Share Your Story

As we celebrate Park’s 140th Anniversary, we have been excited to share many of the great stories from our rich history. Through our history book Fides Et Labor: 140 Years of Pioneering Education The Story of Park University, our 140th Anniversary microsite and our Facebook cover photo series, we have been opening our archives.

But we also want to share YOUR stories. With more than 70,000 living alumni, we know that there are great stories that we’ve not yet uncovered, and we would love to add those to our archives. We are excited about the opportunity to help you tell your story to future generations of Parkites, no matter your level of technical ability.

Screen ShotIf you have an iPhone, it’s as simple as using the camera app on your phone! Select the Video option, hit record, and prop your phone up (Sideways, please) on a desk, bookshelf, or other flat surface. Introduce yourself, tell us your story (if you stumble, don’t worry, we’ll edit out the “oops”es, just collect yourself and start again) and then hit stop. To share it, just shoot it to us via iMessage (816-352-6456) or our Hightail dropbox.

If you have an Android or other smartphone, or a laptop with a webcam, you can also share your story via video – shoot us an email at and we can help walk you through the process. You can also email us if you have other questions, or if you want to share your photos for our digital archive.


Happy Halloween From Park University

At Park University, we are excited about several of the more obvious holidays that fit our institutional ethos – Veterans Day, Memorial Day, (Fides Et) Labor Day – but we are equally as excited about the celebration of Halloween. Not necessarily for the costume contests our staff and students take part in, or for the safe Trick-or-Treat experience that we offer Parkville-area families in Fright Night, but because of the many great ghost stories that surround our campus.

We were recently named one of the 20 Paranormal Places in Missouri You Must See Before You Die, and a number of years ago, KMBC 9‘s Larry Moore profiled two of the more prominent ghost stories, talking about the spirits that inhabit the Park University Observatory above Mackay Hall and taking a look inside of Mackay itself for the ghost of Pauline Hawley, wife of former president Frederick Hawley.

And most recently, Jennifer Sprague was interviewed for a podcast in which she talked about other paranormal activity at Park University.

We will leave you with the feature packages below, and Happy Haunting!

Celebrating Our 140th Anniversary Through Pictures

We’ve been somewhat slow over the summer in continuing our historical image series, but as we get ready for “Swab The Decks” day here on our Parkville campus, we are inspired to share these four images of Spencer Cave. He was one of the longest-serving employees in Park’s history, but his impact was felt well beyond his service to the school. Aged 13 at the time, he – along with another young man – was hired by President John A. McAfee in 1875 to tear down a rock wall just south of the current campus grounds. And with the exception of a one-year leave of absence in 1900, Cave worked for Park until his death in 1947, turning down other, more lucrative offers of employment to remain in Parkville.

His inspiration was felt by so many students that for several years following his death, Park celebrated “Spencer Cave Day,” where classes would be canceled and offices closed so that students, faculty and staff could spend time cleaning up the campus – inspired by Spencer’s dedication. Although today’s Swab The Decks day will be led by faculty and staff, we are still mindful of the connection to our history, honored to share our Park Pride and thankful to be able to pay tribute to Spencer Cave.

Four photos of Spencer Cave in a montage

Spencer Cave was one of the longest-serving employees in Park history, serving the college from 1875 until his death in 1947.

Spencer Cave was born a slave at the start of the Civil War. His parents belonged to people from Kentucky named Cave who later sold his family to a plantation near Slater, Mo. After their emancipation, they moved to Westport Landing and then to a farm of their own. They came to Parkville in 1875, just ahead of the McAfees. Spencer was 13 at the time, and soon after began working for [Park College]. Although he had no formal education, he was a cultured man. Students often came to him for advice, and even years after they had graduates, he could remember every student’s name. At Christmas time every year, he received hundreds of cards from around the world. He died in 1947, having served Park College for more than 70 years.

