Budd Parrish’s engineering education at the University of Arizona helped him learn technical skills and the value of efficiency and productivity. But it was his adaptability, persistence and cross-cultural understanding that set him apart and set the stage for some of the best experiences of his life.
Now retired, Parrish, who earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering in 1965, is looking to help other UA Engineering students succeed.
“I want to give scholarships to students who are working hard and achieving results,” he said. “That is what life is about.”
Parrish and his wife, Linda, have established a substantial endowed scholarship fund that promises for years to come to give high-achieving Engineering students opportunities they might otherwise miss.
“Many deserving students depend on scholarships,” said UA College of Engineering Dean Jeff Goldberg. “This generous estate gift from Budd and Linda Parrish will help numerous undergraduates pursue their passions.”
Discovering a Love for Japan
Parrish graduated from Tucson’s Catalina High School in 1958. Then, taking advantage of academic scholarships, he attended the University of Arizona for a short time before joining the U.S. Navy.
“It would have been difficult to get started without those scholarships,” he said of his enrollment in the University of Arizona, adding that a healthy dose of life experience before settling down to the rigors of college helped him chart his course.
Parrish served as a communications technician in the Navy for more than two years -- seven months in Germany and 19 months in Japan. At a small base on the Sea of Japan, he immersed himself in the culture, learning to read and write Japanese and volunteering to teach English at a local school. And he came to love Japan.
“It never left,” he said. “I have always had a spot in my heart for Japan.”
After military service, Parrish returned to Tucson to continue at the University. He took classes through the summers and graduated in three short years.
“Earning my engineering degree was the toughest thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
In today’s global economy, where international borders have become increasingly blurred, engineering students’ cross-cultural experiences are readily recognized as beneficial. But in the early 1960s, Parrish’s desire to continue studying Japanese language and literature while majoring in engineering did not win him many supporters. Undeterred, he used elective courses to further his knowledge of Japan and graduated not only with an engineering degree but also with an enhanced understanding of Japanese culture.
Good grades helped Parrish land his first job out of college with Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey. At the time, Bell Labs was the research and development arm of AT&T.
Next, Parrish earned an MSEE from Rutgers University and became a site manager with General Electric at Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank, California. While working on a GE project in 1968 at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, he met his wife, Linda. They have been married for 44 years.
Opportunity Comes Calling
In 1980, Parrish was back in Oklahoma, this time to work on super minicomputers at Oklahoma City Works, which manufactured switching equipment for AT&T. These high-speed minicomputers for telephone switching managed electronic systems for connecting calls. By today’s standards they were neither fast nor small: the computers were actually two frames -- 7 feet tall, 4 feet wide, and 3 feet deep -- cabled together. Computers that do the same job today “are 1,000 times as fast and 10 percent in size,” said Parrish, who remains as intrigued as ever by computer technology.
“That was the most interesting of all the projects I ever worked on,” he said.
Parrish, who had been promoted to computer test engineering manager, was responsible for AT&T equipment supplied to Tokyo’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. His knowledge of Japan came in handy. When Nippon sent a team to Oklahoma to evaluate how the computers were made, Parrish led the factory systems tests. Oklahoma City Works passed inspection on its first try -- a feat the Nippon inspectors said had never before been accomplished by a non-Japanese company. A company vice president took notice and offered Parrish an assignment in Tokyo.
Budd and Linda Parrish spent the best years of their lives in Japan, from 1988 through 1990. He directed AT&T Japan’s manufacturing and quality division; she managed technical support.
“The assignment with AT&T Japan was a truly wonderful experience for Linda and me,” said Parrish, an avid amateur photographer. “From our Tokyo base, we were well positioned to travel over much of Asia.” Throughout their lives, the couple has visited 32 countries in Europe and Asia.
On his return to the United States, Parrish headed Bell Laboratories factory support at Oklahoma City Works until his retirement in 1992. He and Linda live on 80 acres outside Harrah, Oklahoma, where Linda had served as high school valedictorian in 1964 before going on to earn a bachelor of science in math from Oklahoma Baptist University and to work as a database administrator at Wilson Foods.
Help for Hard-Working Students
The Budd and Linda Parrish Endowed Engineering Scholarship Fund will provide scholarships for outstanding undergraduates in the College of Engineering who demonstrate high academic achievement and financial need. The scholarship awards will be available through an estate bequest.
“Remembering the help scholarships provided me when I entered the UA, Linda and I are delighted to be able to provide endowed scholarships to undergraduate engineering students at the UA,” said Budd Parrish. “We wish them success in their professional careers.”