'm in a position where someone that walks through that door in six, to 12, to 24 months we could've completely changed their lives for the better," said Parker, 56. "At times I'll be at Wal-Mart or church or a restaurant and someone will come up to me and say, 'I'm earning more because of Albany Tech.' "


Improving the Albany area's economic future one student at a time is important to Parker. It's what motivates him. It has also helped the school build pivotal connections with key individuals, businesses and institutions, including the Kirkland family, the Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and Albany State University.

The partnership with Albany State that Parker and ASU President Everette Freeman came together to develop has contributed to Albany Tech's increased enrollment. In April, the schools' two-plus-two agreements allowed an Albany Tech student with an associate degree to continue their education at ASU. It gave Albany Tech students an opportunity to obtain a bachelor's degree in one of six majors: accounting, computer information systems, criminal justice, early childhood education, marketing and technology management.

"The very best, in my opinion, in the social program is a good job," said Parker, who is married and has three grown children and a grandchild. "People who earn more are likely to have health insurance. We're better off (as a community) if more people have health insurance. If they go to a hospital, they'll have a doctor and can pay for their medicine.

"The best thing you can do in the community is for an overwhelming number of people to have good jobs because you've got a stake," he continued. "You're a stakeholder. You've got a good job, you own a house, you pay property taxes, you're more concerned about how the (public) school (system) uses your taxes."

Naturally as a longtime educator, Parker believes education is at the heart of improving Albany's future.

"I think that Albany is a great higher education community," he said. "But I think as a higher education community, we can do better. I think we certainly have the institutions in the community to be better than we are. I think we can literally improve the quality of everyone's life. Education is the key to earning more income. And if we earn more income, we have the opportunity to spend more on better goods and services."

Although it's a given that Albany Tech would be the focus of a great deal of Parker's attention, sometimes his wife, Sandra, said she needs to put things in perspective for him.

"He definitely has a passion for what he does," said Sandra Parker, the career technology director for the Lee County School System. "He absolutely loves what he does. He loves the students and the community.

"If he sees a need, he fills it. Whenever there is a community need, I think the first thing Anthony thinks is, 'Where does Albany Tech fit into it?' And there's times where Albany Tech doesn't fit in it, but he's an only child and you have to convince him that this isn't your game."


Staying regimented and doing a better job controlling the hours he spends doing his job have helped Parker to become not only a better administrator, but also a better husband, father and grandfather.

"He's very regimented and once he gets into something he's very into it," Sandra Parker said. "I mean, he's not going to half do it. He goes to the gym at 5 a.m. and he usually convinces me to go to the gym with him. And I'm still wondering how he makes me do that. I mean everything he does, including the gym, he does 110 percent. I've never seen anything he does that he doesn't put 110 percent into.

"There are times when he's there from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., if it's needed," she added about his workday at Albany Tech. "But there's times when he'll find time to play golf in the evening. He's found that balance and I'm glad."

Education wasn't always the couple's chosen professions, though. As products of parents who worked in education, neither Anthony nor Sandra were eager to enter into the field. But that changed for Anthony while his wife was expecting their second child. After finding out that the then Kendall Division of Palmolive in Augusta would be closing its plant, he had an option of returning to North Carolina to be transferred or finding another opportunity.

Parker found a job teaching for a year. That was 29 years ago. His past education jobs include being the vice president of student services at Aiken (S.C.) Technical College and as well as at Southeastern Tech in Vidalia.

"I found something I love to do," he said. "My parents were educators and it was something I wasn't going to do, but I love it."

Two of his three children have also caught the education bug. His oldest daughter, Kimberly, is a faculty member at Texas Women's University. His middle child, Andrea, a lieutenant in the Coast Guard, recently was chosen by the military branch to teach at its academy in Connecticut. She'll attend graduate school for two years so she can teach, said Sandra Parker. Their son, Richard, is a United Parcel Service (UPS) driver in Atlanta.

"So they did the same route we did," said Sandra Parker, who previously was a banker. "They did their career first and realized education was their calling."


Ethan Fowler

Albany Herald


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