Nonagenarian Recalls Pacific Years

Elva Whitney-Parker ‘53 only attended Pacific University for a class or two, but the memories of her time as part of the Pacific community have lingered.

Earlier this month, Elva, now 90, wrote a letter to Pacific’s Office of Alumni Relations, including some of her memories of Pacific, as well as a drawing and poem she had done in 1954.

Elva spent five years at Pacific while her husband, Jim E. Whitney ’52, OD ‘53, completed his bachelor’s and optometry degrees. Already the parents of a daughter, Nancy Eve, the Whitneys lived in the 72 units of old G.I. Barracks devoted to family housing on campus. Their son, Michael Scott, was born while they were at Pacific.

Elva worked at J.C. Penney and in Marsh Hall while her husband attended school on a G.I. Bill. She was president of the Wives Club, and also took a handful of art classes. The love of art would never leave her.

“Now, into my 91st year, I look back with gratitude, and of course sadness, since so many of us are gone,” Elva wrote. In particular, she remembered her best friend Arline, wife of Shirley L. Abbott ’52, OD ‘53, for whom the Abbott Alumni Center is named.

After her husband graduated, the Whitneys moved to Texas. They later divorced, and Jim Whitney died in 2001.

Elva went on to major in art education at North Texas State and Texas Christian University, taking classes whenever she could fit them in. She was devoted to her children and their activities. After they were grown, she went to work in a variety of art-related jobs, writing for area newspapers, drawing ads for local department stores, and working as a cartographer for the City of Fort Worth, Texas.

She also founded the Northwest Art Association in Texas in 1968 and remains active in the club. In November, she had a show of her work in the club’s gallery, and in May, she was one of three nonagenarians featured in a show in the Atrium Gallery at the University of Northern Texas Health Science Center.

Pacific, however, continues to hold a place her heart.

“The five years [we] spent there were among our happiest (and busy … busy … busy!) of our entire 32 years together,” she wrote.

Good Ole’ Pacific University
(Or Good Ole’ P.U.)

December 1954

I have thought about you … I have thought about us.
I have thought about Arline and Shirley and “Buss”
Then I thought about Mary and Sari and all …
The Jims … and the Bills and don’t forget Paul.

There’s Joe and Lorraine and Irene and Bill …
And Carol and Glen and Lael and Phil.
And Beverly, Ted and Moose and John,
Joann and Ed and Esther and Don.

Who could forget more than 30 students and men,
Who bearded that “lion, in the Optometry den.”
Known as good old P.U. … to those in the picture …
Who started to school to get a little richer.

Well, some found this decision meant giving up lots …
Like fine homes, luxuries and many flesh pots.
While out of the 30-plus and their mates,
Who set out to be doctors, and perk up their fates,
A few drifted elsewhere … a few turned back,
But most kept right on the track.

No money … nor wheels … but boy howdy!
Yo’all … we partied and picnicked and had us a ball.
And learned that in life, the pleasure’s in doing,
And giving and sharing and group “guru-ing” …

So during the grind … time marched steadily on —
We worked, played and studied, til the years were all gone.

What a moment that was! That day in the sun!
When diplomas awarded meant this work was done.

Then the wait on state boards and settling our chores,
To get on with our lives and open new doors.

We learned about joy … the enduring kind,
About lifelong friendships and ties that bind.

So be of good cheer … drink a toast and remember,
It’s not so dang long from May to December!!

— Elva Whitney 1954

Leave a Reply

Pacific magazine encourages civil, engaged conversation. While we keep the vast majority of comments, we will remove those that violate our guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *