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Interview with James F. Parnell, February 5, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with James F. Parnell, February 5, 2003
February 5, 2003
James F. Parnell recounts his career at Wilmington College and UNC-Wilmington. Dr. Parnell came to Wilmington College in 1964, having just completed his Ph.D. at North Carolina State University. He became the fourth member of the biology department. Topics discussed include: the North Carolina Sea Grant program and how it helped fund research at UNCW; Dr. Parnell's research specialization in vertebrate zoology with a specific focus on birds: Dr. Parnell's two years as department chair in the late 1960s; and his observations regarding teaching and researching in the biology department for 32 years, until his retirement in 1995.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Parnell, James F. Interviewer: Lack, Adina Date of Interview: 2/5/2003 Series: Voices of UNCW Length: 46 minutes

Riggins: Good morning. Today is Wednesday, February 5, 2003. My name is Adina Lack and I am here conducting an interview at Randall Library in the conference room and I’d like our interviewee to introduce himself please for the tape.

Parnell: I’m James Parnell.

Riggins: A retired member of the Department of Biological Sciences, was it know as biological sciences or biology or it doesn’t matter.

Parnell: I believe it was biological sciences all the way back.

Riggins: Dr. Parnell, can you please just take us back to some biographical information, where were you born and where did you grow up?

Parnell: I was born in 1934 in Timmonsville, South Carolina, a small town just west of Florence. I attended public school there and in 1952 entered the University of Florida’s Forest Ranger program at Lake City, Florida, a one year practical course in forestry which was my introduction I guess to higher education.

Riggins: As well as to natural history?

Parnell: As well as to natural history. From there, I went to the University of South Carolina for two years and then to North Carolina State where I completed my undergraduate degree and both graduate degrees.

Riggins: All at N.C. State.

Parnell: All at N.C. State.

Riggins: How did you find your way to Wilmington?

Parnell: During my last year in my doctoral program at North Carolina State, Dr. Tom Clay who was my advisor told me about a job at UNC Wilmington that was becoming available. I applied for that job, interviewed with Dean Cruz at the time and took that job and came to UNC Wilmington or Wilmington College at that time in the fall of 1964.

Riggins: Okay, fall of 1964. You interviewed with Marshall Cruz in the summer of that year?

Parnell: Yes, in the spring as I recall.

Riggins: Had you finished your Ph.D. by then and everything?

Parnell: I was just finishing up. I finished it up in May and I came here in September.

Riggins: So you spent your entire career here pretty much.

Parnell: My entire career at UNCW.

Riggins: When did you retire?

Parnell: I retired in 1995 I believe it was. I’m beginning to lose track of that already.

Riggins: Over 30 years teaching.

Parnell: Yes, 32 years.

Riggins: Great. And did you have family in North Carolina too or did they come later?

Parnell: No, two of my brothers were North Carolinians at that time. I lived with one brother in Raleigh for a while I was at North Carolina State. I have another brother in Winston-Salem.

Riggins: They stayed in North Carolina, some of them, so you had some family here, that’s good. You came to Wilmington in the fall of 1964 and I suppose this new campus was just completed.

Parnell: There were three buildings at that time and if my memory is correct, the fall of 1964 was the first senior class as I recall. I think we graduated our first four year graduates in May of ’65.

Riggins: That sounds right.

Parnell: I might be one year off, but I think that’s correct. So I sort of came with the first senior class.

Riggins: The first time they had a four year degree in the Liberal Arts program. Wow that’s great. So your department was in one of these three buildings I suppose.

Parnell: Yes.

Riggins: Do you remember which one?

Parnell: Yes, it was in Hoggard Hall. Biology faculty, there were four of us that first year I was here in biology along with physics, nursing, chemistry and several other departments were all in Hoggard Hall.

Riggins: One of the academic buildings I suppose.

Parnell: The main academic building.

Riggins: The main academic building, my goodness. How did you like coming to a small place after having been at N.C. State?

Parnell: I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked the campus here. I like the small school atmosphere. It was a good way to start out. In retrospect, the relative difference was large, but when I was at N.C. State, there were only about 6,000 students so UNCW is a lot bigger than that now.

Riggins: That’s true.

Parnell: But coming from 6,000 students to a campus with about 1,000 was a lot of difference.

Riggins: A lot of difference. Wow, N.C. State has grown a lot too, that’s for sure. So you came on board in biology. Who was there at the time?

Parnell: Frank Allen was department chairman, Walter Biggs was on the faculty, Jack Dermott was on the faculty. There was a lady here whose name I don’t remember who left as I was arriving. So really Frank, Jack, Walter and I were the four faculty that first year. Got a real education that first year. We were on the quarter system and I taught five new courses that first year, two each quarter. It was the third quarter before I repeated anything. We had two new preparations for each of the first two quarters. We got broke in pretty good the first year.

Riggins: New to the college?

Parnell: No, new to me. I had not taught them before. Some of them were new to the college. I brought some new courses in since it was a senior class the first time, they had not been taught before. Some of those courses I had to acquire all the paraphernalia and all the supplies for the course as well. I was very relieved to get to the spring quarter when I got a chance to repeat something.

Riggins: My goodness, yeah, that’s a lot of preparation I’m sure.

Parnell: It was busy. On the quarter system, you taught each class every day. So it meant every night you had two new preparations to make for the next day.

Riggins: I suppose it switched over at some point later on to come into alignment with the state system.

Parnell: We switched to the semester system after a few years. I don’t really remember just when, but to bring us in line with the other schools. That changed things considerably. On the quarter system, we did not usually start until mid-September and we didn't get out until early June. So we were sort of out of step. Our students were at a disadvantage in getting summer jobs which was one of the reasons I think we eventually switched so that our students would be getting out at the same time most students got out for the summer.

Riggins: What were the students like at this time? What do you remember about your students?

Parnell: I remember classes being small. Most of our upper class sizes were 5 to 10 students in a class. Freshmen and sophomore classes were running 25 or 30. The students were good. You got to know them very well. I still have three or four close friends among that first group of graduating seniors who stayed in Wilmington and maintained relationships with me since then. So you got to know them very, very well.

Riggins: Were a number of them older students?

Parnell: Some were. We were still getting veterans from the Vietnam War at that time. Some of them were older. Just the small classes allowed you to get to know everybody very well. It was very nice.

Riggins: Sounds like you taught for all this time that you were here. Did you enjoy teaching?

Parnell: I enjoyed teaching very much. The first two or three years I was here, I taught courses that I did not expect to have to ever teach because we were few in terms of faculty and we had a fairly wide curriculum so I taught embryology. I taught genetics, I taught animal physiology courses which in my training at North Carolina State I took the courses, but I didn't expect to teach them. So it was a few years until I got more into the field courses that I was more comfortable with.

The faculty was small. Everybody taught lots of different things. You had to be pretty broad in your training. As time went by and faculty grew, specialties were allowed to narrow.

Riggins: Right and in your specialty, did you cover zoology?

Parnell: My specialty was always vertebrate zoology, biology with special emphasis on birds although for most of my career here I taught a course called vertebrate natural history which was an overview of all vertebrates so I had to be fairly familiar with everything from fishes to mammals. But then I taught ornithology for many years. I also taught ecology and some wetlands related materials so I was primarily a field zoologist I guess you would say.

Riggins: Did you go out into the field with the students?

Parnell: Oh yes. That was one of the strong points of what we liked to do. We spent a lot of time outdoors. The rationale even back in those days was that we were turning out lots of students who had a good, solid understanding of biology, but they couldn’t identify common animals so one of the things we were trying to do was to make sure the teachers and others who went out as biologists had some familiarity with the common animals in the region. We tried, especially in the vertebrate natural history course, make sure that they could identify common animals a student may drag in and that sort of thing.

Riggins: In this early time was there a special emphasis on biology or a good deal of support for biology because of our location?

Parnell: There was a good deal of support. It didn't have the strong emphasis that came a bit later. That came a few years later as we began to develop the marine interest in the department.

Riggins: Marine biology, right. I suppose that became kind of a natural growth.

Parnell: It was, the location, which simply meant that when you hired faculty, very often their research would end up being in the marine environment even though they might not be teaching marine materials. Research became an important component of the university.

Riggins: When did you notice more of an emphasis on research?

