In Loving Memory of Emeritus Instructor Chris Park

Chris Parks portrait photo

It is with great sadness that I share with you the passing of a beloved Emeritus instructor of over 20 years.  Dolores Parks passed away on Friday, January 19th.   We received this note from her son, Chris on the evening of her death:

"Today the world lost a beautiful soul and heaven gained an angel.  Mom, Dolores "Chris" Christensen Parks, passed away peacefully at home this afternoon surrounded by family.  She will be sorely missed. Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers."

Dolores “Chris” Parks, began teaching for SDCE in the early 90s' for the Parent Education Department, after retiring from teaching elementary school, child development, and ESL classes.  Chris eventually joined her husband, Syd to co-teach a San Diego History class with him for Grossmont Adult School.  Later, Chris rebranded the class as "Rediscovering San Diego" and for the SDCE Emeritus Program.  During her tenure as a SDCE instructor, to meet the needs and the interests of her older adult students, she put her own twist on the course and transitioned it from a history class to a course about San Diego resources of special interest and relevance to retirees.

Her vision quickly became one of the Emeritus programs all-time most popular classes for older adults; as she managed to coordinated private visits to places like the San Diego Center for the Blind, a Neuroscience lab, medical libraries and facilities, AIS (Aging and Independence Services), Hasmat, Service Dog Training Centers, MTS, a guided trolley tour, and even the Coroner’s Office.  When she finally decided to retire about 10 years ago, she agreed to stay long enough to co-teach while training her replacement.  During that time, the class grew from 25 students to almost 400, requiring more than 7 classes today Land and online) to respond to student interest.  Retirement never happened - Chris was still co-teaching this class last semester, well into her 90th year.

What made Chris's vision so powerful?  She had come up with a winning formula for every venue: significance to San Diego; interest to students; diverse content; physical movement (walking tours); expert presenters; and resources that help seniors navigate the aging process with grace, understanding, and support.  You might think that this would be enough, but that was actually the least of it.

Chris's mantra was: “It’s all about our relationship with the students.  Education creates bonds that foster learning, support living, and keep students coming back for more.”  Chris's son told us, “She loved her students like family” and she truly did.  

Chris Parks was more than a teacher she also lead by example.  She modeled her beliefs, lived her values, and truly cared about other people.  Students never missed a class because they knew that Chris had their interests in mind and booked each venue to teach them important life lessons.  Just a month after visiting the San Diego Center for the Blind, a student who was diagnosed with macular degeneration; and now armed with the knowledge and resources he needed to accept the diagnosis; credited this class visit for his ability to navigate this new chapter in his life.

Chris was a teacher in the broadest sense of the word - she was a life-changer.  She changed the lives of her students, by focusing on their needs.  She changed her colleagues, by bringing their focus back to the needs of the students; always first and foremost.  

Rediscovering San Diego is the pride of the SDCE Emeritus Program and the well-deserved legacy of Chris Parks.  Her design for the class, contributions to its success, and tenacity in demanding and preserving quality in its educational value will live on as the legacy that was Dolores “Chris” Parks’ mission.  Every new instructor for this class will hear the story of Chris’ Rediscovering San Diego journey and will be held to her same demanding standards. We owe her our gratitude; she has earned our love and respect.

We will miss Chris, but we will not let her memory be forgotten.

The Emeritus Program

Mission: San Diego Continuing Education commits to student success and community enrichment by providing accessible, equitable, and innovative quality education and support services to diverse adult learners in pursuit of lifelong learning, training, career advancement, and pathways to college.