by Leslie Murveit
In his 40th year of service at Menlo-Atherton High School, Coach Ben Parks received the Tom Bradley Community Service & Distinguished Citizen Award, presented by the Palo Alto Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., on March 23. On June 21 Parks will be inducted into the San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame.
Parks coached both football and wrestling at M-A and currently coaches the wrestling team at Sequoia High School. For two years in the 1970’s, he also was Vice -Principal at Menlo Atherton, as its Dean of Students. Since his retirement in 1989, 72 year old Parks has been a volunteer mentor, teacher and friend to students at Menlo-Atherton. It is fitting that Parks will be recognized in the same year for two distinct awards –athletic and community service – the two endeavors to which he has devoted his life.
“I’ve tried all my life to help students and their families get what they need,” said Parks. He noted that several teachers saved him from failing so he’s devoted his life to giving back to his community. “My second grade teacher, Ms. Forshea and my high school athletic coach, Don Edwards, turned my life around.” Parks’ eyes filled with tears as he told his stories. With dignity, Forshea brought lunch to school every day for Parks and another student who didn’t have enough food to eat. His 6th grade teacher volunteered to tutor him every day during the summer. Edwards refused to allow Parks to work for $.75 per hour at a car repair shop after graduating from high school and instead, delivered him to the College of the Pacific (now University of the Pacific) and enrolled him. Parks went on to graduate in 1957 and received a teaching credential the following year.
Parks started the Key Club at Menlo-Atherton, a youth version of the Kiwanis Club, of which he’s been a member for 35 years. Under his leadership, the club began a holiday food drive in 1974. Thirty-three years later the annual food drive continues—in December nearly 400 Menlo-Atherton families received a two-week supply of chicken, fresh fruit and vegetables and dried and canned goods. Many of Parks’ former athletes and Key Club members donate funds as well as their time and return to school to help deliver food boxes.
The Hall of Fame induction will include a banquet held at the San Mateo Elks Lodge. Tickets, priced at $50 each, are available for purchase from the San Mateo Times. Make checks payable to Sports Hall of Fame and mail your request to: John Horgan c/o The Times, 1080 S. Amphlett Blvd, San Mateo, CA 94402. Proceeds from the event will benefit the San Mateo County History Museum in Redwood City that houses the Hall of Fame's full collection of the plaques. Former M-A recipients include Girl’s basketball Coach and Athletic Director, Pam Wimberly, and swimmer Dick Roth.