Parnell: It grew fairly slowly. When I first came, research was not an emphasis at all although it was appreciated. I began some fairly simple research projects almost immediately upon arrival working primarily with ospreys at first. I think one of the things in the biology department that probably stimulated a lot of early interest in research was the advent of the Sea Grant program.

Sea Grant came to North Carolina sometime in the late 1960’s, I can’t remember the date. When it came to North Carolina, the university appointed one person from each campus to represent that campus on that program and I was the UNC Wilmington representative on the Sea Grant committee or council, I don’t remember what it was called. That was sort of the first opportunity we had to begin to bring monies to this campus to study coastal things.

That was one of the things that helped to get people into research and to provide some early funding. Funding was kind of hard to come by and it sort of got us going. I think from that point when we became part of the university, then the emphasis on research began to grow and I think it’s been steady ever since that time.

Riggins: So this Sea Grant program, even people in western Carolina served on the council?

Parnell: I believe if I remember correctly they did although again the emphasis was on the triangle schools and us and East Carolina. I can’t remember whether there were representatives from the western part of the state or not. I think there were. It’s been a long time.

Riggins: Yeah, I’ve heard of that program, but I really didn't know anything about it so it’s good to hear.

Parnell: Well it’s still active and still operating. I think our faculty are still being funded through that. I’m not sure of that, but I would presume that they are. It was a major input of funds in those early years for biological research.

Riggins: So did you get some grants from that?

Parnell: We were supported by Sea Grant for many years with our work on coastal birds. Certainly from the early 70’s up through at least the early to mid-80’s, somewhere in there, I don’t remember the dates exactly, but their emphasis began to change more toward seafood and coastal processes related types of things and my natural history work was not in the center of things as much as it had been earlier. So our funding sort of fell off with them and we moved in other directions. But for 10-12 years, they funded us strongly.

Riggins: That’s good. Were there other people in your department who worked with you on this or did you work with students?

Parnell: Mostly with students and I had an associate who was actually at Campbell University who worked with me for two or three summers who was on the faculty at Campbell. He and I worked together on coastal bird projects. We didn't have the luxury in those early years of having much overlap between faculty interests so I worked a lot with undergraduate students.

We hired undergraduates for summer assistance and that sort of thing. Then when we got our Master’s program, we began to use graduate students primarily for summer work. That way they could use part of this information for projects. In the early days, we used lots of undergraduates.

Riggins: What was your department like? Did it grow quite quickly or did it grow especially in the 70’s after Dr. Wagoner?

Parnell: It grew steadily I think throughout. We grew, I’m not sure of my facts on this, but I think we probably grew a little faster than a lot of the departments from the beginning. So we hired faculty on a pretty regular basis throughout my career. It seemed like almost every year we were hiring someone. So the department grew fairly quickly.

Riggins: Who was the chair after Frank Allen?

Parnell: I was, I was chair for two years, learned pretty quickly that that was not something that I cared to do so I didn't stay a department chair very long. I discovered I had the best job in the world and there wasn’t any point to change it.

Riggins: That’s a great discovery.

Parnell: I took on the chairmanship. I felt it was something I ought to try to do, but I was not ever comfortable there. I didn't stay very long.

Riggins: When was that about?

Parnell: ’67 probably, ’68, somewhere along there. We were in an awkward period at that time. In our attempt to become a part of the university system, there was some push I think informally at least to make sure that department chairs and so forth had their terminal degrees. Frank Allen did not, he had a Master’s, but he was an excellent department chair, much better than I ever was.

But he didn't have a terminal degree. So he bowed out and I took over primarily I think just to provide that person with a terminal degree and to make that transition. When I stepped down, the next person who stepped in was someone with a doctorate. It moved on from there. Frank was an excellent department chair, excellent faculty member. The school was growing and there was a strong emphasis on terminal degrees in those days as we were trying to get into the university system.

Riggins: Did you get to know Dr. Randall at all?

Parnell: Yeah, reasonably well, not closely, but you know, he was here and he was running the show so we all got to know him pretty well. We were small. When we had faculty meetings, you could get everybody in the room including all the administrators. So it was not difficult. You knew everyone.

Riggins: That’s really special in some ways. Could they all fit in this room?

