*The latest installment in the Ole Miss Retirees features is former Law School Registrar, Conny Parham. The organization’s mission is to enable all of the university’s faculty and staff retirees to maintain and promote a close association with the university. It is the goal of the Ole Miss Faculty/Staff Retirees Association to maintain communication by providing opportunities to attend and participate in events and presentations.
Conny Parham, retired Law School Registrar, is one of the kindest, most thoughtful, caring people. She goes out of her way to be helpful. Conny is tireless in her efforts to make a difference. She certainly made a difference not only to the Law School students, faculty, and staff but the entire campus, always ready to lend a hand. Read about her Ole Miss story here.
Brown: Where did you grow up? Please talk about your childhood and your family.
Parham: I grew up in Beaumont, Texas, with one brother who was (and is) a sports nut and a mother who loved baseball, so I come by my love of sports honestly. My father, one of the best people I have ever known, was an immigrant from Norway, who was in the Norwegian merchant marine during WW II, and who met my mother (a nurse) in a hospital in Beaumont after he had been injured onboard ship. It was, as they say, kismet! They were happily married for over fifty years. So the only family I ever really knew was on my mom’s side and it was very small. I had one set of grandparents and one aunt and her family-but they all lived in Beaumont and we were pretty close. It was a pretty big town, but in the ’50s and ’60s, very fun and safe.
Brown: Tell us how/when your Ole Miss “story” began? Who hired you? How long did you work at Ole Miss?
Parham: I came to Oxford with my then-husband Steve, who was in the Navy and had just returned from a year in Viet Nam. He was assigned to teach ROTC at Ole Miss, and we had no idea what to expect—I had never been to the deep South. It was a very pleasant surprise. A couple of years after the birth of my son Josh, Steve and I divorced and after getting a PhD in Psychology from Ole Miss, he moved to Houston, Texas, to be nearer his parents. I got a job at the law school, working for the intern program, a grant program funded by the Feds. The funding situation changed and that program evolved, and I guess I evolved along with it. I began a Master’s program in public administration and was soon offered the Law Registrar’s job. It was a wonderful job, as I loved working with the students, and met some of my favorite people, many of whom are still friends today. I worked for the University almost 35 years, before retiring in 2011.
Brown: What were your responsibilities as Law School Registrar?
Parham: I was really a jack-of-all-trades, in a way. Obviously, I kept student records, but I also organized the class schedule, worked on orientation, did preassignment and registration, monitored final exams, recorded grades and spent countless hours counseling students.
Brown: I know you have mentored many students. Did you have a mentor who influenced your career?
Parham: Robert Khayat was at the law school during some of my years there, and he was certainly a huge influence, but probably the most important mentors I had were two of the law professors, Guthrie Abbott and Bob Weems. They were so good at their jobs, so helpful and so supportive, that I could never have managed without their input and their friendship.
Brown: What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are?
Parham: Marriage to a naval officer certainly broadened my scope, taking me first to San Diego, CA, and then to Oxford. During my time in California, with my husband mostly away from home, I think I learned to be more independent and self-sufficient. The birth of my son was very significant and since I became a single parent when he was 3, we have always been very close. Living in Oxford, a day’s drive away from family, I became stronger and more self-reliant, and also learned that friends can be as close as family. I have been very, very lucky in my friends.
Brown: If there was something in your past you were able to go back and do differently, what would that be?
Parham: I am not sure I would change much, although if I knew then what I know now, maybe I would have been more adventurous. But on the whole, I have been happy.
Brown: What has become your new routine since you retired? Do you have hobbies?
Parham: My favorite hobby is reading–I alternate between murder mysteries and romance, I guess a sort of odd combination. I love movies, like to play cards and games, and wish there was somewhere decent in Oxford to go dancing! I have season tickets to Ole Miss football and basketball and go to some baseball games as well. Some years that is more fun than others.
Brown: I know that you have been involved with and volunteer for many organizations. Can you talk about some of these, including Project FURR, also known as Feline University Rebel Rescuers and Memory Makers?
Parham: I volunteer quite a bit, working for the Oxford Pantry as a screener, fundraising for Doors of Hope (homeless) and I cook every week for Memory Makers (respite day care for dementia patients). My main interest is cat rescue—although I love all animals, cats are my personal favorite. I belong to a couple of cat care groups, and am now helping at the Oxford Shelter, which is undergoing quite a transition and makeover. I am still helping with FURR, which is a faculty, staff and student organization which cares for the feral (wild and unadoptable) cats on the Oxford campus. We make sure they are neutered, have shots and medical care, and provide food and water for them 365 days a year. Some days, I am almost too busy, but enjoy my work very much! And I really believe we are making a difference.
Brown: What are some small things that make your day better?
Parham: I believe I am a pretty simple person—I love my cats, enjoy a great meal and a glass of wine with good friends, and I do love a good book!
Brown: Tell us something about yourself that not many people may know.
Parham: I suppose I don’t have many secrets—I am really pretty upfront about most things. I always said that if I had been smarter and braver, I would have liked to have been a fighter pilot. What a pipe dream that was!
Brown: To quote Katherine Meadowcroft, Cultural activist and writer, “What one leaves behind is the quality of one’s life, the summation of the choices and actions one makes in this life, our spiritual and moral values.” What is your legacy?
Parham: I like to think that I made a difference in the lives of some of my students—encouraging and supporting them in their field. I think I have influenced some folks to volunteer and to make a difference. And I am particularly proud of my son, who is a very good, successful and caring person.
Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.
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