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Civilization. When her contract with Harvard expired this year, the University made no move to renew it. If the Bennington appointment had not come through, she said she planned to spend next year completing her third book on a grant from the Radcliffe Institute.
Bennington has a tradition that administrators also serve on the faculty. Parker intends to continue her teaching and research, although Bennington has no department in her special field, American Studies. Tom Parker said. "It has never been my intention to pursue the career of professor," although he said he would like to do some teaching.
"Both of us have had a good deal of experience," Tom said, "though Gail is more of an academic and I am more of an administrator." Tom Parker, who will receive his doctorate from the School of Education this year, has served for the past four years as assistant to the dean of the Ed School, working in such areas as admissions, financial aid, development, governmental relations and faculty recruitment.
All three Parkers--Gail, Tom and daughter Julia--are looking forward to moving to the more personal community of a smaller college. "Obviously Bennington is attractive because it doesn't have the giant bureaucracy to frustrate one," Tom Parker said.
"While it would be naive to feel that there aren't going to be frustrations at Bennington, I think they will be on another scale--not the kind where you can't sit down and talk to your adversaries," Tom added.
Recently, radical students at Bennington occupied the Administration Building for nearly two weeks over an issue of faculty hiring. When asked to compare her projected handling of a similar situation to President Bok's sittight strategy for dealing with the Mass Hall occupation this Spring. Gail Parker said, "I think there's enough institutional inertia here that Bok's methods work. But I don't think putting things off works in a small community.
"I think Bennington was looking for someone-some ones-who seem to be able to take a job where there are controversies with students and to behave in a way that can be seen as candid," Gail said.
"One of the things I like best about Bennington is that it's not-Harvard--not-Harvard with a hyphen, sort of like anti-Christ."
When the Parkers first learned that Bennington was considering them for the open posts in May, Tom Parker asked several friends whether he should accept the job as vice president. Tom said that they all thought it was a great idea until he mentioned that he would be serving under his wife.
"A lot of people said they wouldn't work for their wives," Tom said. "I must say I learned a lot about other people's marriages."
The Parkers--who worked together to put themselves through school--plan to share the administrative duties at Bennington. "What many be an impossible one-man job should be a manageable two-man position." Gail Parker commented.
Gail Parker has taught several seminars and small courses in addition to lecturing in Harvard's large introductory American literature course, English 700. She says that she prefers the closer, more personal contact with students that a small course provides. "Lecturing is almost obscenely easy--much easier than real teaching," she commented.
The Parkers's precocious first-grade daughter. Julia, insisted on being interviewed, but with the precaution of a public figure she refused to comment except to say she "happy" about the appointments.
When a photographer from the Boston Herald-Traveler wanted to take pictures of the family, the reporter asked. "Do you want to put shoes on your little girl?" Gail replied, "Why don't you take the picture without the feet?"
Julia gets her wit from her mother. When Gail asked her to improve her appearance for the reporters by pulling back her dirty hair, she restored. "But then you could see my dirty face."
When asked if she expects to make a lifetime career of the Bennington presidency. Gail Parker said. "The ordinary tenure of a college president is only five to ten years. I might subside into teaching after that. I don't envision doing this for the rest of my life." She added, "I expect premature senility at the age of 40."
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