Parnell: Maybe not this room, but it wasn’t much bigger than this. One of the funniest things that happened in those early years and I’ve always been surprised I didn't get fired over it, we hired Dr. Paul Reynolds at the same time I came in as the provost in those days. He and Dr. Randall invited me to attend some sort of a meeting in Raleigh I think to get me to drive, I’m not sure.

Anyway they put me driving in Dr. Reynolds’ new automobile which was the first car I had ever driven with power brakes. At the first crossroad out in the country between here and Raleigh that I needed to make a fairly quick stop, I put them both on the floor (laughter). I had both of them scrambling around on the floor because I hit the brakes like I would on my old clunker and it stopped. They didn't fire me.

Riggins: Well that’s good, once you explained. Was it a big car?

Parnell: It was a big car, I don’t remember what it was, I think a Chrysler of some sort. They had to get out of the floor to continue.

Riggins: So that was pretty soon after you arrived.

Parnell: It wasn’t long.

Riggins: In those days, you did have to take country roads for sure.

Parnell: That was sort of characteristic of those times. We were a small faculty and you interacted closely with everyone. You knew everybody in all departments and that sort of thing.

Riggins: Yeah, Paul Reynolds, I certainly have heard his name because he was after Dr. Cruz who hired you.

Parnell: I think that was the direct linear relationship. Dr. Reynolds was hired again as a part of that push to get us into a four year school with lots of Ph.D.’s. He was the person that was sort of hired as an outside person to get us up to the next level.

Riggins: That makes a lot of sense. Did people really think that we would become part of the university system as quickly as we did?

Parnell: Some did, some didn't. With any group, there were some factions on campus that liked it the way it was and didn't especially want to see us grow. There were others who thought we ought to and who pushed for it. There was some friction in those early years and a lot of changes were made. But I don’t think anybody realized how quickly it would happen.

Riggins: That was probably a surprise. In ’69, Dr. Wagoner came on board. What were your impressions of him? Did you get to know him?

Parnell: Yes, we got to know Dr. Wagoner. Things were growing by that time so the school wasn’t quite as intimate, but still I think everybody in those days pretty much knew everybody. It wasn’t like the days with Dr. Randall, but Dr. Wagoner had a larger staff. We had a larger faculty. We didn't get to know him as well, but I think still most everybody knew him on a personal basis.

Riggins: Yes, it was certainly different than today or in the 90’s. Let’s see, what about Ralph Brower? You probably didn't get to know him as well.

Parnell: Not as well, but we certainly knew Dr. Brower. He was one of those people that was sort of here, but in the early days, he had his own operation and was not a part of the university. Then he became a part of it so again it was one of those relationships that had a lot of awkward moments in it because we didn't quite knew where he fit. I don’t think he quite knew where he fit sometimes. So often it was an awkward relationship, but it kind of grew with the time. It sorted itself out over time. There were a lot of awkward moments early on in that relationship. Then the two organizations came together.

Riggins: Right because he was over at his institute.

Parnell: The old baby’s hospital.

Riggins: Right.

Parnell: But he was completely independent of us of course early on.

Riggins: Then with time became part of the university. He was from what I understand quite a character.

Parnell: He was a character. He had a very strong personality.

Riggins: He was very interested in the life of the mind. One person I interviewed recently was Dr. Dan Plyler. That was great hearing from him. I guess he came after you.

Parnell: He came shortly after. He was the next person hired as I remember after I came. I believe that’s correct. He took over as department chairman when I gave it up.

Riggins: Did you participate in committees, university and departmental committees?

Parnell: Yes, everyone did. In the early days, we governed ourselves. I don’t know what we called it, but the whole faculty was involved. When you had a faculty meeting, everybody went. Then we went from there to a representative faculty government system. Frankly that was never one of my strong interests and I never participated in it beyond what was necessary. So my recollection of all that is not very good because it was something I wasn’t very keen on at all.

Riggins: You’d rather be out in the field.

Parnell: I enjoyed my students and my research and politics was not something I was very interested in.

Riggins: Right, but I guess it was necessary to do. What about the library at this time? I guess you were here when there was a big change in the library.

Parnell: The library was quite small, but that one of the things that we had to do to get credited as a four year institution and certainly to institute our Master’s program, there had to be significant increases in library resources and so the library was growing rapidly in those early days. The faculty members generally had a good library budget and so we were able to initiate purchases of new journals and those sorts of things as the library was growing.

