These days, you can likely find Cynthia Parker on Yale’s campus attending a lecture or conference, reading, or admiring the art and other curated displays at this venerable institution. “We have our own mini-MET here and it’s free admission, forever. The deep blue wall perfectly sets off gold-leaf trecento Italian art, among myriad other treasures. You can walk in for a ten-minute treat,” she exclaims.
Having lived most of her adult life in New York City, she chose to settle in New Haven because of its more human scale. “I have a love for New Haven that spans many decades– back to when I first visited during my freshman year of college. New Haven has all the advantages and some drawbacks of NYC but on a scale that seems manageable and human. The problems seem tractable, so if you address some of the issues, you feel it might make a difference.” And she does notice them by eschewing cars and walking everywhere.
After the death of her mother in 2012, Cynthia planned her estate - her lawyer suggesting she learn about The Community Foundation to achieve her philanthropic goals - so it includes The Community Foundation. She also created a donor advised fund in 2012 to “learn about the non-profits and to start giving now.” She is delighted “because it will keep giving when I’m gone and because I really like New Haven.” She is an enthusiastic Community Grant Application reviewer for The Community Foundation and volunteers annually for the International Festival of Arts and Ideas.
Cynthia has settled quite nicely into the community she now calls home. She is a choir member and deacon at the United Church on the Green in New Haven – a natural evolution from her high school days when she taught Sunday school to young children. She says she is surprisingly spiritual though in a non-denominational way, her doctoral studies in medieval literature making her “half catholic.”
Charitable living and giving are family traits. Cynthia’s mother used to tell about feeding the indigent during the depression on the back stairs of her childhood apartment. The newlywed Parkers worked together at a camp for the blind in New Jersey. After receiving an MA in Psychiatric Social Work from Syracuse University, Cynthia’s mother worked with families and youth at a guidance clinic in Worcester, MA. Her paternal grandfather’s family business was machine tools in Waltham, MA and in Hartford, CT, but her father chose academia instead and became a sociology and psychology professor. A gentle soul, he fostered Cynthia’s love of animals and appreciation of the elderly. Her brother has for decades been involved in a summer camp for disadvantaged inner city children.
Cynthia has enjoyed a life-long pursuit of learning, beginning at her alma mater, Connecticut College. “Ever since I was a kid playing school with my brother, I knew I liked to learn and teach.” In addition to obtaining a PhD in Literature and the Other Arts, she enjoys many interests including multi-culturalism and, after her year spent in China, environmentalism. One strong component of her life is mentoring others. “I’m into helping people self-actualize. I’m not into turning people into me.”
While living in New York, Cynthia was a Big Sister for over ten years. She worked as a free-lance writer for the performing arts and at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus providing supportive services to disadvantaged students in the Higher Education Opportunity Program. Cynthia also tutored at The Lighthouse, having as a teenager volunteered as a reader for a blind woman. In New Haven, Cynthia continues to work as a tutor, now in the Writing Center of UNH. But she keeps plenty of free time to indulge her love of the performing arts, to stimulate her mind and to befriend the many inspiring elderly in her new hometown. After traveling most of the world, she is happy to be here in New Haven.