Looking dapper in his tuxedo with ’Canes-themed bow tie and cummerbund, Norman C. Parsons, Jr. greeted each person who attended his retirement party on Wednesday the same way he greeted people over the past 43 years—with a genuine smile and warm handshake, followed by “How are YOU,” his hands forming the U.
Transformed into a tropical paradise, the Herbert Wellness Center’s second-floor basketball gymnasium held hundreds of ’Canes who gathered to honor the man they call “Mr. P.,” “Mr. Wellness,” or “Hey Norm!” The guest list was a veritable who’s who of UM history, including President Emeritus Edward “Tad” Foote II, former Provost Luis Glaser, and the man who first hired Parsons as intramural director—former Vice President for Student Affairs Bill Butler.
Also in the crowd were Terry Williams Munz, B.B.A. ’77, recipient of the nation’s first female athletic scholarship, granted in 1973 by then-golf coach – Parsons – as well as a tapestry of Iron Arrow jackets. Parsons, who initially refused to accept an Iron Arrow invitation until women were invited to join, later served as the honor society’s advisor from 1995 to 2009.
A steel drum band played in the background while faculty, staff, alumni, and friends enjoyed refreshments, reverie, and a five-hole putt-putt challenge. Just outside the pop-up oasis, guests who recorded a personal video tribute received a raffle ticket to win a Norm Parsons bobble-head doll—its hands positioned, of course, in a U. Several speakers shared reasons why Parsons is one of the most beloved Hurricanes of all time.
“Norm has been here longer than most of the buildings on campus,” said Sergio Gonzalez, senior vice president for University advancement and external affairs. “Norm, you’re a transformational leader, an icon to thousands of students. You’ve touched the lives of so many people that the world is a better place because of you.”
President Donna E. Shalala called Parsons an “extraordinary citizen of our community” and thanked him for keeping us healthy.
It was Parsons, in fact, who introduced the term wellness to the UM community in the late 1980s and made sure that everyone knew—and lived by—his motto: “You get an education at the University of Miami, but you get a life at the Herbert Wellness Center.”
Patti, B.B.A. ’57, and Allan Herbert, B.B.A. ’55, M.B.A. ’58, recounted how Parsons’ friendship and leadership garnered their support for the center that bears their name, as well as the Love Bridge at the center’s entrance, which is dedicated to those who fell in love at the U. The Herbert Wellness Center Staff announced that the annual intramural golf tournament is henceforth named the “Norman C. Parsons, Jr. Intramural Golf Scramble.”
In his characteristic humility and grace, Parsons gave credit to his staff and many others for their dedication and teamwork over the years. He introduced new Executive Director of Wellness and Recreation Scott Levin and encouraged everyone to fill out their “Hey Scott” cards.
Parsons noted that the U also played an important role in finding his true love, wife Linda McDonald, M.Ed. '78. She was a golf coach at Broward Community College while he was coaching the Lady ’Canes golf team, and they met on the competition circuit. As he teared up, Parsons told a Hawaiian shirt-clad Sebastian to deliver a bouquet of flowers to his “best golf partner.”
And to Bill Butler, he said, “Thank you for hiring me in 1972. You took a hell of a chance on me, and I hope it paid off.”
Meredith Camel can be reached at 305-284-1616.