Celebrating Our 140th Anniversary Through Pictures

From our founding in 1875 to the official launch of our 140th Anniversary celebration earlier this month, the story of Park University is rich with images. We’ve shared a few images so far this year, and we have many more yet to come, but what we share via social media will only scratch the surface.

This fall, we are publishing a book sharing many more of the stories and images of Park’s history. Fides Et Labor: 140 Years of Pioneering Education, is filled with stories and photos covering the last 140 years as the institution grew from a small Presbyterian school with 17 students, built on the banks of the Missouri River, into a world-class provider of higher education to more than 20,000 students on 42 campuses and online.

Below is an excerpt from the opening chapter of this 160-page book. Visit to read an extended version of this excerpt, and place your pre-order to guarantee a copy, as we are printing a limited number.

The Original Seventeen
Accounts differ on exactly who arrived in Parkville first. What can be confirmed is that during the first few weeks of April 1875, Rev. John McAfee, his wife, his six children, and 17 students converged on Parkville in preparation for the opening of the newly-created institution. T.D. Roberts, his wife Emma, Lizzie Adams, and John Rulo arrived by train during that time, while another group of students arrived in a covered wagon bearing the words “Parkville or Bust.” The McAfee family and the remainder of the seventeen students arrived by train on April 13, 1875.
After the McAfee family and Park College’s first students (nicknamed the “Original Seventeen”) arrived, they immediately began cleaning and fitting the hotel for habitation and rudimentary classrooms. This “Augean task” took an entire month, as the building was in shambles. “The Park College Record” described the building thus: All possibility of meaningful commerce had been destroyed by the border conflict and by the Civil War. Horses had been stabled in the cellar during the war and other parts of the basement had been used to store ice for Parkville’s many saloons, one of which had been in the hotel. No one had bothered to remove the rotted manure and sawdust.
Descriptions vary, but the tenants included one family, the M.E. Church, a store and shipping room for fruit and vegetables and countless rats. Ceilings had collapsed and debris was everywhere, inside and out. In addition to the poor condition of the hotel, the group was forced to deal with the 1875 grasshopper plague that decimated crops in much of western Missouri.
By May 12, 1875, part of the structure was habitable, and classes began on a day which has been traditionally referred to as “Founders’ Day.” Most of “The Original Seventeen” were the remnants of the aborted work program that Rev. McAfee had initiated at Highland University. Most enrolled in college level classes, and four of them (three women and one man) were ready to graduate in 1879. As planned in the founders’ agreement, the three men wrote a charter, in which they shortened the name to “Park College,” then appointed a board and formally inaugurated the college.
Whether they were part of the graduating class of 1879 or a subsequent year, the Original Seventeen all benefited from Rev. McAfee’s vision for a college “where ordinary people could come and work to earn an education” as long as they were willing to work. Park College was the product of the forward-thinking nature of Rev. McAfee in an age when only the wealthiest young adults attended college.

Class Photo - Year Unknown

One of the images we’ve shared in promoting our forthcoming book is this photo of a group of students showing their Park Pride in front of Mackay Hall.

Graduation Central

No matter whether your degree was awarded at one of our extended campus centers or here in the Parkville area, we are proud of ALL of our graduates in the class of 2015. Join us in congratulating those students who have earned degrees at the master’s, bachelor’s or associate level, as well as those students who have completed certificate programs.

April 26 – Grand Forks AFB
May 9 – Kansas City Area
May 12 – Fort Irwin
May 14 – Hanscom AFB
May 15 – Austin
May 16 – Moody AFB
May 18 – Whiteman AFB
May 21 – Tinker AFB
May 22 – Barstow
May 26 – Beaufort MCAS
May 28 – Cherry Point MCAS
May 29 – NSA Millington
June 1 – Laughlin AFB
June 4 – Mountain Home
June 5 – Ellen Finley Earhart Nursing Program
June 5 – Malmstrom AFB
June 11 – Scott AFB
June 12 – Fairchild AFB

Cap and Gown, with Park University Logo and "Congratulations to the Class of 2015"

Congratulations to the Class of 2015

Living our Core Values – Integrity

The final entry in our series on Living Our Core Values finds us looking at what it means to act with Integrity. Thanks to Roger Dusing for taking the time throughout the year to share these thoughts with us, and we look forward to another 140 years of success.

