category: Faculty Emeriti - In Memory Of

Valerie M. Parry

Dean Emerita, Libraries

Valerie Parry

Valerie M. Parry (1946-2016) grew up on the east end of Long Island, N.Y.; she was to discover a love for libraries that led to a career of more than 40 years. Accustomed to small town life, Parry attended Bridgehampton, a school that housed kindergarten through the 12th grade, and she graduated in a class of 20 students. She majored in English and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1967 from Southampton College and had additional studies at Goucher College.

As a student at Southampton, she got her first experience with library work. “I decided I liked it so much that it was what I wanted to do in my life,” she recalled. Parry completed master’s degree work in English and library science at CW Post, a branch of Long Island University, finishing her MSLS degree in 1977.

Prior to coming to Gardner-Webb, she worked more than 16 years in the library at Southampton College. She recalls from her early days at Gardner-Webb that Boiling Springs, N.C., offered a more social and personal experience than the business-like atmosphere in New York. Gardner-Webb’s Dover Memorial Library also afforded Parry more resources than Southampton, she remembers, with a difference of more than 30,000 square feet of library Space.

Parry started her career at Gardner-Webb in 1984 as a public services librarian, with duties that included circulation, reference and periodical sections. After two years on campus, she took charge of the selection of all books not chosen by the faculty.

“One of my favorite things of librarianship is empowering people,” she shared. “You can tell somebody a fact or show them a fact. But if you can show them how they can find facts and gain knowledge, you see those light bulb moments. They say, ‘I can do this,’ and you say, ‘of course you can.’”

As technology became a major part of the services provided in the library, Parry adapted with the changing landscape of information technology. She said the role of librarians altered greatly during her tenure at Gardner-Webb, particularly in the final five years.

“One of the delights of librarianship is that I don’t think there was a day that went by that I didn’t learn something,” Parry offered. “It’s constant change. One hundred years ago, librarianship was about having books on the shelves … and protecting them. Now, there are so many different ways of approaching librarianship and the resources that are available,” she noted.

Remembering a time when Gardner- Webb offered about 900 journals in its library, Parry said the number of available journals upon her retirement were above 40,000, and they’re offered through digital databases.

In 1988, Parry became the director of the Dover Memorial Library. About a year before she retired, she became dean of libraries.

With a focus more on the University than on her personal achievements, Parry said she believed her legacies at Gardner-Webb are anonymous and unnamed. She overcame what she described as a person reluctant to change or to adapt into a manager of staff members and a helper of students. Parry retired from Gardner-Webb in 2008.

Outside the library, she said her greatest joy was raising her daughter, Shannon Parry Pingitore, who graduated from GWU in 1998. “She turned out to be the greatest delight of my life,” Parry said of her daughter. “My second greatest was my library work.”

Parry hoped to be remembered as someone who cared about learning “the joy of the written word,” and what was best for the library and the University. “And maybe, to those faculty members and administrators who knew me best, I’d like to be remembered as somebody with a sense of humor, who was also approachable and relatable,” she shared.

Following her retirement, Parry lived in Boiling Springs and enjoyed staying connected to Gardner-Webb through email, newsletters, prayer requests, and praise reports.

She passed away at home on December 2, 2016, at the age of 70.

Source: Personal Interview — Matthew Tessnear, May 2015

Updated Noel T. Manning II, December 2022

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