Charles Hargrove ’17
Tom Parker decided to take a look at Woodberry as a place to teach after hearing about the school through his brother who attended the University of Virginia. He made several trips to the Forest before interviewing with then Headmaster Emmett Wright. Falling for the “feel” of Woodberry, Mr. Parker chose to begin his career as a Tiger.
The first few weeks took some getting used to as the seniors were relentless to the ‘new-boy’ faculty member. “At that time I wasn’t much older than some of the sixth formers, and I had a baby face. I recall some of the sixth form students who saw me in the lower corridor of Walker Building calling out, ‘Hey, newboy!’ That took some getting used to.”
The first few years Mr. Parker primarily taught English 300 and 400 classes. Although the strength of each boy was different, Mr. Parker says most of his students were “thoroughly nice.” He especially enjoyed teaching third formers because they were “fresh, enthusiastic, and impressionable.” As a new teacher, he was kept under the watchful eye and “protective wing” of Woodberry English legend John Stillwell whom Mr. Parker considered an “excellent role model.”
A lover of athletics, Mr. Parker was assigned a position on the coaching staff of the JV football team under the supervision of Coach Bill Skillcorn. Both a player and fan of baseball, he was given a position on the baseball coaching staff, as well. One of his proudest athletic moments came with a victory over Collegiate for the Prep League Championship that had alluded him in the previous season. “We finally got that extra ‘oomph’ to get the crown.” he recalled fondly to me.
Over the course of his teaching career at Woodberry, Mr. Parker has seen many changes within the school. “Living in the world that we do today, it strikes me as bizarre that there was a time when students were allowed to smoke cigarettes if they had parental permission. Tiger Square, one of the ‘designated smoking areas,’ was always littered with cigarette butts. Students looking to work off demerits were at times assigned to pick up the butts.” Would you rather wash windows in the Dick Gym and weed the garden around the Infirmary or pick up the cigarette butts to get out of Demerit Hall?
One of Mr. Parker’s favorite spots on campus is standing on Grainger Field looking out at the Blue Ridge Mountains. He loves walking down by the river with his dogs. Most often, Mr. Parker can be found in his room. “I’m pretty happy in my classroom. I’ve spent a lot of time in there and am comfortable when I’m immersed in a task.”
Mr. Parker hopes “that it continues to be a first-rate boarding school that attracts strong candidates, and that it does all it can do to be financially viable for as many families as possible.” His own plans for the future include traveling and participating in community service projects.
“Woodberry is filled with wonderful people. Without a doubt I will miss them the most. I have made some very, very good friends here, with both faculty and students.”