Honoring a lifetime of wellness

Norman C. Parsons Jr. (center) with Allan and Patti Herbert. Photo: Kenia Pol/University of Miami
By Mike Piacentino

Norman C. Parsons Jr. (center) with Allan and Patti Herbert. Photo: Kenia Pol/University of Miami

Honoring a lifetime of wellness

By Mike Piacentino
The Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center’s 18,000-square-foot fitness room named in honor of Norman C. Parsons Jr., the center’s former executive director.

Norman C. Parsons Jr., the University of Miami’s former executive director of wellness and recreation, always said, “You get an education at the University of Miami, but you get a life at the Herbert Wellness Center.” 

Now, these words are permanently displayed on a large bronze plaque installed at the entrance to the center’s 18,000-square-foot fitness room for the center’s 2,500 daily student, faculty, staff, and alumni visitors to see. The space, which contains a range of cardio, weightlifting, and other exercise equipment, was named to honor Parsons’ 42-year career at the University during a ceremony held Thursday afternoon in the center’s William R. Butler Atrium. 

Before the plaque was unveiled, Parsons was joined on stage by his family to announce a $50,000 contribution to the newly named Norman C. Parsons, Jr. Family Student Development Endowed Fund. This fund provides Herbert Wellness Center undergraduate student employees with funding to attend conferences or seminars related to wellness, nutrition, exercise, recreational sports, athletic training or related careers. 

“We are grateful for Norm’s generous support for the center’s student employees and his longtime dedication to many areas of the University, including Athletics and the Sports Hall of Fame, Iron Arrow, and Student Affairs,” said Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for student affairs and Parsons’ former supervisor. “And Norm’s special bond with Patti and Allan Herbert has helped them to cement their long-standing legacy on campus—not only at the Herbert Wellness Center, but also, most recently, at the Miami Herbert Business School.”

Parsons is credited with bringing the concept of overall health and well-being to the University of Miami in the 1980s. At a time when most colleges and universities across the country were almost exclusively focused on recreational sports, Parsons knew that living a fulfilling and healthy life meant more than just working out. 

As the Herbert Wellness Center began construction in 1992, Parsons made sure that the center included a range of spaces for wellness programming, including nutritious cooking classes and classroom-based educational programming. When the facility opened in 1996, then-University President Edward T. Foote II said “no new facility could be better received than the Student Wellness Center has already been in the few days since its opening.”

Scott Levin, the Herbert Wellness Center’s current executive director, credits the facility’s current success to the strong foundation Parsons established more than 20 years ago. 

“When I succeeded Norm as the executive director of the department over five years ago, I knew I had big shoes to fill—literally,” Levin joked as he opened Thursday’s event. “It wasn’t until a few months into my tenure that I began to realize the magnitude of Norm’s contributions and the lasting impact he made on our department and across the entire University.” 

In addition to serving as a visionary leader of the University’s recreation and wellness programming for more than 40 years, Parsons also coached the men’s and women’s golf teams in the 1970s and 1980s, leading the women’s team to back-to-back national championships in 1977 and 1978. 

Upon his retirement, Parsons was awarded the University of Miami President’s Medal at the spring 2014 commencement ceremonies. He was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 2013, received the Iron Arrow Bowman Foster Ashe Honor in 2010, the James W. McLamore Outstanding Service Award in 2009, the Women’s Commission May Brunson Award in 2008, and the University of Miami Alumni Association Inside Out Award in 1996.