Friends and colleagues of Al Parnell Jr. met with family members on July 17 at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke to work out details establishing the Al Parnell Endowed Memorial Scholarship.
Glenna Hicks, Stephanie Parnell, Becky Parnell, Chancellor Meadors and Ray Oxendine
Parnell, who was a teacher in Robeson and Dillon county schools for 33 years, died on July 2, 2008. His family and friends believe that a scholarship to benefit young men and women is a fitting tribute to a man who devoted his life to teaching.
Glenna Hicks, a fellow social studies teacher at Purnell Swett High School, said Parnell was an exemplary teacher and human being. She is helping to organize fund raising activities for the scholarship.
“It is difficult to describe the positive feelings people had for Al and what a good person he was,” Hicks said. “Ray Oxendine asked me to join him in establishing an endowed memorial scholarship in Al’s name at UNC Pembroke.
“I knew immediately that would be Al’s preference,” she continued. “It is a way to perpetuate the good that Al did in his 56 years. Al’s goodness, his way of life and legacy, will be continued in this scholarship.”
Oxendine was principal of West Robeson/Purnell Swett High School during a portion of Parnell’s 29-year tenure there. He said Parnell’s death is an “unbelievable loss.”
“He touched so many people,” Oxendine said. “I didn’t know Al Parnell when I came to West Robeson, but I quickly learned he was the teacher everybody looked up to, both students and faculty.
“Al Parnell was a leader of the faculty, in student government, athletics, cadet teaching corps, Project Graduation and school concessions too, Oxendine said. “He was involved in everything.”
Chancellor Allen C. Meadors said UNCP is proud to have Al Parnell Jr. as an alumnus.
“This is a great loss for his family and the community,” Chancellor Meadors said. “He was an outstanding educator and individual. It is an honor to play even a small part in memorializing his life.”
Numerous contributions toward the scholarship were received during a memorial service in Pembroke on July 10. A golf tournament, a bike run and a special offering at area churches on August 24 are being planned.
A booth at the upcoming Robeson County Fair will also serve as a collection point for the scholarship. The fair was special to Al, his wife, Becky, said.
“He was a past president, and he loved the fair,” Becky Parnell said. “He was also very involved with his church, Beulah Baptist Church, as a deacon, Sunday school superintendent and teacher.”
Parnell started the tennis program at Pembroke Senior High School and continued as boys and girls coach as the school merged to become West Robeson and later Purnell Swett High School. He also advised the student government at the large school and continued in that role at Dillon High School, where he taught for four years.
This May, Parnell continued a long association as a volunteer with Project Graduation, an event that hosts county high school graduates on UNCP’s campus.
Parnell was a Lumberton Senior High School graduate and a 1974 UNCP graduate. Becky Parnell is also from Lumberton and a 1976 UNCP graduate. Al Parnell is also survived by a daughter, Stephanie.
Hicks summed up: “Al Parnell was a giver of himself. He never sought honors, credit or recognition. Al just worked, taught and smiled.”
For more information about the Al Parnell Jr. Endowed Memorial Scholarship, please contact Teresa Oxendine at the UNCP Office for Advancement at 910.521.6252 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.