Celebrating the Life of James Parker
"It was heartwarming to learn more about James as a teacher and mentor in the CS&E Department from his colleagues, TAs and students,” said Bruce Parker. “Thank you all for sharing your experiences with James. We miss him dearly but hope the James Parker Memorial Scholarship Fund endowed from his assets will continue his legacy of supporting computer science undergraduates at the University of Minnesota for many years to come.”
James’ teaching legacy was established early at the University of Minnesota where he taught undergraduate courses throughout his graduate studies. After earning his doctorate in 2017, he was hired as a lecturer and served in that role on the Twin Cities campus until his death.
“James had the unique ability to really connect with students while commanding respect,” Department Head Mats Heimdahl said at the celebration. “Not many people can do that and he was excellent at his job. James is dearly missed and has left a void in the Department.”
Phillip Barry, Associate Department Head of Instruction, also shared fond memories of his colleague at the reception.
“James was whimsical and playful, as well as thoughtful and creative in his teaching,” Barry said. “When James interviewed for the full-time teaching position, he sang about computer code during the interview. That’s just who he was.”
James became an esteemed educator to both students and colleagues alike with his natural affinity for teaching. He set the bar high for his fellow lecturers and cultivated tomorrow’s leaders in computer science and within the classroom.
“I knew James as a mentor,” said Ben Hillman, a former Ph.D. student and teaching assistant who worked alongside James. “I will remember him as being kind, extremely intelligent and an embodiment of what it means to be a teacher and a mentor.”
In addition to being a gifted teacher, James was a bright researcher in the field. After completing his Ph.D. in 2017, he published the National Science Foundation-funded research he had conducted in northern Italy titled “Lazy max-sum for allocation of tasks with growing costs,” in collaboration with his Ph.D. advisor Maria Gini and University of Verona artificial intelligence expert Alessandro Farinelli.
“James was a very reserved person, but one thing he was not shy about is how much he loved his family,” said Gini. “He would tell me how much he enjoyed playing with his niece and nephew. It was very clear that his family was the most important thing to him.”
The Parker family established the James Parker Memorial Scholarship so that his legacy will continue to impact computer science students for years to come. The inaugural James Parker Memorial Scholar, Jeylin Yavas, also attended the celebration to connect with his family and friends.
“He had brought so much gratitude to his role as a teacher,” Barry said. “He would step up to teach large classes so everyone who wanted to learn about computer science had the opportunity to do so. Now when I think about James, I’m filled with gratitude to have known him. I’m grateful for everything he did for the students he taught, TA’s he worked with, the example he set for faculty, and all he contributed to the Department and University.”