2007-04-20 / Business

Star Profile John Parks, Innovista leader

By John Temple Ligon Temple@TheColumbiaStar.com

By John Temple LigonTemple@TheColumbiaStar.com

John Parks
John Parks

Beginning February 1, John B. Parks took control of USC's research park, Innovista, as its first executive director. Columbian John Lumpkin actually held the job on an interim basis for more than a year while the search for Parks was under way.

Parks was born in Davenport, Iowa, where his father was the municipal city planner, putatively the only one west of the Mississippi, or maybe the only truly qualified one. With a new position in Memphis, Parks's father moved the family there for one year. Another opportunity lured the family to Richmond, which his father left in 1960 so the family could return to Davenport, and so his father could reclaim his old slot.

Parks's father left the city bureaucratic structure for the academic side, teaching at his alma mater Iowa State until retirement.

Through junior high school and high school, Parks had a reputation as a competitive swimmer and later a varsity golfer, too. After all, he was too short for basketball, he says. But he was not too short for journalism, becoming the editor of the school paper, The Ames High Web.

Parks always worked when he could. He started out in restaurants, and while in college he became an assistant manager at a Mr. Steak and a manager at a McDonald's.

He earned both his undergraduate degree, mostly business courses, and his MBA at Iowa State.

Tracing his career track since 1982, Parks recalls his food service management title as vice president at Dasher Management Corp. in Ames, where he spent 15 years until 1997. For the next three years he was president and CEO of the Iowa State University Research Corp., and he was the director of the Iowa State Innovation Center. Then he became director of the University of Illinois Research Park, including Enterprise Park and the Technology Commercialization Lab, where he stayed from 2000 till 2004.

Parks came to USC from a few years as executive director at the Coldstream Research Campus, University of Kentucky.

USC President Andrew Sorensen welcomed Parks with glowing praise: "With his success in developing university re-search parks, John Parks clearly understands the unusual nature of university research districts. His business acumen, coupled with his understanding and insights into what is required to develop a successful research district, makes him an ideal choice to oversee the development of Innovista and the creation of an economic renaissance for the Midlands and South Carolina."

A constant traveler, Parks has only eight states left to cover to claim visits with all 50.

His wife Barbara is about to relocate to Columbia from her position as director of development at Kentucky Children's Hospital. They have a daughter, Brittney, who is a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago. She works on Fifth Avenue in N.Y.C at Van Cleef & Arpels, jeweler.

From his first marriage, Parks has two children: Jason and Heather. Jason has a daughter, Julia, who just celebrated her second birthday with her parents in Portland, Ore. Heather is in St. Louis where she graduated from Washington University. She is the assistant director at Bright Horizons while she is putting together a kindermusic program.

Parks is still a golfer, a good one with a 12 handicap, but he really enjoys his new membership at the Thurmond Wellness Center. In fact, he enjoys everything around the Thurmond Center. It's his domain and his responsibility.

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