Riggins: Right, soon after you got here, it moved to its own building and probably in the late 60’s in its own building and 10 years later there was an expansion.

Parnell: Those things were propelled primarily by our interest in the university system and the advent of our graduate program.

Riggins: Was there graduate study in biology pretty early on?

Parnell: I don’t remember the dates, but we were one…I think we were the first Master’s program or one of that first group of Master’s programs.

Riggins: Was that a good thing for your department?

Parnell: Yes it was. Again there were some differences of opinion about that always because on any college campus there is always the split opinion that when you add graduate programs, you delete or dilute undergraduate programs. We made a strong effort not to do that. I always felt that the graduate program was very helpful. It allowed faculty to get more involved in research. It provided a way to get students involved in research. It provided graduate students to help with teaching labs and so forth.

In the biology department we made a very conscious effort early on to keep our graduate students involved in only the freshmen and sophomore labs primarily. We never turned upper class labs over to graduate students so we always kept faculty involved. It provided a real impetus, I think it was a shot in the arm for faculty and I think it was good for us.

Riggins: Were there concerns about funding, getting enough money?

Parnell: Always. I think that’s a perennial concern and never changes.

Riggins: Getting funding for the students or for programs.

Parnell: There’s always that concern that when you add something, you don’t get additional funding. What you do is dilute the funding that you have and that’s always a concern. Sometimes it was true and sometimes it probably wasn’t. It’s one of those things where you sort of have to move on ahead.

Riggins: I guess that involves the chair working with the administration in trying to make their case.

Parnell: I would have to say that the biology department through the years here has always been able to make a strong case for its programs and has generally been successful in building programs and getting if not outstanding funds, at least adequate funds.

Riggins: Yeah, I suppose there was always a pretty strong major, a number of students who wanted to study it. So you continued to teach on through the 1990’s until 1995. What were the students like by the time you retired? Was it very different?

Parnell: They were different in some ways. The students probably got brighter in some ways. Certainly as the public schools get bigger and offer more courses, our students came with broader backgrounds. I think the main difference I noticed personally was that in the later years, students were not as eager to get outdoors.

Riggins: Oh really?

Parnell: The early biology students seemed to be frequently hunters and fishermen when they arrived and so they were already adept if you will at getting around outdoors and familiar with the outdoors. In later years we seemed to get more city kids whose knowledge of biology was mostly from television I think rather than from personal experiences in the outdoors. They were not any less bright.

They were bright kids, but they just didn't have that background as frequently. Our kids were already familiar with the outdoors and so I didn't find that across the board as enthusiastic about getting out, slogging around in the marshes and getting their feet wet and that sort of thing as in the early days. In the early days, they would say let’s go, they were waiting for it. In later years, you got lots of excuses why they couldn’t go. Just a difference in the way kids were being brought up.

Riggins: Right, less hands on. That’s probably very true and more involved with technology to learn instead of hands on. That they are, I can certainly imagine that…

Parnell: We certainly saw the technology changes. One of the moments I remember in my career was my first graduate student, a young lady who brought in the first draft of her thesis. I took it and edited it the way I remembered mine being edited and red marked it severely and gave it back to her and expected to see her again in two to three weeks when she went to a typist and got it retyped and so forth.

The next morning, she was back in my office with a clean draft. That was when the old TRS-80’s had just come out, Radio Shack word processors. I thought I’d better learn about this stuff, because the world had changed, right there. She could do a new draft on a 40 page thesis overnight. When I did mine not too many years earlier, you had to give it to a typist and wait two to three weeks to get it back. From that point on, things changed very rapidly.

Our first computer in biology, we paid $2000 plus 4, it was as big as two or three large manual typewriters and probably had less capacity than one of the $1.98 ones you buy now at the store that everybody picks up. Things have changed.

Riggins: Did you get involved with computers in your work then?

Parnell: We had to. More word processors than computers. Those of us involved in writing and so forth, you had to get involved with word processors and computers too to a lesser degree.

Riggins: Oh yeah, but it really is freeing. I’m old enough to remember the transition from when I worked on an electric typewriter to a word processor. It just saves you some time.

