Liz Parker '75

For newspaper publisher Liz Parker '75, life leads away from law school

A funny thing happened on the way to law school. Elizabeth K. Parker '75 found herself in a publishing career instead.

Parker, copublisher and executive editor of Recorder Community Newspapers, was recently elected president of the New Jersey Press Association, a statewide newspaper association representing all of the state's daily newspapers and more than one hundred sixty of the state's weekly newspapers. Having previously served as vice president for the weeklies, Parker assumed the association presidency in January 2001. She is only the third woman to serve in this capacity in the 143-year-old organization.

How did a history major, who graduated summa cum laude with high honors and intentions of attending law school, rise to such preeminence among news reporters? "All along, I've been trying to go to law school," Parker answers. "But I had worked for the Mount Vernon News as a summer intern, so I took a job with them covering local courts right after Kenyon." Parker also served as the education editor at the News during her two-year tenure, and her stories won a distinguished-service award from the city schools' teaching staff.

In 1977, Parker joined the Red Bank bureau as a general assignment and municipal reporter for the Asbury Park Press daily newspaper in New Jersey. Named special assignment reporter in 1980, she covered the state's Board of Public Utilities. This was not long after the accident at Three-Mile Island, and the company that managed that site was also managing two nuclear power plants in New Jersey. "It was an exciting time to be following these issues," she recalls. "I liked studying these different things because I didn't know anything about them and this was a great way to learn how things work." Parker also had an abiding interest in the outdoors from her experiences with Outward Bound, and she was particularly concerned with the possible environmental impacts of the utilities' policies on the northern New Jersey shore area.

Two years later, Parker became a staff member in the chain of papers published by her family. Initially an interim editor for the Randolph Reporter, she was named executive editor of the Recorder Publishing Company of Bernardsville, New Jersey, in January 1983. In this post, she was in charge of the forty-member editorial department, assisting and directing local editors in putting out their respective papers. At the time, the six weekly papers of the company had a combined circulation of more than sixty thousand. Now executive editor and copublisher, with her two brothers, of the Recorder Community Newspapers, Parker oversees the largest paid weekly newspaper group in New Jersey, including fourteen weeklies in Essex, Hunterdon, Morris, and Somerset counties, as well as three free weeklies and an environmental quarterly she created following her experience with the Asbury Park Press.

In addition to her newspaper duties, Parker is president of the Colonial Symphony Board of Trustees, a member of the Grace Counseling Center Board of Trustees, and a trustee of the Arts Council of the Morris Area. "I like to see who the players are," she says. "I enjoy the fun of getting people to work together. Remember, I played team sports all through Kenyon, and I relish the diversity of people united in a single purpose."

Parker was inducted into the Kenyon Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1999, in recognition of her membership on the women's field hockey and lacrosse teams. With eleven varsity letters, she won the top woman athlete award as a senior. "In field hockey, we went 1-5-1 that year; in lacrosse, 1-2-1," she remembers. "A total of two wins between both teams. Truly awe-inspiring. So why the honor? We were the first. We showed up. As Woody Allen once said, half of life is just showing up."

Now Parker arises at 5:30 each morning to play tennis. She and her husband, Mark Magyar, president of the Center for the Analysis of Public Issues in Princeton, New Jersey, have four children, and in their spare time ("What spare time?") they love to travel. They've traversed the Lewis and Clark trail, and they've followed George Armstrong Custer's ill-fated trek into Montana. As Parker says, "We just get into the car and don't stop until we're well beyond the Mississippi." That's an apt metaphor for Parker's career, too.

--Alice Cornwell Straus '75

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