Visit our archives to read other posts in the series – on ACCOUNTABILITY, CIVILITY and RESPECT, EXCELLENCE, GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP and INTEGRITY.

We act with INTEGRITY through honesty, efficiency, and reliability

I have looked forward to writing this post, not because it is the last one of the series, but because integrity is such an important foundation for all of our other core values.

In one sense, integrity is easy – always do what you say you are going to do – always act consistently with what you say. What could be easier than that? But, if it was really that easy, everyone would do this all of the time and we would not even recognize integrity as a value; it would be as common as the air we breathe. Unfortunately, integrity is not that common, so something must be getting in the way.

As we look back to the core value statement, we exhibit integrity through honesty, efficiency, and reliability. Therefore, those who have integrity work in an efficient manner, produce reliable and consistent results, and are honest about their contributions. They are honest with others – and with themselves. Sometimes this self-honesty can be the hardest of all.

Integrity gets sidetracked by deception. We might be afraid to fail, so we exaggerate our results. We might be insecure, so we adapt a defensive or aggressive posture toward others. We might not have enough work to do, so we stretch what we have so that we’ll look busy to others. We might make a mistake, so we blame it on the technology or a coworker. In all of these situations, we tried to avoid accountability and therefore acted without integrity.

Looking at our other core values, one who exhibits integrity, by definition: is accountable to others; interacts with civility and respect; seeks excellence in everything they do; celebrates global citizenship through service; and embraces inclusivity via teamwork and collaboration. If one does not have integrity, one cannot exhibit any of our other core values.

Integrity, through honesty, efficiency, and reliability is what it’s all about. With integrity, we can accomplish anything we set out to do. Without it, we will accomplish nothing. Please join me in making integrity the gold standard for Park University.

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you my perceptions and interpretations of Park University’s Core Values. It is my hope that these blog posts will encourage thoughtful discussions and help to cement these values as the foundation for our next 140 years.

20141006-Core Values


Celebrating Our 140th Anniversary Through Pictures

As we celebrated the opening of Old Kate Court a few weeks ago, we thought it appropriate to share her story. The true embodiment of Park’s motto of Fides et Labor, she was much beloved by the students, and a plaque recognizing her achievements is located at Julian Field.

Before plumbing was installed at Park College, Kate, an independent yet faithful mule, delivered thousands of gallons of water to campus buildings by pulling a wheeled barrel up and down the many hills. The little flop-eared mule was given this job after having been slightly lamed in an accident during the construction of Mackay Hall. She knew her way and refused to be driven by the students assigned the task, a trait which endeared her to them.

Kate made her rounds for 12 years and was known to hundreds of early Parkites. Respected and beloved by the entire college community, she was retired in 1898 and was seldom harnessed thereafter, even though times were hard for the college. Kate’s place in college history was assured when, in 1900, on the very day that water was first pumped to the campus from the new water works, she lay down and quietly died, her labors no longer needed. She was 32 years old. Grieving students buried her and erected a large stone as a memorial, one which generations of alumni have revered as the embodiment of Park College spirit.

Kate’s story and her monument are symbolic of the faith and labor, the strength, the perseverance and the force of will that were required to create Park College and to keep it going. May they also serve as an inspiration for the future.

Carolyn McHenry Elwess, ’71
Park University Archivist
Photo of Old Kate with Students

“Old Kate” was a fixture during the early days of Park. After helping to haul the limestone used to build Mackay Hall, she also served as the campus water works, hauling loads from the well up to the residences.