January 20, 2023

Commemorative installation tells story of the courageous Parker sisters

The Purdue community will begin its celebration of Black History Month (February) with the unveiling of the permanent commemorative installation honoring Winifred and Frieda Parker, the sisters who broke down barriers of segregation and paved the way for integrated student housing at Purdue University in the late 1940s. 

The unveiling event is at 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 3 in the lobby of Frieda Parker Hall, 401 N. Russell St., West Lafayette. Faculty, staff, students and the public are invited to attend the free event, but an RSVP is encouraged.

“I can’t think of a more appropriate way to kick off a celebration of Black history than to honor the legacy of the Parker sisters,” said John Gates, vice provost for diversity, inclusion and belonging. “Their story is one of persistence, courage, grace and a lifetime of excellence. It’s our hope that the installation will empower and inspire hundreds who live in and pass through the Parker Halls.”

In 2021, the Purdue Board of Trustees unanimously voted to rename the former Griffin Halls in honor of the trailblazing sisters. The combined Winifred and Frieda Parker Halls house more than 800 Purdue students in suite and semisuite-style units. The residence halls are conveniently located a few steps away from the Black Cultural Center, and Winifred Parker Hall is home to the Executive-in-Residence lounge.

Renee Thomas, associate vice provost for diversity, inclusion and belonging, says the installation is designed to honor, educate and celebrate.

“A dedicated committee has been working with RLR Associates, a design firm, and coordinating with the Parker family to make sure the compelling story of the Parker sisters is told in an authentic, inspirational and celebratory way,” she said. “We trust students, or anyone who experiences the installation, feels empowered and emboldened to create their own legacy.”

The installation includes a commemorative plaque for each sister in their respective halls and a story-telling feature in the Frieda Parker Hall Lobby.

View a short documentary about the Parker Sisters.

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