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Architect, Ellis School alumna had passion for girls' education

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Kathleen Oliver Parker

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Saturday, April 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Kathleen “Kayo” Parker left Pittsburgh after grade school in 1939 to attend a boarding school in Massachusetts and then college in Vermont.

But she never forgot the friend she made here or the school where they became acquainted.

“We met in first grade at The Ellis School (in Shadyside) and remained close throughout our lives,” said Pittsburgh philanthropist Elsie Hillman. “I always saw her when she came to Pittsburgh, and we visited whenever I traveled to New York. She was wonderful fun to be with and always found humor in things. She'll be sorely missed.”Kathleen “Kayo” Oliver Parker died on Sunday, April 7, 2013, in New York City. She was 87.

A granddaughter of U.S. Sen. George T. Oliver, who represented Pennsylvania from 1909 to 1917, Mrs. Parker graduated in 1943 from Miss Hall's School in Pittsfield, Mass.

She received a degree in architecture in 1947 from Bennington College in Vermont and moved to New York, where she married and pursued a career in architecture.

“She was a great advocate for girls' education, and our girls always enjoyed her visits,” said Janis Martinson, chief advancement officer for Miss Hall's School, where Mrs. Parker established the Music Program Fund as a part of a permanent endowment in 2004.

“She liked to tell the girls about her first job in architecture and how they wanted her to be a typist, but she didn't know how to type. Of course, she went on to a very successful career in the field.”

Randie Benedict, head of school at Ellis since 2009, said Mrs. Parker “had an energy, passion and curiosity that was compelling.”

“I was always impressed at how current she was,” Benedict said. “During one of our first meetings, she asked me my thoughts about animated films and told me she had gone to see the film ‘Ratatouille' the day before.”

Benedict said Mrs. Parker was a strong advocate for all-girl schools such as Ellis, where she established the Kathleen Oliver Parker Endowed Faculty Chair in Visual Arts in 2008 and helped fund the Mary H. Grant Endowed Faculty Chair in History in 2011.

“She was a great friend of our school and talked about how attending Ellis not only gave her the confidence to go on to boarding school but was essential to her ability to chart her own path in life,” Benedict said.

Mrs. Parker was preceded in death by her husband, Paul Edward Parker Jr.

Funeral services will be conducted at 2 p.m. on Tuesday at The Brick Presbyterian Church, 62 E. 92nd St., in New York City.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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