What would become the longest tenure of a BSU Director began in January 1983. Rev. Sydney “Pete” Parks arrived having lived and ministered in Georgia. He inherited a thriving BSU, with a comprehensive program of ministries, activities, and traditions.
Wisely, he would guide students to continue what was already happening. The BSU Choir and Handbell Choir were popular. Another drama team formed, and students even tried to form a BSU Orchestra. Family Groups would continue under Pete’s guidance, although he made some minor tweaks, such as writing Bible studies for the Fall semester.
Pete was especially passionate about students serving annually on mission trips during Winter breaks, Spring Breaks, or both. Soon after arriving, students served in the inner city of Philadelphia. There would also by many trips to New York City to do urban ministries. Students loved doing construction projects such as Habitat for Humanity, and there were disaster relief projects in Georgia, South Carolina, St. Louis, and Franklin,VA.
Of course, the Winter retreats at Eastover continued to be a highlight every year. Seminary professors would often be asked to speak for the weekends. An oft repeated anecdote was the year Dr. Bill Leonard came. It snowed on Saturday night. When Bill left on Sunday morning, he wrecked on one of the rural roads, and his car caught fire and burned to only a shell. It is difficult to say when BSUers began singing “Thank You” songs to the WMU ladies providing meals on Sunday nights at the BSU house. Most likely during the two years before Pete’s arrival, the first Thank You song was written to the tune of “O My Darling, Clementine.” There were at least four more songs sung through the years, to the tunes of “Rocky Top,” “Camptown Races,” “Going to the Chapel,” and “Down On the Corner.” All but the last song was sung during this era, and the song sung to the tune of “Going to the Chapel” is still sung today. These songs have been incredibly popular among students through the years, often “the favorite part of the week” for some.
Virginia Baptists have purchased, built, and maintained ten Baptist Student Centers across the state since the 1960’s. The center at the College of William Mary became the one in greatest need of replacing during the 1980’s. The BSU house would often feel too small for Sunday night dinners and other large gatherings.
Ultimately, the apartment attached to the back of the house was condemned by the City of Williamsburg, and student custodians could no longer dwell within. Funds for a new building were raised through one of the annual Alma Hunt Offerings for Virginia Missions. Architectural plans were drawn, wisely using many collaborators, including Pete Parks. Rev. John Tadlock, Director of Virginia Baptist Student Ministry, was among many special guests at a groundbreaking ceremony in the Fall of 1991. The beloved Baptist Student Center, purchased in 1967, was bulldozed during Spring break in March of 1992. Construction of the new building occurred during the Summer and Fall of 1992.
During construction, the BSU met on campus. Sunday night dinners and worship happened in the ballroom on the second floor of the Campus Center, which is now home for student organization offices. The WMU groups would serve meals from a tiny kitchen at this space. The new building was completed and dedicated in February of 1993. The Baptist Student Center at the College of William & Mary is among the newest in the state of Virginia. It continues to be a very beneficial space and a home away from home for students at the College. Toward the late 90’s, it became apparent that a reorganization of the servant leadership structure was necessary. The process for Nominating Committees through the years had become difficult as they tried to fill so many positions every year. Deciding all the family group leaders, council members, and leaders of all teams took many, many hours. One of the final acts toward the end of Pete’s tenure as BSU director was to guide students to recreate the leadership structure. The Constitution was rewritten in 2003, moving from the traditional president, vice president, etc. structure to one with simply a coordination team and team moderator. This team structure remains today and has brought much simplicity to BCM. Pete Parks was a beloved campus minister, serving for nearly a fourth of the BSU’s history at the College. He brought a depth of wisdom, intellect, and stability to the ministry, cultivating an excellent environment for students to discover faith, identity, calling, and leadership. He resigned in the Spring of 2005.