Lasting Impressions

ILR education leads to ties in professional communities
Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Joan Parker '70, M.S. '73, Ph.D. '74
Arbitrator and Mediator


“When I think of ILR, I think of being the best at what we do. We ILRies are proud of our school’s prominence and the education we received, which has so well equipped us to aspire to and achieve leadership roles in our chosen careers.

In my work, I encounter ILR graduates who are lawyers, industrial relations and human resources practitioners, and neutrals. To this day, we apply the concepts we learned as undergraduates.

The ILR School and its graduates, faculty and staff are a community of caring and responsible people. While the school has grown in size — there were 400 of us when I went there — it is still a relatively small place, where students get to know each other and where regular interaction with faculty is the norm. For me, the opportunity to get to know professors out of the classroom was a wonderful part of the ILR experience. It made the school intimate and it made me feel valued.

With professors like Jean McKelvey and Alice Grant as role models, I knew that if I worked hard enough, there would be no limit to what I could accomplish in my professional life.

I graduated near the top of my class and, despite wanting to be a lawyer, was encouraged to take a Ph.D. A tailor-made doctoral program was devised for me, with a good smattering of courses in the Cornell Law School and the rest in ILR. I studied around the clock and enjoyed every minute of it.

After receiving my doctorate, I taught at Rutgers University for 14 years, but I wasn’t happy as a full-time academic — I loved being in the trenches and resolving disputes. Since 1990, I have been a fulltime neutral, though I lecture regularly at various institutions, including Rutgers and Cornell.

My son Tommy, who practices corporate law in New York City, graduated from the ILR School in 2010. He, too, feels a commitment to the school and gratitude for his undergraduate experience.

At ILR, he developed an appreciation for the spoken and written word, which helped him excel at George Washington Law School and lead its moot court team to finish eighth in the nation. The ILR School makes lasting impressions in ways we don’t always realize.

Recently, I walked into an arbitration and a gentleman introduced himself and said, ‘I know you don’t remember me, but you were my teaching assistant when you were in grad school and I was a senior.’ And, I said, ‘Forgive me, I didn’t recognize your name.’ And he said, ‘Well, I recognized yours. I knew you were tough and you were good, and I picked you to arbitrate this case.’ So there’s the old ILR network — it’s alive and well.”