Parnell: It made all the difference in the world. The one thing, however, it did that I wonder about is that in the old days we wrote something once and handed it to a secretary and she did all the typing and you got it back and you edited it and gave it back to her. Now I don’t think anybody uses secretaries for that sort of thing anymore. Everybody does their own typing.

Riggins: Right for the most part. There may be a few people who hold out and dictate. Secretaries do other things, highly sophisticated things for the most part. It’s true and I remember some professors would say that perhaps quality of writing has changed because at one point, you put down on paper exactly what you wanted and now people write and they think that spell check or grammar check will get everything. They’re not so careful.

Parnell: It’s a different world.

Riggins: It really can be a great time-saver that’s for sure. Well you’ve been retired now for a number of years. I know you lead a very busy retirement. What kinds of things do you like to do?

Parnell: I do a variety of things. I hunt and fish more than I had time to do when I was teaching. I do a lot of woodworking both around the house and I build strip canoes. I do a lot of photography. We’re in the process I hope of beginning work on a second edition of birds of the Carolinas very shortly now and that will involve a lot of my photography as well as some writing.

Riggins: Are you an editor?

Parnell: Author, so we’re working on that, but I do a lot of photography. Don’t have any trouble staying busy. My wife and I also do some traveling. She’s more of a traveler than I, but we both travel. She left yesterday for Thailand with a group. I decided to stay home.

Riggins: Wow, that’s far.

Parnell: Yes, 15-16 days.

Riggins: That’s a far trip. Yeah, you feel like you have enough to keep you busy in southeast North Carolina for now.

Parnell: For the moment.

Riggins: Did you raise a family here?

Parnell: We don’t have kids, but we’ve been here. We’re settled in, we built a house in 1967 that we still live in. We’re sort of settled here.

Riggins: And your wife liked it here?

Parnell: She taught here in the public schools throughout the same period of time I taught pretty much. She retired a year or two before I did. She has authored a nationally used home economics textbook that’s used in the public schools. So she stayed busy with that still.

Riggins: I’ve met her at the library.

Parnell: Yes, I bet you have. She stays busier than I do.

Riggins: Does she like the outdoors also?

Parnell: She does, she’s not an avid outdoors person, but she likes to get out.

Riggins: Sounds like this area was quite ideal for your type of work.

Parnell: It was. I tell people this is the only teaching job I ever applied for or ever held. This was the only job I applied for when I was getting ready to leave N.C. State and I’ve been here ever since. We liked the area. We had never lived on the immediate coast before, although my wife is not too far from the coast. So we liked it here. It’s gotten too big and too busy, but other than that we still like it here.

Riggins: Yeah so why change? Were you involved in professional associations, scholarly associations?

Parnell: Yes, I think all faculty pretty much have to be so I was involved in the American Ornithologist Union, several of the other professional groups that work with birds. I was involved in organizing the Society of Wetland Scientists which was organized way back I was actually the first president of that organization at its inception. We started out with two or three dozen people and never had any idea it would be what it is now, international with thousands of members.

Riggins: It’s so important.

Parnell: I’ve been involved, you have to as a faculty member. If you’re going to be involved in research and so forth, you must get to know your peers at other schools and that’s the best way to do it.

Riggins: Did you travel to some of the conferences?

Parnell: Yes, we used to attend the AOU, American Ornithologist Union around the country on a regular basis. The Colonial Water Bird Group which was the group of birds that I worked with most regularly, I was involved with that organization. I attended their meetings regularly. The Wetland Society meetings I attended fairly regularly.

Riggins: Has the department continued, now you might not have kept up with this, but is there someone who specializes in ornithology?

Parnell: My replacement, Dr. Steve Ensley, is doing some of the…he’s working some with it, but his interest is in penguins as well. He spent a lot of time in the Artic regions, but he is working with some of the same groups that I did.

Riggins: What are your thoughts about zoos? Do you care for zoos?

Parnell: I’m not a zoo person. I don’t have a problem with zoos, but I rather see things out in the wild.

Riggins: Well someone who I just interviewed last week was Dr. John Williams. Did you know him at all?

Parnell: Sure.

Riggins: He’s in psychology, but when he described his research to me, he said it was very much like field biology.

