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An artist's touch

Retiring registrar and artist Chris Parker (’76) reflects on her Mount Allison student-centred career
By: Laura Dillman Ripley

When Chris Parker left Mount Allison after earning her BFA in 1976, she thought she would only be back for the occasional visit or Reunion Weekend.

Fast forward to 2019 — Parker has spent much of her adult life on the Mount Allison campus in a number of roles, serving students, faculty, and staff. She recently retired as University registrar, a position she held for nearly two decades.

The University registrar oversees the Registrar’s Office, handling many files including: applications, financial aid and tuition payments,  academic advising, course registration, timetables, transcript requests, transfer credit assessments, exam schedules, and Convocation. Nearly every student comes into direct contact with the office over the course of their degree, from academic advising to receiving their diploma at Convocation.

“Students come to the Registrar’s Office to help sort out academic matters, seek advising, or if they’re in some kind of academic difficulty,” says Parker. “We help them interpret regulations of the degree or program in which they’re interested and plan how to achieve it. There have been some changes over the years in how we do this, but that’s still the core of what we do.”

Likely holding one of the University records for most Convocations attended, Parker has handed diplomas to thousands of graduates as they crossed the Convocation Hall stage.

“There’s so much behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on during Convocation. It’s not exactly something you can rehearse,” she says. “And it’s sometimes a challenge to ensure that the diplomas are distributed in order, while keeping up with the pace set by the Secretary of Senate as names of grads are announced. But it’s often the variety and style of graduates’ footwear that sticks in my mind.”

Along with moving to online registration, Parker says one of the highlights she experienced in the Registrar’s Office was the introduction of the Bachelor of Science in Aviation in 2008, in partnership with the Moncton Flight College.

“This new program was huge for us,” she says. “To my knowledge, it was our first partnership with a college in an area that was different from our usual offerings. It was exciting to be part of and see new partnerships develop going forward.”

Before becoming registrar, Parker worked in a number of roles focused on student life. She and her spouse at that time, Charlie Hunter (’75), were co-dons of Hunton House in the 1980s and subsequently in Trueman House from 1991 to 1997.

“Hunton House was all-female when we were dons and Trueman was all-male for the first three years we were there. It was fun, but both had their challenges,” says Parker. “The decision to make Trueman a co-ed residence in 1994 was a controversial one for the University.”

While today’s residence students only know co-ed houses, Allisonian historical buffs will remember the great Trueman House protests of the administrative decision to change the residence from an all-male house to a co-ed one in the 1990s.

“Several of the guys barricaded one of the floors in the house and some camped outside. But the move to being a co-ed house went ahead and we stayed on through the transition for three more years as the dons,” Parker says.

Parker also worked as the housing manager, residence room assignment co-ordinator, and in 2000 became the records officer before moving into the registrar’s role in 2001.

Prior to her career as registrar, while raising two daughters, Parker pursued her artistic practice, and whenever possible helped to promote art in the local elementary school through participation in the Art Cart program. She was commissioned by the University in 1991-92 to paint the portrait of President Donald Wells that hangs in Convocation Hall, and later also commissioned by the Town of Sackville to create the image for their promotional highway signage in the early 2000s.

“My focus as a fine arts student was on drawing, silk screening, and painting and I was fortunate to learn from artists like Lawren Harris Jr., David Silverberg, and Ted Pulford,” says the second-generation Allisonian.

"My focus now is on painting. I like to paint what is in front of me and I draw inspiration from the Tantramar marshes, the mudflats, and the reflection of light on them,” she says.

“During my early career at Mount Allison, I kept a studio off-campus but there never seemed to be enough focused time between work and family commitments.  So that part of my life was temporarily shelved. It’s something I’m really looking forward to getting back to in retirement. Along with travelling.”


Paintings: Tides Vexing (drawn from inspiration from Charles G D Roberts’ Tantramar Revisited) and Pink Shore at Dorchester Cape

Top photo: (L-R) Kim Meade, vice-president, international and student affairs; Chris Parker; and Mount Allison President Jean-Paul Boudreau at the 2019 Employee Recognition Reception.