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Special Education alumnae seek to revitalize Parker Scholarship

Rose Parker

Mary Ann (Wilson) Shipton, ’53, MSE ’69, and Jean (Johnson) Holcomb ’53 consider today’s Department of Special Education the “gold standard” in the field.  They said the department was a pioneer in the 1950s when they received their degrees, and Rose Parker was the champion who brought national attention to Illinois State (Normal) University for the education of special needs children.  That’s why they are asking for help in fully funding an endowment to continue awarding the Rose E. Parker Teacher Excellence Award.

Rose Parker came to Illinois State (Normal) University in 1931 and 27 years later retired as the director of the Division of Special Education.  Her tenure brought national attention to campus as a model for educating children with special needs along with regular elementary education students and resulted in a new laboratory school for children with disabilities, Fairchild Hall, which was dedicated in 1951.  Shipton and Holcomb were “thrilled to be asked to serve as tour guides for the open house and dedication.”

Parker left a bequest to the University to fund the Rose E. Parker Excellence Award, which has helped some 16 students finish undergraduate and graduate education.  One of the recipients, Jennifer House, said “I went into special education initially to help students who needed more specialized instruction based on their individual needs. When I decided to get my master’s degree in special education, it was to help special education teachers be the best they could be for their students. This way, I could touch even more students than I could in my own classroom. I began working for the Special Education Department at Illinois State after receiving my master’s degree to prepare great special education teachers. What better way to use my Rose Parker award than to increase my skills and then pass them on to up-and-coming special educators.”

The amount of the Parker Scholarship award has remained the same, but the cost of education has doubled since the scholarship was established.  To fully endow the scholarship and assure its continuity, $2,500 needs to be added to the fund.

Shipton and Holcomb have written to more than 250 fellow special education alumni who received their degrees during Parker’s tenure, asking for monetary assistance.  They raised part of the necessary funds, but are now broadening their call to all alumni, especially to retired teachers, to raise the remaining $2,500.  Shipton and Holcomb cite Parker’s drive and dedication in building a program and curriculum that guaranteed all children a good education, including those with special needs.

Anyone wishing to contribute should contact Mira Mihajlovich, director of Development for the Special Education Assistive Technology (SEAT) Center, by emailing her at or calling her at (309) 438-5363. Gifts can also be made online by clicking on Giving.