Ophelia Parrish was an 1869 graduate of Christian Female College, a two-year school for young ladies in Columbia, MO. She traveled extensively in Europe and the Holy Lands, taught for a time in a rural school and was principal at Pierce City, 1880-81, before accepting her first long-term appointment as English and French teacher at Springfield High School. In 1890, she took a year’s leave to study at the Berlitz School of Languages in Berlin and at the Sorbonne and College of France in Paris. She then returned to Springfield High for an additional year before being named Assistant Superintendent of Schools in 1893. She left the Springfield system in 1899 to join the faculty at the First District Normal School.
Miss Parrish was the first faculty appointment made by the Normal’s new president, John R Kirk, when he named her Supervisor of the Demonstration School. This was an elementary school operated on campus by the Normal faculty as a practice school for its student teachers. In 1903, when the decision was made to consolidate all the departmental libraries into one central college library, the Board of Regents selected her as the first full-time Librarian and gave her the assignment of organizing the new facility.
In addition to her year of study in Europe, Miss Parrish continued her education by attending various institutes and summer sessions. She studied at the Martha’s Vinyard Summer School, 1890, and the Cook County [IL] Normal, the summers of 1894 & 1895. After being named Librarian, she took courses in her new field at the Library School, Chautauqua, NY and spent the 1914-15 winter quarter training at Joseph F Daniels’ library school in Riverside, CA.
Off campus, Miss Parrish was active in the Missouri Federation of Women’s Clubs. She served at least two terms as the State Chair of the organization’s Bureau of Literature and Reciprocity, the committee that was charged with aiding local clubs in organizing their libraries in “regular library order”.
Ophelia Ann Parrish, the daughter of Dr William & Ann Mirah (Eastin) Parrish, was born July 5, 1850 in Springfield, MO and died October 29, 1915 in Kirksville. After a short memorial service at the funeral home in Kirksville, a large procession of students accompanied her casket to the Kirksville Wabash depot. President Kirk and several faculty members then took her home for burial at Springfield Cemetery.
The Gentry-Parrish Memorial Loan Fund, for students who needed financial to help stay in school, was established in honor of Miss Parrish and Professor BP Gentry by students and faculty that fall. Gentry died from injuries received in a street car accident in Kansas City less than a week after Miss Parrish’s death. Other campus memorials to her include Ophelia Parrish Building built in 1922 and an oil portrait by Jack Bohrer dedicated in 1948. “OP”, as the building is known in campus oral shorthand, was for many years the home of Kirksville Junior High and served as the college’s practice school. It now houses the university's art, music & theatre departments with up-to-date classrooms, studios, performance halls and art galleries. The larger than life-size portrait of the school’s first librarian hangs in Pickler Memorial Library’s Special Collections Department.
“Miss Parrish’s Illness Fatal”. The Index. November 5, 1915.
“Memorial Number”. The Index. November 19, 1915.
Ryle, Walter H. Centennial History of the Northeast Missouri State Teachers College. Kirksville: the College, 1972.
Selby, P.O. One Hundred Twenty-Three Biographies of Deceased Faculty Members. Kirksville: Northeast Missouri State Teachers College, 1962.