Parnell: Sure, well psychology and biology have always been close in that sense. Animal behaviorists may find themselves in psychology departments or they may find themselves in biology departments.

Riggins: Did you talk to him throughout the years?

Parnell: We talked. We did not interact professionally. His interests again were rather different from mine and I’ve known John for years. Some of our travels have been similar. He likes to go to some of the same places that I enjoyed visiting, but our research has been different enough that we have not been close.

Riggins: He’s an interesting person also. So Steve Ensley, I think he recently was in Antarctica.

Parnell: I think he’s there now.

Riggins: Okay, yeah, there’s a website about all that. Do you use the web and email and all that?

Parnell: Yes.

Riggins: For your work. You mentioned you still teach every now and then at the Campbell.

Parnell: Yeah, I’ve been doing this for close to 10 years now. I go up for one week in the early summer and teach a course that we call Introduction to Birds which is a lay course of course for people who just are interested in birds. They come to Campbell and we run them through a week of introduction to how birds live and do a lot of field trips so they get out and see a lot of the local birds in the mountains. It’s a fun week. I thoroughly enjoy it.

Riggins: When you go does your wife take other classes?

Parnell: She usually does, she either takes another class or loafs for a week sometimes, but she almost always goes with me. It’s a little vacation for us.

Riggins: That sounds great. Well you mentioned, and I take it you’re a member of the retired faculty association.

Parnell: Again, not a very active member, but I’m a member, but one of the things I did when I retired is that I decided I would not take on very much in the way of responsibilities at least for a few years and so I have not gotten involved in organizations very much. I am on the Board of Directors for North Carolina Audubon, but that’s about the only official responsibility I’ve taken on. I’m not much on meetings so I have not been active in the retired faculty association, been to a couple of meetings, but don’t go regularly.

Riggins: Well this way you have time for doing what you want to do.

Parnell: I was regimented for many years. You know, you have class schedules to meet and you’re regimented and I decided when I retired I was not going to allow myself to be regimented. I didn't want something that had to be done on a given day of the week or even a given day of the month, every month or every week. So I try to keep my schedule flexible so that I can do things whenever I want to without having to say no, I can’t do that, I have a meeting.

Riggins: Did you teach in the summers usually?

Parnell: I taught in the summers some of the early years, but once we began research programs, most of my research was somewhere related because I did primarily birds, so I didn't teach much in the summers after the first few years. Occasionally the one thing I did do in the summer for many years was to teach a two week course in wetlands ecology. I taught that for the Corps of Engineers on a consulting basis primarily up in Wallops Island, Virginia for about 10 years.

Then they decided not to continue that so we brought it back to Wilmington. That was about the time our graduate program was coming up and offered a two week course in the summer here which our students could take but which was designed primarily for government employees and I taught that for another 10 years or so here.

The early 90’s there was a whole explosion of like courses around the country primarily to help people get up to gear with government regulations and so forth. The student pool got so diluted that we were having trouble attracting the class so we just gave up on it.

Riggins: Oh I see, you were sort of ahead of your times.

Parnell: In the early years, there weren’t such courses and we drew people from as far away as California and Alaska. But then pretty soon there were courses in California and Alaska and so the student pool just got so diluted, we decided to give it up.

Riggins: You did teach similar courses for the students here on ecology sometimes.

Parnell: Yeah and we taught some wetlands courses in our graduate program for a while. Dr. Hackney was involved in that as well. I don’t know whether that’s continued or not, I’m not sure.

Riggins: Do you have birds? Do you have an interest in having birds at home?

Parnell: No. I have wild birds in the yard. I’m not much interested in caged birds.

Riggins: Right, you have an interest in seeing them in their natural environment. Do you have animals at all?

Parnell: I have a dog. He’s family.

Riggins: Sure, I think we’ve covered quite a bit. It was a real pleasure having you come in. You did really well. I remember you’re saying you didn't think you’d remember much, but did you find it came back once you started talking?

Parnell: As long as you don’t ask me dates. I frequently don’t remember when things happened.

Riggins: All we’re interested in is your experiences and your perceptions of how things went. The dates are someone else’s responsibility. Well thank you very much Dr. Parnell.

Parnell: You’re very welcome.

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