It is with sadness that the Upjohn Institute recognizes the passing of the long-time chairman of its Board of Trustees, Preston S. “Pete” Parish. Parish joined the Board in 1963, became a co-vice chair in 1976, and was elected chairman in 1978. He held that position until 2008 and became trustee emeritus in 2010. During his three decades as chairman, Parish oversaw the Institute’s growth and extension into a variety of national and international interests.
Pete had a very successful career at the Upjohn Company, starting as a production engineer in 1949 and retiring nearly 40 years later as vice chair of the company’s board.
Born in 1919 in Chicago, Parish lived a life full of adventure and quiet dedication to community and family. He was a decorated World War II veteran who saw combat in the Pacific theatre for which he received four battle stars, two unit citations, and a Bronze Star Medal. Pete later pursued his love of aviation, along with his first wife (Suzanne DeLano, granddaughter of W. E. Upjohn), both of them acquiring pilot’s licenses and accumulating thousands of hours of flight time in numerous types of planes. They helped found the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, a popular air and space museum, and were both inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame, with Pete additionally inducted into the Experimental Aircraft Association Sport Aviation Hall of Fame.
Parish is recognized for his behind-the-scenes commitment to education-related causes. He served for decades on the board―including as chair―of his alma mater, Williams College, and on the board of Kalamazoo College. He also played a role in founding the Forum for Kalamazoo County and the Kalamazoo Area Academic Achievement Program (KAAAP). The Forum was an all-county initiative to improve the health and well-being of the community, while KAAAP was an early precursor to the Kalamazoo Promise. All told, Pete served on 35 boards and committees.
Randy Eberts, president of the Upjohn Institute from 1993 to 2019, offers a fitting description of the type of man Pete Parish was:
I enjoyed having lunch with Pete on a regular basis, and it was during those times that I had the pleasure of hearing some of his stories and anecdotes. I remember how proud he was of his grandchildren, and I would receive regular updates on how they were doing. He was also an excellent skier. A skier myself, I also marveled about him going helicopter skiing every year [well into his 70s] up in British Columbia. Of course, I would have to ask him about many of these things; he would rarely offer much about himself. He was too modest. He was truly a great man with all the characteristics one would expect, and he expected as well in his quiet way―integrity, respect, excellence, innovation, commitment, and quality.
Parish passed away on July 1 at the age of 100 years.